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When it comes to school business management, bursars, managers and senior leadership teams face the unenviable task of trying to find the right balance between delivering the very best educational experience to students, whilst at the same time closely controlling and monitoring budgets. 

Although costs such as staff salaries remain fairly constant from term to term, the fluctuating prices of overheads such as utilities or food can become a difficult task to control, therefore placing additional pressure and management complexities onto the holder of the purse-strings.

For five schools located in Slough, Berkshire, this was an issue they were facing and wanting to address, as Angela Mellish, chair of the Slough Bursar’s regional group explains:

 “As chair of the Slough Bursar’s group, a clear output from recent meetings was a desire between the five schools to find ways of working smarter to save money and comply with EU procurement legislation.  We had calculated that between the schools, there was a dry, chilled and frozen food budget of over £500,000 and between us, we felt that by working collectively we could make group savings.”

The group consists of four secondary academies and one primary; Herschel Grammar School, Upton Court Grammar Academy, St Bernard’s Catholic Grammar, Slough and Eton Church of England Business and Enterprise College (Academy) and Ryvers Primary School Academy. With approximately 4,500 students across the group of schools, it was decided that a mutual approach would be beneficial.

Continues Angela: “Between the group, we had all dealt with the team at Pelican Procurement and were very impressed with their approach in co-ordinating food purchasing, supplier invoicing and other centralised procurement services and so it made sense to contact them to see how they could help us as a collective in saving costs.”

In February 2015, go ahead was provided to Pelican to liaise with each school with a view to managing an EU tender to identify a supplier that would be able to fulfil the requirements of each school.

Confirms Colin Bousher, Client Development Manager of Pelican Procurement Services: “The first step was to meet the individual schools to find out exactly what they were looking for from their food supplier.  It was important for us to understand what each school’s purchasing needs are and what service levels they require so we could start mapping out the tender agreement including all the appropriate service level agreements. The key to achieving maximum savings is to fully understand what items made up their entire ‘shopping baskets’ so we could look to reduce costs on all products, not just some of them.  Of course, each school has a different wish list of needs, so it was important we met each school to discuss these in full detail.”

A group meeting between all schools and Pelican then took place, with each signing an individual tender document in order to get the process fully underway. Pelican then managed the process of liaising with a range of suppliers in order to obtain their formal feedback, pricing, and details relating to delivery logistics and Service Level Agreements, all of which had been drawn up by Pelican, as part of the tender process.

Confirms Angela: “Following the tendering process, Pelican presented the results to us and we were amazed to see that by undertaking the supplier retendering process across the five schools, we were set to realise savings of over £80,000; a substantial saving by anyone’s reckoning.”

 The new supplier, Bidvest, was agreed and the supplier agreement went live in September 2015.

“The beauty of working with Pelican is that they remove so much administrative burden from us, and also deliver real peace of mind that we are meeting the EU procurement legislation and our costs are being monitored on an ongoing basis,” confirms Angela. “I know, for example, that Pelican is checking the supplier invoicing and if any errors occur they arrange for a credit to be added to our account, so there are no incorrect prices filtering through to us.   They are also there to iron out any service issues, for example should deliveries turn up late, they will liaise with the supplier on our behalf.”

Having completed the retendering for the chilled and frozen grocery products, there are plans to review the schools’ fresh fruit and vegetables procurement in the New Year.

Adds Angela: “The whole process has been painless.  Pelican has managed everything for us. Our kitchen teams have the flexibility to order the products they want; there are no restrictions in place. Pelican has automated systems in place to monitor our contract compliance ensuring we are buying products from the agreed list and, when there is a need to add new products; Pelican’s team negotiates the best prices on our behalf. Pelican is consistent in ensuring that we are achieving the maximum savings for the duration of the contract.

We also have a choice on how orders are placed – so for example if one school wishes to order online, while another prefers to phone orders through, this is also fine.  We are looking forward to embarking on further retendering in the New Year for other product lines, in order to recoup further savings that can be reinvested back into the running of the schools. 

For added transparency, each school is able to fully track its purchasing expenditure, stock valuation and supplier invoices via Pelican’s award-winning online portal, Pi,  Pi helps improve visibility and control by providing a complete view of what is being purchased and at what costs.

When talking about how Pi supports the group, Angela is positive in her praise: “The platform provides complete transparency of data. At any time, we have the option to log-in to assess the agreed pricing for products, see past invoices or orders, and review monthly statements or management reports. Pi is very easy to use and provides a wealth of financial information at the touch of a button, which is ideal when time isn’t always in abundance.”

With Pelican on board, the team manages the contact with the supplier, handles product price negotiations and ensures that when products are ordered, deliveries meet the agreed delivery KPIs.

If there are any problems, Pelican is just a phone call away, as Angela concludes: “The relationship we have with Pelican enables our group of schools to be able to work smarter.  We are on track to realise savings of at least £80,000, with more to potentially follow in 2016 when we assess other areas of our budgets. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, having Pelican at my side to be able to negotiate supplier rates, coordinate invoices and manage the overall process is priceless.  I’m always recommending Pelican to others who face similar predicaments – to me, it makes complete sense to let the specialists handle this for you in order to save you both time and money.”


For more information – please contact us on 01252 705200, email




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