Schools’ Buying Club FAQs


Q: Does Schools’ Buying Club run frameworks?

A: Schools’ Buying Club is an independent procurement consultancy established to support schools and trusts. It does not run frameworks but will use them if they offer the best opportunity for our clients. For complex and high value contracts, Schools’ Buying Club will run open tenders through its secure e-portal to achieve the widest participation of suppliers to ensure strong market competition and best value for our clients.


Q: What do you mean by end-to-end tendering support?

A: Schools’ Buying Club knows how important it is to ensure services deliver exactly what is required, i.e. that they are fit for purpose. We also appreciate just how busy school business leaders are. This is why Schools’ Buying Club provides full end-to-end support, which means delivering the entire procurement process so that our school and trust clients can make informed decisions about which supplier to appoint.

This entails: developing the procurement approach that will deliver the best outcomes; managing all stakeholders, including liaising with all parties in respect to collaboration across multiple schools; gathering data and devising the specification; communicating with the market to encourage maximum participation to ensure greatest level of competition; tailoring all tender documentation and running the tender through our compliant e-portal, including response to supplier clarifications; evaluating the tenders and commercial returns scored against your criteria; advising on the contract and mobilisation of the new service; and facilitating annual contract KPI reviews.


Q: By using Schools’ Buying Club, are we compliant?

A: Schools’ Buying Club runs compliant tenders – we are qualified public sector procurement specialists with years of experience saving schools and trusts significant money by running competitive and compliant tenders. Our clients are secure in the knowledge that we run fair and transparent procurement services adhering to the latest public sector rules and regulations, and by using our e-portal we are able to provide a rigorous audit trail to demonstrate that a compliant procurement process has been delivered.


Q: Will you help single maintained schools as well as academies?

A: Yes, Schools’ Buying Club has been running successful tenders for all types of schools for eight years including infant, junior and primary schools as well as secondary and special schools and sixth form colleges. We support maintained, trust, voluntary controlled and voluntary aided schools across the country.


Q: Can Schools’ Buying Club help our network of schools even though we are not in a MAT?

A: Yes. We have experience of working with local clusters of schools to procure contracts that use collective buying power to drive best pricing, whilst allowing for a tailored service for each school. Schools’ Buying Club has saved schools hundreds of thousands of pounds by running collaborative tenders.


Q: We are a maintained school; can we still use Schools’ Buying Club?

A: Yes, all schools have a responsibility to secure best value with public money compliantly. Schools’ Buying Club ensures that all schools, whether maintained or an academy receive the very best professional support to procure high value and complex service contracts. It may be that the local council traded service provides best value and quality through its SLA, but schools should always benchmark services in the market especially if they feel the price and/or quality could be improved.


Q: How can MATs benefit from the Schools’ Buying Club service?

A: Schools’ Buying Club has worked with many MATs across the country and has helped secure central contracts saving hundreds of thousands of pounds. We help devise a long-term procurement plan which enables each academy in the MAT to join contracts when they are ready; I.E. when their individual contracts come to an end or when a new school joins the MAT. We work with the MAT’s business leader and liaise with each academy to ensure that the central contract meets both the Trust’s and each Academy’s requirements.


Q: How does Schools’ Buying Club charge for its service?

A: There is no direct fee to our school and trust clients, instead Schools’ Buying Club receives a fee from the successful supplier that our clients select through the tenders that we run. Our fee covers all the work in developing and running the tender; managing contract award and mobilisation; and facilitating annual contract KPI reviews as well as being on hand to support our clients should any issues arise. The fee is spread across the term of the contract and is transparent; it is itemised within the supplier’s financial costs. The vast majority of our school and trust clients prefer this arrangement, although we can provide a direct cost for managing the tender only if preferred.


Q: We are a group of schools and would like to hear more?

A: We are always happy to present to local networks of school business leaders, providing practical workshops and top tips about how to achieve best value. We sponsor a number of regional SBL Networks and attend ISBL regional events and school business conferences. Just contact Schools’ Buying Club and ask us to present at your next event: contact@schoolsbuyingclub.com


Q: What do I need to do to appoint Schools’ Buying Club?

