School contract registers: are they necessary?

24th January 2023

With limited resources and increased expectations on maximising budgets, schools and trusts need an innovative approach to effectively manage hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of contracts.

Smart financial software that provides a comprehensive contract register is key to start saving money now says Charles Ainslie, former school business manager and Education Operations Director at Civica.

In a tough financial climate, we know how difficult it is for schools and MATs to stretch budgets to meet successful outcomes. One of the ways to maximise spending is with an accurate contract register.

As part of the school resource management self-assessment checklist, MATs must possess an up-to-date contracts register. While it’s not a legal requirement for local authority schools to maintain a contract register, with the move towards an entirely MAT-led environment envisioned within the decade, and academisation on the rise, an accurate contract register is essential. Schools joining a MAT should hold a list of contracts, including start and end dates, notice periods and current contract value in the Commercial Contracts Agreement (CTA).

As contract terms are not created equal, it’s an uphill struggle to generate, manage and review contract registers. With a different policy across all products, services and companies, varying start and end dates, often outside the financial year, it’s no wonder that contract renewals are one of the things schools and MATs are caught out on the most.

Taking back control

Often, contracts will continue until formal notice is given within the required period, occasionally rolling schools over for the same term as before. Other times, the contract will terminate if not actively renewed. In any case, business and finance teams need to play an active part before contract-end, otherwise they risk losing a valuable service, paying a higher rate than before or even committing to a new term before the chance to review.

Unwanted contractual rollovers are a tale as old as time and unfortunately, many suppliers operate in this way. Recent and historic news articles report of schools being locked in for sequential contractual term before they had the chance to renegotiate, review internal processes or look at competitors. This can directly result in wasteful expenditure and overspending. Not only does this put school leaders in the hot seat with governing bodies, boards and trustees, but can create a vacuum where funds are needed the most.

It’s time to take back control of your contracts. This is exactly what Civica specialises in helping schools and MATs to achieve. Our smart software can deliver a live and accurate contract register which alerts schools and MATs long before contract end dates. This gives the necessary time to review services and processes and ensure you’re getting the right service that works for you and prevents unexpected invoices and automated renewals. We help schools and MATs to save money now.

Opportunities for economic scale

MATs in particular face an overwhelming number of school contracts to navigate, often running into the thousands. As more schools join MATs, the number of contracts needing review is only set to increase. However, taking the time to scrutinise suppliers can be a real game changer and an easy win for instantly saving money.

A MAT contract register enables trust leaders to not only know who money is going to but discover any duplicated suppliers throughout the schools on separate contracts. Some schools may even be using different suppliers or have implemented different processes to achieve the same outcomes. Is there a way to drastically simplify suppliers? Why not approach the supplier as a MAT and consolidate the contracts?

With centralised contracts, MATs can retain financial control by monitoring contracts more closely. This will offer instant savings as companies often provide discounts for larger scale orders. It’s also important for MATs to plan ahead for centralisation: the process will be simplified by being more selective with contractual start and end dates and aligning these to the financial year. Larger MATs can also leverage their size to have suppliers develop products and services that better fit their needs.

Civica Financials ensures MATs can centrally monitor and consolidate contracts at trust level. Trusts can still grant individual schools the autonomy to manage their own local contracts whilst maintaining a full overview. With a central grasp on contracts throughout a MAT, trust teams can ensure consistent delivery of goals and outcomes within the trust. Reporting becomes much easier when processes are being executed in the exact same way for each school, with standardised data to analyse.

On-demand webinar: What a good contract register looks like

Watch our on demand webinar to help you efficiently maximise school budgets and eradicate unwanted and wasteful spending, we’re holding a webinar to show you what a good contract register looks like and how it can save time and money instantly. We’ll discuss:

  • How a good contract register saves money now
  • How to build a contract register from scratch
  • What information you need
  • How to manage your suppliers with Civica Education’s smart software.

Watch now