Computer contracts and other financial controls

At last week’s Schools Forum the issue of new contracts for IT equipment and support (computers, printers, photocopiers, networking, etc.) for Haringey schools was raised briefly. These contracts can be huge and expensive, but are decent IT is essential to education (and any organisation) in the 21st Century, so getting it right is vital.

A recent investigation by the BBC’s Panorama showed that many schools have been severely ripped off in large IT contracts. I know that some Haringey schools have had photocopier contracts that seemed incredibly expensive.

It’s essential therefore that schools use the support the LA can offer in ensuring that these contracts are fit for purpose. The Schools Forum was told that the secondaries have found this support invaluable in negotiating their contracts. As governors it would also be really good for us to share our experiences and expertise. I’d be surprised if there aren’t governors in the borough with professional experience and training in IT purchasing and contract negotiation. Their help could save Haringey schools from a lot of problems down the line.

Even if you don’t know much about procurement personally you should make sure that the governing body has a good understanding of all the larger contracts the school enters in to. You should set a level at which the headteacher needs to consult with (and get approval from) the governing body or the relevant sub-committee. In this way extra support and expertise can be offered to the headteacher and the governing body is aware of the school’s potential financial commitments before they are entered in to.

If anyone has any experience of recent IT procurement, good or bad, please add stories, tips and tricks in the comments below. If you are willing to help other schools directly, even better.

What do you think?