The Department for Education (DfE) is looking into the digital elements of a future national buying service for schools.
Its Schools Commercial Team is working on a Schools Buying Strategy involving the development of buying hubs and is investigating which aspects of the service can be digitised.
The team has begun to look for a service design partner with the aim of having a system in public beta by the end of March next year.
It has already carried out research on user needs and problems for schools making complex purchases. Among the issues it has identified is that procurement frameworks can be complicated to access and use and do not always offer the best price. Schools can also struggle to procure complex services such as catering and cleaning.
The DfE is aiming to set up the hubs to support schools through complex procurements and provide a simplified approach. It has begun with a small digital service on GOV.UK named ‘Find a DfE approved framework’, launched in July of last year as an aid in finding ways to buy goods and services, get value for money and comply with buying procedures and procurement law.
It has also been running two pilots for a non-digital buying service over the past 18 months.
The department is looking to work with a partner on the project for up to a year, going up to the public beta stage.