A: Following an initial meeting, Schools’ Buying Club will prepare a procurement proposal and timeline for your tender exercise, together with a Letter of Authority (LoA) which sets out the terms of our service. Once you sign the LoA, we will have your school’s / trust’s permission to act on your behalf to run the tender. It’s as simple as that. Our fee is arranged through the successful supplier, so schools and trusts do not need to pay for our support directly.


SBC Online FAQs


Q: What is the difference in using SBC Online to using Schools’ Buying Club’s end-to-end service?

A: SBC Online has been created to offer experienced school business professionals with the tools and guidance to manage complex tenders. Schools Buying Club’s procurement specialists are still on-hand to help run the procurement process remotely, and compliance is assured by using our e-portal. SBC online provides remote support throughout the process which concludes once a contract has been awarded. The school or trust uses the online facility to share and check documents and store them until the next time a procurement exercise is needed.


Q: Is SBC Online easy to use?

A: SBC Online has been designed to make it as easy as possible for school business professionals to use. Online forms are straightforward to complete and allows us to develop your specification and tender documents quickly and easily. You remain in control of your procurements, with immediate access to Schools Buying Club’s procurement specialists as and when you need them.


Q: How does it work?

A: SBC Online guides school business professionals through every step of the tender process. Our team works with you remotely to help develop your tender documentation, checking it for compliance. We will run the tender via our e-portal and assist you when you evaluate the bids.

Over time your SBC Online portal will become your contracts register, with all documentation and information about every contract you have, password protected and in one place.


Q: How much does SBC Online cost?

A: There is a fixed cost of £5,000 +VAT to use SBC Online, plus an annual charge of £100 +VAT to maintain your facility. If you use Schools’ Buying Club to run additional tenders the cost reduces to £4,000 +VAT. SBC Online safely stores your documents and procurement audit trail evidence. It also provides alerts in advance of contract renewal dates giving you plenty of time to re-run your tender.


Q: Is it compliant?

A: SBC Online is fully compliant, our procurement specialists ensure that the latest regulations are followed, and the tender process is fair and transparent for all suppliers. Whilst the cost for SBC Online is less than our end-to-end tendering service (because we are supporting you remotely), you still receive an expert procurement service which is fully compliant.


Q: If I can’t complete an online form, what do I do?

A: Just contact the SBC Online team and we will help you. It may be that you do not have information about your current service, there is missing data in the contract or that your incumbent provider won’t provide the details that you need. We are experienced in all these areas and we will advise you on how best to proceed.


Q: What happened if a sign up and then I struggle to use SBC Online?

A: No problem. Our procurement specialists are on-hand to help you and guide you through the process, available through webchat, email and on the telephone. If you find that you would prefer Schools’ Buying Club to take over, we will of course step in and revert you to the end-to-end tendering service.


Q: I don’t understand all these procurement terms and acronyms, what do they mean!?

A: Procurement might seem like it has its’ own language sometimes, below is a list of common terms you might see or hear used.

Term Definition

The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 defines a framework agreement as

“In these regulations, “framework agreement” means an agreement between one or more contracting authorities and one or more economic operators, the purpose of which is to establish the terms governing contracts to be awarded during a given period, in particular with regard to price and, where appropriate, the quantity envisaged.”

In practice, a Framework is a procurement route in which suppliers have already been pre-approved (such as financial viability).  This means that a one stage procurement process can be run which is called a ‘mini-competition’.


Stands for ‘Selection Questionnaire,’ and if you’re undergoing a Restricted OJEU process, this is the first stage which asks a number of mandatory eligibility questions as well as questions regarding the Bidders’ relevant experience.


Stands for ‘Invitation to Tender’ and refers to the tender documentation package during the second stage in an OJEU Restricted process.


Stands for ‘Request for Tender’ and refers to the tender documentation package for an OJEU Open process.  Sometimes RFT and ITT will be used interchangeably as it essentially refers to the main tender documents (evaluation criteria and service specification).

