The latest news, events and articles from ESPO, including case studies, editorials, blog posts and featured products.

A Beginner's Guide to Education Procurement

A Beginner's Guide to Education Procurement

Sourcing high quality goods and services in the education sector is becoming increasingly difficult; countless regulations, fragmented processes and tighter budgets are just a few issues encountered by institutions across the UK. ESPO's procurement solutions have been designed with this in mind, to do as much of the hard work so that you can shift your attention back to the classroom.

We have shared our top tips for education procurement and key concepts to consider when purchasing goods and services below:

What is a framework?

A framework is an agreement between your public sector organisation, ESPO and external suppliers that can be used to procure goods and services. Using an ESPO framework ensures that the buying process is fully compliant with UK procurement legislation, with all suppliers listed on our frameworks having been assessed for their financial stability, track record, experience and professional ability. ESPO frameworks are also an effective way for you to buy goods and services, whether on a periodic or regular basis; they can considerably reduce the amount of time and money it takes to run a procurement exercise, as you will benefit from our teams 40 plus years of expertise, whilst ensuring that you stay compliant with relevant legislations.

View our relevant frameworks for you here.

Timings and procurement planning

For big contracts such as energy, cleaning and catering, we recommend starting a year in advance of the renewal to give your institution enough time before your existing contracts end. Most schools prefer their contracts to start at the beginning of an academic year, so getting ahead of the curve can be critical as this is a busy time for suppliers - they can decline opportunities on the likes of catering contracts when last minute requests are received. Our top tip for cleaning and catering contracts is to do market engagement, by either a request for information (RFI), expression of interest (EOI), or hosting a supplier day.

A 'call-off' or 'further competition'?

To access the suppliers on our frameworks, you can use one of the following procurement routes: a call-off or further competition.

Call-off: also referred to as a direct award, this is often the quickest way to procure goods or services via a framework. Available where goods or services can be easily defined and priced, this method allows you to place an order directly with the supplier suitable for your institution, which can take as little as 2 weeks to a month depending on how quickly contracts can be signed.

Further competition: in contrast to a call-off, further competition is available on frameworks where goods or services may vary from one customer to another, making it difficult to pre-define requirements and pricing. This route is more suitable if you have specific requirements and want to drive best value, in which you evaluate suppliers against certain criteria to identify the best solution for your institution. This does however require a longer timescale, typically between 3 to 6 months depending on the complexity of your needs.

You can find more information about the above and common framework FAQs here.

Managing contracts

After choosing a supplier, contract management must be considered to ensure what's been promised is delivered. Inefficiency, missed deadlines and compliance failures can occur if ongoing diligence is not established; therefore, we recommend effective performance management including proactive monitoring of all activities, in accordance with your contractual agreement. The Government's contract management professional standards publication is also useful for further advice on this subject.

Utilising Department for Education (DfE) contracts

ESPO offers a range of frameworks that have been approved by the DfE, as a service to help school buying professionals source goods and services, whilst obtaining value for money and complying with relevant procurement regulations. Our frameworks are free to access, and the suppliers on them have already been pre-assessed for your peace of mind; this way, we make it as easy as possible for when you require a procurement solution. You can explore our full list of DfE-approved frameworks here.

We've collated a group of our most popular and relevant frameworks in our education hub! Get started here for access to quality-checked suppliers that meet all UK procurement regulations, helping you to save time and money.

For any other queries you may have, please get in touch with our expert teams today through or 0116 265 7901.