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Buying for schools

Department for Education
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3c. Run your own procurement: lower-value tenders

How schools can buy low- to medium-value goods, works or services by researching the relevant market and seeking a range of quotes from suppliers.

Where possible, we recommend using a framework agreement, because this will generally save you time and money.

However, if you feel that using a framework won’t allow you to meet your particular requirements, you may wish to run your own procurement.

To make a low to medium-value purchase for your school, you can use the following procurement process.

Specify what you need

A specification should allow suppliers to understand exactly what you need to buy, including the quality and delivery date. You should finalise your specification before contacting suppliers for quotes. More information on writing your specification is available.

Assess the market

Once you’ve developed a specification, you may want to develop your knowledge of the market by comparing a range of suppliers, including their reputation and what deals they offer. You should find at least 3 suppliers to approach for written quotes in order to make a fair and informed decision.

Ask suppliers to quote

We recommend getting at least 3 suppliers to give you quotes.

Before you invite suppliers to quote, you should decide what award criteria you’ll use to assess the suppliers’ bids, such as:

  • how well the supplier meets your specification
  • the whole-life cost of the contract, which may include:
    • the sale price of the goods, works or services
    • VAT
    • delivery charges
    • maintenance costs
    • running costs
    • the cost of removing and disposing of an item or service once you no longer need it
  • whether there’ll be price increases or decreases over the life of the contract
  • value for money (if you’re looking for a quote that offers a good price and good quality, rather than just the lowest quote)

Each of the criteria should have a range of possible scores (eg from 1 to 5, where 5 is the highest score).

You should also decide who will be evaluating the quotes against your award criteria.

When you contact suppliers, send all of them the same information, including:

  • your specification
  • when you need to receive the quote by and when you plan to make a decision by
  • any instructions for how they should ask clarification questions about your requirements or the procurement process
  • if appropriate, a link to your school’s standard terms and conditions on your website

Evaluate the quotes

Reject any quotes that arrive after your deadline.

When you’re evaluating the quotes against your award criteria, you must treat all suppliers equally.

Keep a record of your decision-making process.

Place your order

Once you’ve identified the best-value quote, send a simple contract (eg a purchase order (PO)) to the supplier you’ve chosen, including details of the:

  • goods, works or services that you’re purchasing
  • price
  • delivery address
  • delivery deadline and any other important dates
  • payment schedule (ie when you’ll make the payment(s))

Read next chapter: ‘4. Managing your contract’.