Schools still struggling to find reputable contractors

A growing number of schools want to buy goods and services from reputable local businesses — but finding these suppliers still remains a major barrier, according to a new survey of school purchasing decision-makers.

School leaders polled by Incensu for the second annual National School Procurement Survey (NSPS14) were asked to rate which factors were most important to them when spending their budgets.

Using local companies wherever possible was rated as very or fairly important to over 90% of respondents — up from 88% in 2013.

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But over 49% of respondents said the difficulty of finding reputable suppliers and contractors remained a key barrier to them using local businesses.

Respondents were asked to rate a range of factors that influenced their buying decisions.

The fact that businesses were recommended by other schools was very or fairly important to 83% of respondents, with 84% rating experience of working with schools as very or fairly important.

A recognisable quality mark was rated as very or fairly important by 54% of respondents.

Peter Melville, a school business director in an Essex academy and Incensu co-founder, said: “It’s clear that more schools want to use local suppliers which have a track record of delivering quality work to other schools, but a means of finding these suppliers and this sort of information still gets in the way for many school procurement decision makers.”

Incensu said the main findings of its latest report were:

– Businesses need to make it easier for schools to buy goods and services from them collaboratively.

– Cost isn’t the number one priority for school purchasers — value for money, reliability, quality and customer service are all considered more important factors in choosing suppliers.

– Schools want to search for prospective suppliers rather than be sold to — just 5% of respondents welcomed direct sales calls while 76% preferred to search for companies themselves.

– Concerns about budgets are easing, with 54% saying money is a key concern — down from 66% in 2013.

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