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Enabling teachers to focus on education by simplifying procurement
Stephenson Multi-Academy Trust near Liverpool comprises four educational establishments, with 1,700 students and 156 employees. The Trust needed a compliant solution to simplify their purchasing and reduce costs while still meeting strict government audit requirements.
In January 2020, the Trust rolled out Amazon Business and immediately saw a significant time and cost savings, freeing up their budgets and allowing their staff to spend more time on their core job of teaching.
Since becoming an Amazon Business customer in 2017, the Trust has expanded their use of the solutions available. Now, over a three-year period, the Trust estimates that they will have easily saved £30,000 through using Amazon Business – the cost of employing a new teacher for a year.
Stephenson Multi-Academy Trust in Liverpool is composed of four educational establishments: Rainhill High School, Rainhill Sixth Form, The Fowler Education Football Academy and the Liverpool FC Academy.
Across the Trust, there are 1,700 students and 156 employees, 95 of whom are teachers. Every purchase for the Trust goes through one centralised finance team, consisting of four members with purchasing responsibilities, including Chief Operating Officer Rob Owens.
Before using Amazon Business, the purchasing process was onerous and time-consuming. Teachers would request items via a paper acquisition form that would have to be taken to their department head for approval, and then taken to the finance team for authorisation.
The most time-consuming issue for the finance team was benchmarking prices to meet audit requirements. The Academies Financial Handbook - which sets out the government’s financial management requirements for academies - says the Trust must prove to auditors they can demonstrate best value.
This meant the finance team had to compare prices and quality of every single item from at least three different suppliers. “Some days, the finance team placed hundreds of orders– from stationery to software for departments, to furniture, making the process of seeking and quality-checking three different suppliers very protracted and inefficient.” says Rob Owens, the Chief Operating Officer of the Trust.
“Over a three-year period, the Trust estimates that they will have saved £30,000 through using Amazon Business. Any savings they make is more in their budget, so they can buy more for their departments and consequently, more for the students the schools serve.”
— Rob Owens, Chief Operating Officer, Stephenson Multi-Academy Trust
When Rainhill High School created the Multi-Academy Trust in 2017, the finance team were given greater choice over suppliers, under the government rules set out for Academy Trusts. The finance team began to look for alternatives to their previous suppliers, and realised Amazon Business was available to them.
The finance team was using Amazon.co.uk to make a small number of purchases using normal customer accounts, and Rob began to investigate the capabilities of Amazon Business and whether it would provide cost or time savings for the Trust.
Initially, there was scepticism that Amazon Business would not be able to meet the strict audit demands placed on the Trust by the government. “The government guidelines are so stringent; rightly so because it’s public money,” he says. “It’s unusual to find a private sector body that can cater to public sector needs. I didn’t think it would save any time, but I thought we might get a better price.”
“Not only were we able to secure prices cheaper than we were getting previously, but the time invested in procurement was massively reduced. I wouldn’t hesitate to say to colleagues it has massive benefits - for both teachers and the finance team - that they should take advantage of.”
— Rob Owens, Chief Operating Officer, Stephenson Multi-Academy Trust
Amazon Business was rolled out to 131 staff across the schools at the start of 2020, and the Trust saw immediate gains on their previous processes: “The biggest plus points were not only were we able to secure prices cheaper than we were getting previously, but the time invested in procurement was massively reduced” says Rob.
The teachers and staff were able to use the YPO framework with Amazon Business, making the task of finding and comparing prices significantly easier. “The quote comparison is done for us” says Rob. The YPO framework also gives them peace of mind that their purchases are not only the best value but also that their spend is compliant with EU procurement laws and regulations (OJEU compliant). This reduces the time the finance team has to spend searching for and comparing prices and satisfies the audit requirements set by the Academies Financial Handbook.
Rob says the electronic approvals process with Amazon Business has “taken out a lot of the paper admin and a lot of the legwork that the finance team had to do.” This has freed up time for the team to concentrate on other projects, such as a review of subject and whole school software, to see if they can reduce expenditure. The time and admin savings have also opened up the opportunity to look at commercial opportunities on school grounds, such as community shops and developing a community use programme (where the wider community can hire school space and facilities), which, in turn, will also increase the Trust’s income. These are all opportunities for potential further cost savings.
Cost savings have been significant with the finance team estimating that over a three-year period, they will have saved £35,000 through using Amazon Business. This saving represents the cost of employing a new teacher for a year or a learning assistant for two and a half years. By using Amazon Business to compare prices, the finance team can get the best possible price, meaning department budgets stretch further: “Any savings they make is more in their budget, so they can buy more for their departments and consequently, more for the students the schools serve.”
As Business Prime members, teachers could also obtain the items they needed quickly and easily, which has resulted in an additional time-saving benefit. Overall, the introduction of Amazon Business across the trust was met with enthusiasm by the teaching staff: “They need to spend their time teaching and preparing resources, so if we can minimise the time spent procuring, they can focus on their core job” says Rob.
As a result, Rob would recommend Amazon Business to any colleagues in procurement: “I wouldn’t hesitate to say to colleagues it has massive benefits that they should take advantage of.”