Public Sector Focus

23.10.19

Education technology

Source: PSE: Oct/Nov 19

Leah Fletcher, commercial agreement manager - Education Technology for the Crown Commercial Service, explains the process behind creating a bespoke technology agreement for the education sector.

When our successful ICT Services for Education agreement reached the end of its lifespan, we at Crown Commercial Service (CCS) wanted to ensure its replacement set an even higher standard. 

There are other education sector agreements, but none that provide broadband, hardware, audio visual and services in one place. We wanted the new product to be the best it could be for those who depend on it most - schools, academies, colleges and universities - as well as its other wider public sector users. 

To achieve this, those of us who worked on the new Education Technology (RM6103) agreement held customer engagement sessions with school business managers, IT technicians, local authorities and representatives from the Department for Education. 

We used these opportunities to share our ideas on what we thought the agreement could look like, while customers challenged our views and described what they wanted to see - namely an easy-to-use, single route for their IT needs. 

It was a really important exercise and crucial to the new framework’s development. Through this process, our customers have helped create an agreement which really does assist schools, colleges and universities. 

CCS is the biggest public procurement organisation in the UK, so we ensure our agreements are compliant, and we use the collective purchasing power of our customers, together with our knowledge of the markets, to get the best commercial deals in the interests of taxpayers. 

In this spirit, Education Technology has been designed in collaboration with the Department for Education. The benefit of this collaboration is that our customers can feel assured the agreement is aligned with policy and future strategy, while saving schools money. 

Buying ICT and audio-visual (AV) equipment, as well as services and broadband fibre infrastructure, is easier through Education Technology than through its predecessor agreement. We understand procurements can be tricky, even for those familiar with IT. So CCS has designed a template pack for customers which shows the journey step-by-step. There are templates too, to help customers write their specifications and draft letters to suppliers. 

We can also offer guidance notes, complete with scenarios, to direct customers to the most appropriate lot within the agreement. Our definition document helps customers understand which schedules they need to add to their order form and, as CCS’s commercial agreement manager for education, I’m here to help as much as I can. 

We’ve also created a more intelligent and useful lotting structure which serves a wider range of customers: from those looking to buy a single laptop or upgrade their broadband, to those needing to fully fit out new facilities. Education Technology was awarded in June 2019 and consists of five lots. These are ICT solutions, broadband fibre infrastructure, broadband services, hardware and AV.

Those customers we consulted felt it was essential that school AV specialists were included in the agreement. Other requests we were able to support included allowing IT to be bought directly from suppliers, and retaining managed services. 

We are also in the process of designing a catalogue; customers will be able to view products such as hardware and AV equipment and buy them with a click of a mouse. It will be a quick and easy solution for those needing just a small number of products. 

To achieve all this within a single route to the education supplier market is a great outcome for us and our customers. 

We’ve ensured all our suppliers are specialists familiar with the demands, budgets and standards of those working in the education sector. There are 43 suppliers across the five lots and they are diverse in their nature - 77% of them are small and medium-sized businesses. 

So whether customers require a simple one-off purchase, a new build fit-out, or a long-term technology partnership, we feel Education Technology provides the single route to market they need, and although designed for the education sector it is also available to police, fire and rescue, the health sector and local authorities.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Tw: @gov_procurement

W: www.crowncommercial.gov.uk

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