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Procurement activities to prepare for re-opening of schools and colleges


The DfE have released their guidance on the reopening of schools and colleges and it is certainly going to be a challenging time for all those involved in the running of education establishments.  No doubt your institution will be busy working through the various risk assessments and considering what the required risk control measures might be.  Below we consider how procurement can and might be called upon to support getting all students back in September.

Keep in regular dialogue with your Contractors

The keeping apart of year groups or other types of student ‘bubbles’ will have an impact on many of the services provided to you by your contractors.  The staggering of breaks and lunchtimes, restrictions on student movement around site and the need to clean dining halls after use by each different group, will have a big impact on your catering contractor.  They may need to amend their own employees working hours, amend the food offering, introduce food delivery or click and collect options.  The need to clean touchpoints, toilets, teaching equipment, desks etc more frequently could mean your cleaning contractor will need to amend shift patterns or employee additional resources. Your student transport provider may have limited resources both in terms of drivers and vehicles as well as needing to address the impacts of additional cleaning of vehicles and the provision of hand sanitiser.

Bringing your contractors on board during the early stages of any discussions will enable you to benefit from their expertise, they will no doubt have ideas that could help.  A partnership approach will help relationships and may have positive impacts on any negotiations on additional costs these measures might incur as well as helping to ensure you are first in line to secure any additional resources that might be necessary. Consider setting up regular virtual meetings with your Contractors throughout July and August to keep them up to date on your plans and ensure that any risk control measures can be practically implemented at the start of the term.

Source goods and services from reliable suppliers

The additional cleaning regimes, PPE requirements and adjustments on how students move around the campus will no doubt result in additional products to be purchased.  The cost of some of these items are subject to the vagaries of supply and demand but you can ensure your institution receives the appropriate quality of goods by buying from suppliers who are on a framework.  There have been instances of buyers using Google to source supplies of PPE, only to find when delivered the products are not fit for purpose.  Signpost those responsible for buying products within your institution to the CPC framework agreements to avoid this happening to your institution:

  • Janitorial and Cleaning Supplies – 8 suppliers on hand to provide you with detergents, bleach, cloths, wipes, hand soap etc to help you implement additional cleaning of desks, touchpoints, art equipment, science equipment, sports equipment as well as personal hygiene.
  • Personal Protective Equipment, Clothing and First Aid Supplies – 8 suppliers offering a range of PPE including clear face visors that might be needed for hair and beauty students in order to comply with the PHE guidance for salons.  Mobile hand sanitising stations are also available that might be needed to facilitate more regular hand washing and at the same time avoid overcrowding toilet facilities.
  • Wayfinding Signs and Barriers – 6 suppliers offering a range of signs that will help you guide your students around campus as no doubt entrance and exit points will change, access to shared spaces will be reduced or adjusted and notices on social distancing between groups will be required.
  • Office Furniture – 8 suppliers to whom you can approach for quotations should you be looking to source desk screens and sneeze guards for classroom furniture, office space or around teachers desks.
  • ICT Hardware and Peripherals – a brand new framework with 20 very keen and knowledgeable suppliers, providing a wide range of products and manufacturers including brands such as Dell, Stone, Apple, HP, Lenovo etc. Should you need to purchase equipment to support remote education as a contingency should there be an outbreak of Covid-19 on your campus and it needs to be closed or students or staff need to work from home.
  • Building Cleaning Services – 12 regionally based suppliers available to provide additional cleaning resources.  PHE has provided guidance on cleaning regimes in non healthcare settings which is due to be updated by the end of July 2020.  Also see our recent blog article on ‘Cleaning in the new normal’ for further tips and resources.

Any member of staff at your institution can create their own account for the CPC website and use the Quote Tool to send their requirements to the framework suppliers to quote against – in just 3 easy steps!

Buying from CPC framework agreements versus sourcing via Google or existing suppliers provides you with the added benefit of making your institution eligible to apply for funding from CPL Group for student related events, activities, teaching and learning resources.  Find out more by visiting the CPL Group website.

Negotiate and manage contract changes

Many of the risk mitigation measures that you will be considering will have an impact on the terms of existing contracts in place with suppliers.  They may require you to request a variation to contract, which (depending on the contract terms), will mean the Contractor revising the cost of the contract to allow for the variations before the variation can be accepted by both parties.  There may be some contracts such as leases that might be very difficult to vary without incurring financial penalties or contracts such as nil cost catering contracts that may no longer be commercially viable for the Contractor if footfall and subsequent sales of food is very different to when the contract was originally agreed.  Keep in regular dialogue with your Contractor on the financial impact of any changes required to the contract.  Ask your Contractor about ways these could be mitigated.  Did you continue to pay your Contractor for services that were not delivered during the period of closure? See if you can use this goodwill to avoid costs that might occur now for additional work required.  Consider what tradeables you have to offer Contractors that might help to secure more favourable terms.  An example would be, a contract extension that might allow additional costs to be spread over a period of time or discounted.  Although do be careful not to breach The Public Contracts Regulations when modifying contracts and refer to the PPN on the response to Covid-19 or contact your CPC Regional Procurement Advisor for more information. 

Ensure you document any agreed variations to contract and regularly review these with your Contractors to see when and if any adjustments can be made to combat any increased contract costs.  Your CPC Regional Procurement Advisor can provide you with access to template variation to contract forms if your existing contracts don’t include these.

Changes to delivery procedures

Lastly, PHE guidance for inbound and outbound goods suggests steps that might be needed to maintain social distancing and avoid surface transmission when goods enter and leave premises.  Although not strictly procurement related, when purchasing goods it would be prudent to notify suppliers of any changes to delivery procedures at your campus such as electronic pre-booking, scheduling of deliveries outside of school hours etc.  Consider methods to reduce frequency of deliveries, for example by ordering larger quantities less often.  Making sure different departments across the institution are not using different suppliers for the same types of goods when a single supplier could be used and ensure all departments orders are co-ordinated to ensure a single delivery.  Ensure single workers load or unload vehicles or meet delivery people at the front door where it's possible and safe to do so.

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