Buying for schools

Before you start

How to prepare and research before buying things for your school to help you get the best deal and save money.

Write a business case

Writing a business case will help you to:

  • specify what you need, why you need it and by when
  • ask approval to make the purchase
  • record your decision-making process

You should include:

  • a draft of your specification
  • the estimated cost
  • any opportunities to work with other schools

You should check there is available budget.

Identify who should be involved

You should identify and inform everyone who should be involved. This might include:

  • the governing board
  • trustees
  • the responsible body
  • technical experts
  • suppliers

Consider meeting with everyone to make sure you’ve identified everyone affected.

Identify who should be buying

Someone else may be responsible for buying certain things. This could be your:

  • local authority
  • multi-academy trust
  • diocese

Always check your school’s buying rules before you start and include everyone in the process who needs to be involved.

Only speak to potential suppliers if you are authorised to do so. If you’re unsure check your school’s buying rules.

Get expert help

Consider if you need expert help with your project. For example, you may need a project manager for a construction project, or specialist legal expertise.

You may need to employ someone to help you with your specification. If so, it might be best to run a formal buying process to employ them first.

Estimate the whole-life cost of the contract

To decide which buying process to use and to help with budgeting, you should estimate the total cost of the contract across its lifetime, including:

  • the price of the goods, works or services
  • VAT
  • delivery charges
  • ongoing maintenance costs
  • running costs
  • the cost of removing and disposing of an item or service once you no longer need it

The cost will affect which buying process to use.

Conflicts of interest

A conflict of interest is where someone involved has a personal or professional interest that could influence, or be seen to influence, their decisions.

The best way to manage this is by following your school’s conflict of interest policy and having a clear and open process.

Try to identify and remove any potential conflicts before you start. If this is not possible, you could consider:

  • having everyone involved in the process complete and sign forms declaring any interests
  • using staff from a different office to assess the bids
  • withholding the names of the companies when their bids are assessed

Classify expenditure correctly

You must classify your expenditure correctly. This is a guide only. Make sure you follow your school’s accounting rules.

The cost of getting fixed assets to the required location or condition should be recorded as capital expenditure. This includes things like:

  • buying costs
  • delivery
  • legal charges
  • installation
  • upgrading
  • replacement

The cost of maintaining your fixed assets should be classed as revenue expenditure. This includes things like:

  • repairs
  • maintenance charges
  • repainting
  • renewal expenses

Example If you buy a new boiler, the cost of the boiler and installation are capital expenditure. Maintenance is revenue expenditure because it does not improve the boiler, only maintains it.

Fixed assets are items of value you will use for a long time such as:

  • land
  • buildings
  • machinery
  • vehicles
  • furniture
  • office equipment
  • IT

Work with other schools

You may be able to save time and money by working with other local schools. Talk to them about what you are thinking of buying. You may be able to:

  • borrow equipment
  • share resources and staff expertise
  • share knowledge of markets
  • compare prices and experiences from previous purchases
  • buy together so that you can:
    • use your joint influence to get a good deal
    • cut the effort involved in managing multiple contracts
  • join or create a network for school business professionals