Oxfordshire has 34 academies across the county. There are also a number of maintained schools due to change to academy status in the coming months. The schools range from primaries with 30 staff members to secondary schools and multi academy trusts of over 400.
Minerva was introduced to a group of 33 academies and multi academy trusts within Oxfordshire by Nichola Gardner of The Warriner School.
The academies had been using the payroll and HR administration services provided by the local authority. Oxfordshire County Council advised the academies that their service was going to be withdrawn and that they would be provided, in future, by the Hampshire Integrated Business Centre (part of Hampshire County Council).
The academies felt strongly that they didn’t want to simply migrate across without exploring the market more fully. In addition, at that point in time Hampshire were unable to provide any detail on their service offering or pricing.
It was agreed by the group that assistance to conduct the collaborative purchasing process would be extremely advantageous as it would enable the academies to benefit from the leverage of their group purchasing power. In addition, it would provide a central point for running the project saving an inordinate amount of time.
Six of the School Business Managers volunteered to be part of a working party which represented the other academies’ interests.
At the outset of the project Minerva conducted interviews and provided questionnaires to all 33 academies to capture their own thoughts and requirements.
The tender documentation which included a ‘Memorandum of Information’ and ‘Pre-Qualification Questionnaire’ was sent to eight firms which included the incumbent and proposed service providers. Any firm suggested or recommended by the academy group was included. From this, three firms were shortlisted and were sent an ‘Invitation to Tender’ which requested the technical specification of the systems they proposed and the costs involved should the school choose payroll or payroll and HR admin services. During this time, Minerva organised a ‘Presentation Day’ where the suppliers had the opportunity to present to the entire group of academies demonstrating what their system could offer. In addition the School Business Managers had the opportunity to ask questions of the suppliers.
After assessment and review, the tender results were presented to the academies via their own bespoke Procurement Audit Report which stretched to over 110 pages. Each academy was given tailored pricing presented in clear tables which also highlighted their preferred options for ease of reference.
Additional meetings were held between the successful firm, Oxfordshire County Council, Minerva and the working party to discuss the implementation of the new service which included training and further options available to the schools.
Every academy had more than one viable option open to them offering a ‘value for money’ solution. By negotiating as a group the academies have not only reduced their costs, achieving savings of around 58% against the proposed costs from the Hampshire IBC (equating to hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum), but have access to bespoke training and an Account Manager to support them. In addition the chosen supplier offers a service with integration with almost all of the market leading finance software packages.
The academies now have flexibility with a supplier that can offer additional, complementary, services over and above the payroll and HR admin. In addition, the provider is very progressive and is developing integrations with budgeting and MIS systems.
"I came in to this collaboration towards the end of proceedings but found this to be immensely helpful. The work undertaken by Minerva and the working party has been terrific and great value for money. The Trustees are reassured that decisions will be made as part of a sound procurement exercise the detail of which would have been difficult to achieve as a stand-alone MAT. I would not hesitate to join another collaboration in the future."
Lynne Riordan, The Blackbird Academy Trust
"Working with Minerva over the last few weeks in sourcing a new payroll provider has been a very positive experience. The quality of Minerva's work has been excellent, and Lorraine Ashover's ability to approach projects in a methodical and systematic way is evident. I particularly value the manner in which Lorraine cuts through the swathes of information involved in procurement and signposts the salient points and the action required. I thoroughly endorse Minerva, and hope we will be able to work with Lorraine again in future."
Sally Hunston, The Isis Academy
"You are true example of a first class service. Your speed and efficiency on this project has been very much appreciated."
Sam Riley, Ladygrove Park Primary School
"Thank you for all your very hard work; your output is excellent. You have made a slightly daunting prospect an informative and extremely enjoyable project. For me, it has reminded me of life as a consultant pre-children and how much I enjoyed working back then! So thank you to you and your team."
Katie Hall, St John's Primary School
"Thank you to all for the obviously massive effort in turning this around so quickly."
Glynis Smith, Gillotts School
"It has been a real pleasure to have benefited from Lorraine and her teams input and management of our project. The attention to detail, the level of honesty and frankness and of course the professionalism has been excellent, and I can confidently say that I am well informed as a result. I look forward to be able to work with the team again in the future."
Malv Bhomra, Wheatley Park School
"Faringdon Academy of Schools engaged Minerva together with a group of Oxfordshire Academies to run a complex payroll procurement programme. The timescales were incredibly tight and the scope of the project was broad. Minerva was extremely professional producing detailed work with clear and timely instructions. Their weekly ‘update e-mail’ helped us to understand the progress that was being made and clearly signposted the decision points that we needed to take. We have been impressed by our detailed final report and the thoroughness of the work undertaken. Consequently we have complete confidence in the recommendation that has been made. We would not hesitate to recommend their services to other Academy Trusts and we have already engaged Minerva to look at other costly procurement issues within our multi-academy trust."
John Banbrook, Faringdon Academy of Schools
"Cherwell School used Minerva to help us with changing our payroll arrangements. Lorraine and her team provided excellent, friendly and efficient service. They took the hassle leaving the school free to concentrate on the decision. I am happy to recommend Minerva unreservedly."
Graham Nixey, The Cherwell School