Founded in 2014, the Eynsham Partnership Academy (EPA) is a growing family of schools dedicated to high academic achievement and the development of well-rounded children. Committed to maintaining Good and Outstanding Ofsted-rated schools, the Trust champions staff to grow as professionals and promotes evidenced-based best practice.
Auditel Consultant, Simon Gibson, was engaged by CFO, Ros Avery FCA, shortly after her appointment to the Trust’s newly formed central procurement team. Looking to improve financial efficiency within specific key cost areas, Ros was also keen for Auditel’s support in managing change across EPA and the implementation of new policies and procedures to do so. With three decades of experience in public procurement, Simon now also specialises in MATs working with Trusts ranging from six to 40+ schools. As well as delivering significant savings he brings the very best in market intelligence, management control and best practice to his clients. The Auditel team including Simon, Mark Stevens and Nigel Hughes, have become long-term, valued consultants to the Trust, offering ongoing advice as well as a strategic procurement and planning service.
“We invited three well-known procurement companies to speak to us and we chose Simon, and Auditel, because we felt he was the best fit for what we wanted both in offering and fit,” explains Ros. “Crucially, they understood the dynamics of a new central team – the politics and the operational processes – as well as having an intrinsic understanding of the education sector. It was very new for all of the schools to have finance, procurement and HR in a central team. For some people it felt like a relief and others felt they were losing autonomy as these functions became centrally managed. Supporting this change management was a large part of our decision-making process when it came to appointing Auditel.”
“We started off with Educational Supplies. It was a complex and time-consuming project in terms of data collection, but it was a great way to get buy-in from the schools. By working together, we were able to leverage significant buying power. As we moved forwards and continued to align contracts, even if we didn’t make significant savings people realised that if they had a problem then someone centrally could liaise with the supplier. It’s a win-win scenario; we were able to reduce the stress and resource-drain from the schools and have a much more structured and streamlined approach to procurement. By negotiating centrally through Auditel, Mark ensured the best – and the same – deals for each school.”
“We’re onto about the 10th project with Auditel now and the internal culture is different – people look to us for advice and support rather than going off and doing their own thing. We’ve recently taken over another school and thanks to our own improved skillsets and ability to benchmark price and process, it’s been far easier to bring them in and align them to what we already have in place. As a Trust, we now have consistency, transparency and control.”
Auditel clients benefit from birds-eye market intelligence, and, for EPA, this impacts all non-teaching aspects of the Trust. Bringing a much-increased level of visibility and control, an innovative Managed Print software was rolled out across all schools. As the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the sector, Auditel worked swiftly to negate financial impact on the Trust where possible. Waste and recycling contracts were negotiated at short notice across the schools and, in addition, state-of-the-art electrostatic Covid-cleans were introduced at each site to replace the incumbent. Lasting 28-days, the advanced service slashed costs in half whilst improving both efficiency and safety.
With an intrinsic knowledge of public sector procurement, Auditel play a key role in EPA’s ongoing compliance: “We’ve recently been through an audit with a Strategic Resource Management Advisor for the DofE and were complimented on our utilisation of Auditel. The scope of expertise within Auditel is vast and the DofE recognised that – noting that paying for specialist procurement as and when needed was a positive. For me, it’s much better value for money and more effective than retaining a headcount internally where we couldn’t hope to have access to the same level of knowledge.”
“As well as being a critical brain and an advisor, Auditel are happy to ‘serve a purpose’ when it comes to supplier management. Auditel’s team of experts have the market experience and contractual knowledge to have the difficult conversations on our behalf to ensure service levels are being met whilst preserving our relationships with suppliers.”
Far from a ‘cheapest wins’ approach, Auditel’s holistic process ensures a best-fit solution based on service levels, cost-base and quality from suppliers. Preserving existing, valued relationships where possible whilst demonstrating compliance and value through robust and transparent practice. EPA also benefit from ongoing management control support as well as access to the latest market-insight and, more tangibly, the chairing of quarterly review meetings on large contracts such as Catering and Cleaning.
“Simon is very much part of our team – he appreciates the skillsets and the personalities within the organisation, and he works with us in a way that is most effective. For large, complex projects, he’s involved from start to finish whereas where we have the capability in house, we can just reach out to him when needed for input and guidance. I actually joke with Simon that he’s like the fourth emergency service. If something crops up, I know that I can pick up the phone and he’s there if we need him.”
As well as securing significant tangible results, Auditel’s willingness to impart knowledge has proven invaluable for Ros: “We’ve built a solid, long-term relationship based on trust and tangible results. Together, we’re now focussed on more strategic and proactive planning in order to be intentional about where we go from here and how we shape the Trust going forwards. True to his word, throughout his work with us, Simon has supported us internally and upskilled the team as a whole. A huge added benefit.”