Procurement advice for inspiring environments

  • Procurement advice for inspiring environments

Paul Smith explains how to create cost-effective inspiring teaching environments, even if you’re not entitled to priority funding…

The Coalition Government recently announced the second round of its flagship priority school building programme. The programme provides funding to schools that are most in-need of improvement, helping them plan ahead with investment decisions and ensure those responsible for schools are able to deliver the best possible value for their schools. This is great news for many establishments. However, for those schools that are not fortunate enough to receive additional funding, tough decisions will be made on how to maximise budgets and deliver a sound and effective working environment for teachers and pupils alike. Here are few tips to help.

Shop around

One of the first steps when planning an upgrade of your facilities is to find the right supplier. And with such a large number of suppliers operating across the education market, it’s not always easy to find the right one for your needs. Of course, value for money and free delivery are important requirements, but look for other factors such as quality of product and guarantees offered on products and service in order to differentiate suppliers.

Alternatively, think about using an established procurement framework to reduce the hassle and cost of sourcing a new supplier. A robust and fair framework will be awarded to suppliers who have been evaluated against a range of providers across the market and against a range of criteria, such as cost, quality and service. This will ensure that you get the most suitable and compliant deal without having to scope out several different suppliers yourself.

Make the most of what you have

Refurbishing a school and/or classrooms doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch. We recommend auditing your existing furniture and retaining pieces that still meet your needs. Mixing new furniture pieces with legacy items will give your classroom that all important update but will ensure that you don’t go over budget. It doesn’t take much to make your classroom look like it’s been given a face lift so a few simple touches really will make a difference.

Flexible and versatile working space

The interior school environment and configuration of classroom furniture is now a major factor in the overall learning experience. It is increasingly important that the available space is able to accommodate diverse teaching styles and flexible ways of working. For example, configuring a classroom so there is limited built-in furniture or fixtures will enable schools to adapt space according to need. Lightweight desks and chairs will also enable easy movement of furniture.

A standard school library can easily be transformed by implementing a few simple changes such as creating different types of practical working areas for students, as well as socially interactive and relaxation areas. Introducing colour, light and modern yet functional furniture can all make a significant impact yet remains a cost effective solution.

Tailored solutions

There is no doubt that, for many schools, space is at a premium. It is therefore increasingly important that schools look towards alternative ways to ensure space is maximised. Bespoke solutions, tailored to a school’s individual needs, can provide a cost effective way of delivering long-term benefits. 2D and 3D design work can help you make the most from available space as well as ensuring compliance with all relevant health and safety legislation.

Buying to last

I realise it might sound obvious to stress the importance of purchasing products that are hard wearing and built to last, but it is certainly a message that is worth repeating. When budgets are tight, there can be a temptation to buy products that ‘make-do’ and offer a cheaper alternative. However, paying a little more for durable products will, in the long term, reduce recurrent costs for repair and replacement thus providing better value in the longer term.

Creating an inspiring classroom

It’s really important to make sure that a classroom is inviting and comfortable for pupils as they spend the majority of their day in lessons. Ensuring that the classroom is bright and airy is key so make the most of any natural light and stick to light-coloured furniture to maximise your space. Lessons are becoming more and more practical so make sure you allocate some space away from the desks to allow pupils to get creative and involved in activities. It’s also important to let pupils feel that they have a sense of ownership and pride in their classroom, so ensure you have designated areas where pupils’ work can be displayed in an engaging way to help encourage others.

About the author

Paul Smith joined YPO in November 2010 to lead the organisation’s procurement teams and supply chain function. YPO has a specialist design planning service to help schools create an inspiring teaching and learning environment. A range of quality products is also available. For more information visit