Schools are set to storm the IT market en masse this half term with their unspent budgets.
Following the Secretary of States challenge to schools to save 780 million through more collective buying - and the Schools Ministers warning that Local Authorities have the power to claw back excess, uncommitted surpluses - staff across the country have turned to online, mass-buying events in order to stretch their remaining budgets. Department figures have revealed that surplus balances totalled 1.92 billion in 2008/9.
The Storm Events on the www.schoolquote.co.uk platform bring together education establishments looking to purchase a common item, and the current event, the first to be run nationally, has built to over 3,200 laptops and PCs - with time left for many more schools to join before the cut-off on Friday 12 February. Suppliers will then be invited to compete for the business over the mid-term break, in order that schools can place their orders before the financial year comes to a close. All the major manufacturers are gearing up to help their resellers claim their share of the prize.
Hugh Taylor of Schoolquote said: We are very excited by the scale of the events and the momentum they are gathering. We have had nearly 1,000 machines added in just 24 hours and are beginning to wonder how far this could go. The 3,200 units so far comes from less than 0.5% of the schools in the UK. As word spreads to the other 99.5%, the aggregated value available to resellers could be beyond our wildest dreams. We have also been asked to organise Storm Events for many more IT products in the new financial year, when more schools will have more budget with which to participate.
Our partners have been crucial in building the power of these Storms. Local authorities, the National Association of School Business Managers and EduGeek.net, the 20,000 strong community of education IT professionals, have been particularly enthusiastic and many schools are choosing to join the events through these partner sites
Anita Druce, School Business Manager at Stanton St Quintin School, Wiltshire, has participated in previous Storm events. She said: It is such an easy way for us all to achieve really significant savings and at the end of the day, every penny counts.
Jo Wakeham, also from Wiltshire, explained the budgetary impact of the approach: I love to see other users as determined as myself to save money and enable children to have a more fulfilled education. Saving money in one area means being able to spend it in other areas that benefit our pupils.
Wiltshires schools received a prestigious Supply Management Award from the Chartered Institute of Purchase and Supply for their groundbreaking work with Schoolquote - and their collaboration was also highlighted in both the July 2009 Audit Commission Report on Economy and Efficiency in schools and the DCSFs November 2009 Securing our Future discussion document.
Historically, Storm events have also proved very effective at engaging local businesses, with the lions share of orders being won by smaller firms. Mark Holland of Melksham-based office products company, Business2Exchange, said: The buying events are a great way for local schools to obtain a direct comparison between my business and my local and national competitors.
Schoolquotes Buying Community platform has a long history of helping school managers to stretch their budgets. By inviting suppliers to compete for their business on the service, individual schools have saved as much as 17,500, 25,000 and 30,000 on individual purchases.
William Simmonds, NASBM Chief Executive said: The platform has a solid track-record and has proved very popular with school support and ICT staff for its ability to get them three auditable quotes from competing suppliers. By helping to achieving transparent competition, school managers are given the peace of mind that their schools are achieving and demonstrating best value, and for far less effort.