Site Visit

The Site Visit is a great opportunity for potential Bidders to come visit your school site(s) to see your lunch service (catering), building layout and age (cleaning) or to hear out your current capability and strategy (ICT).  We recommend the Site Visit to occur sometime in the second week of the tender being out to market – this allows time for Bidders to read through all the tender documentation. SBC Online will provide you with further guidance so you will be stress free when holding your own Site Visit.

Bidders Presentation

Bidders Presentation’s are a great mechanism for the School/Trust representatives (i.e. Heads, Governors) to be presented with a summary of the key components of the Bidders tender response.  The School/Trust have an opportunity to ask clarification questions and understand more about the Bidder and their response.


Stands for ‘Official Journal of the European Union’ and is the online journal that is home to all public sector contracts that are worth above a certain value.

If you’re an SBC Online client and procuring through a Framework – you don’t have to worry about OJEU thresholds as the initial Framework was set-up through a compliant OJEU process.


Stands for ‘Facilities Management.’ This is a broad category term which includes cleaning, catering, grounds maintenance etc.


Stands for ‘Portable appliance testing’ and is the process in which electrical appliances are routinely checked for safety.  You’ll see this in our Cleaning tender documents where there is a requirement that the Successful Bidder routinely PAT tests their cleaning equipment.


Stands for ‘Admitted Body Status’ and refers to the certification needed by a commercial company to take Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) staff members onboard following a TUPE process.

Data Collection

Refers to Schools’ Buying Club’s catch-all term of collecting the necessary information for the School/Trust on your service to be able to create robust tender documents.


TUPE is an acronym for the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006.  This can be quite complex, but its intent is to protect employees if the business they work for changes hands.  TUPE is applicable in most instances.  For the tender process, SBC Online needs accurate TUPE Workforce Data from your incumbent so Bidders can calculate a precise cost of labour for the service.

Tendering Portal / InTend

InTend is the tendering portal used by SBC Online and Schools’ Buying Club. All tender documents and correspondence with Bidders are released through this portal.  No direct communication with Bidders about the tender should occur.

Mobilisation Kick-Off

This refers to your first meeting with the new Supplier where you can start talking about implementation details, logistics, staffing etc.


Stands for ‘Letter of Agreement’ and is the legal document which appoints SBC Online as your agent to facilitate your tender.




Questions about the 5 Step Journey


Q: It is mentioned in Step 2: ITT documentation preparation and review, that SBC Online will propose evaluation criteria.  Can I include my own criteria or questions?

A: Your SBC Online consultant will work with you to finalise your evaluation criteria and the questions we ask Bidders. Using our expertise, we’ll inform you what type of criteria/questions are appropriate as this is an area that is often disputed in courts.


Q: A supplier has contacted me directly asking questions about the tender.  What should I do?

A: Suppliers are informed that all communication must go via the InTend portal.  If a supplier ignores this and contacts you directly you can either direct them to submit any questions via InTend or inform your SBC Online consultant and they will direct them to InTend.  If a supplier repeatedly tries to contact you directly they may be excluded from the tender opportunity.


Q: What kind of comments should I write when evaluating the bids?

A: Your SBC Online consultant will provide further guidance on how to evaluate bids during the process and will be on hand to answer any questions you have.


Q: The Successful Supplier has proposed new contract amendments now they’ve been awarded the contract. What do I do?

A: The Successful Supplier should not present new contract amendments after award, you can be very firm in that regard.  If you would like further support from SBC Online please get in contact with us and we’ll quote you a price for the additional support.


Questions regarding the Data Requirements Forms


Q: I’m having difficulties in completing the Requirements Questionnaire, what should I do?

A: Not to worry, contact the SBC Online team and your consultant will organise a time when they can talk you through the form.


Q: I don’t know how much I currently pay for my service?

A: This is an important question; the information could be found via previous invoices or your current contract.


Q: I have reasons why I don’t want to invite my incumbent supplier; do I need to tell them the school is going out to tender.

A: It is best practice to inform your incumbent supplier that you have chosen to re-tender your services.  Any poor performance should be communicated to the incumbent supplier during their contract. In regard to the new tender, you are not required to invite them, but you cannot exclude them if they choose to tender themselves.