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Schools should join academy chains of 30 or more, research claims

Schools should join academy chains of 30 or more, research claims

March 27, 2015

All schools should join academy chains of 30 or more to enjoy economies of scale and improve teaching across the board, a report published today has said.

Research released by the right-leaning thinktank Reform claims schools should link up with larger chains to make savings of “between 5 and 8 per cent”, which can then be reinvested by hiring experts to boost teaching.

Too many schools suffer from poor-quality governance and CPD, the study adds, but large chains can invest in what it describes as a “corporate centre”, which could be used to improve expertise in these areas.

The report, produced by management consultancy Parthenon-EY, criticises the amount of cash chains currently hold back – typically around 4 per cent of the school budgets they oversee – and claims more could be achieved if they “substantially increase the cash they hold in the corporate centre”.

Lack of economies of scale and school operating models: Individual and small groups of schools do not have the economies of scale necessary to invest in their development and improvement. Few schools have a comprehensive and holistic blueprint for running their school, and when they do, the scale of the group is too small to drive improvement across the school system.

Large school groups are able to make significant cost savings in procurement and shared staffing. The development of an effective operating model, which requires the sort of investment only large groups can make, provides a mechanism for reaching a much larger number of pupils with high quality education. In our view, a school system in which more schools belong to large groups with strong corporate centres will provide better education for many more pupils. They will create the right structures to harness the best, and drive high performance across the system. However, this system will not develop on its own.

Currently, only half of academies are part of a group, and the majority of these are in a group of ten schools or fewer.


Schools’ Buying Club comments:

It does take time to make collaborative procurement work, but chains of schools can achieve efficiencies and make significant savings – Schools’ Buying Club has the solution that works.

We help school chains set up Procurement Boards or working groups where an action plan is put together targeting key categories where savings could be achieved. We chair the board and then work as the groups’ procurement function identifying where the greatest economies of scale can be realised.

Without a dedicated resource to help drive procurement efficiency it can be challenging to organise different school contract requirements / specific needs and of course contract end points so schools can join the agreements at a time that suits them.

SBC is experienced in delivering multi school procurement programmes for many school groups and multi-academy trusts. Gloucester Schools’ Partnership (39 schools), Brooke Weston Trust (7 schools), Pilgrim Learning Trust (24 schools) and Bright Futures Educational Trust (8 schools) are just a few examples that have adopted this approach and successfully deployed group agreements for key categories including catering and cleaning, grounds maintenance, ICT, HR & payroll, energy and supply teaching.

Working together this way not only creates economies of scale, but also ensures that the procurement activity remains compliant with policy and legislation and ultimately generates savings that can be pumped directly into front line services to improve educational outcomes for pupils.

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