What are school suppliers thinking?

Cléo Fatoorehchi

Cléo Fatoorehchi was responsible for producing content and liaising with journalists at BESA, the British Educational Suppliers Association. She started as a women’s rights journalist before migrating into PR, in a child rights charity, and then in higher education at Universities UK International.

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Image courtesy of author // Masefield Primary pupils get stuck into LbQ. Image courtesy of author // Masefield Primary pupils get stuck into LbQ.

When your school buys from an education company, you do much more than engage in a simple sales transaction. Securing a new educational resource, whether it’s a piece of furniture or an edtech solution, can be the beginning of a great adventure. When it comes to the suppliers with whom you work, it’s well worth looking into why they do what they do.

Excellent educational suppliers tend to provide training to ensure teachers are proficient in the new technology, ensuring that schools “100 teachers from 12 boroughs have been participating.”can use it to effectively improve children’s outcomes. Many companies also offer after-sales support to guarantee the schools’ satisfaction with the products. Some educational suppliers, meanwhile, often go beyond that, working more closely with the schools. This helps these sector innovators to understand more accurately how much their products and services help to raise educational outcomes, and what could be adapted to best solve the schools’ and children’s needs.

For teachers, by teachers

Take Learning by Questions, for example. LbQ has been on tour since September 2017, working first-hand with schools across the country to understand what teachers need to hone their classroom practise. A total of 100 teachers from 12 different educational boroughs have been participating in the School Feedback Study, which entails running LbQ sessions at least three times a week and sending surveys back on their experience.

Heather Abela, communications creative at LbQ, told me more about this extensive programme: “Not only has this resulted in a programme fine-tuned by teachers for teachers; but it has built a number of genuinely excellent relationships between ourselves and the schools involved, where the longevity of LbQ (not just the initial adoption) can be followed and enhanced.”

She added: “As we enter SATS revision season, it’s been hugely rewarding to hear from schools where the children from lower-ability groups have exceeded their attainment objectives for the academic year within just five months. 97% of teachers on the project believe that LbQ has boosted the effectiveness of their teaching.”

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Masefield Primary in Bolton is one of the schools involved with LbQ. Here, many Year 6 children entered their final year of Primary school with an inhibiting lack of self-confidence, and an ability level equivalent to Year 4 students. “Within half the academic year, they have not only smashed their Year 6 targets, but have also discovered a subject they love and can excel at,” Heather reported.

“Masefield has rocketed to the top 12% of schools for Maths progression in the country,” she continues. ”But more than that perhaps, we have been able to observe the blossoming of happy children whose successes in Maths are now having a positive effect on their wider development - and that’s only been possible through the relationship we have with Masefield, working together with the school as partners.”

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Engaging with the local community

Meanwhile, at school furniture specialists Witley Jones, links with the schools are strengthened on a personal level. Based in Stourport-on-Severn, Witley Jones works closely with a range of local businesses and supplies many local independent schools.

One of the initiatives in which the company takes part is the Worcestershire Education Network (WEN), which is a group of local “Jasmine spends four days a week gaining a solid grounding in daily operations.”businesses and trades from across the county. Dave Manser, business development manager at Witley Jones, explained: “We meet once a month with the aim of offering schools value for money as well as a personal service. The challenge for us all is to allow other local enterprises the opportunity to offer their products and services, enabling businesses to prosper within Worcestershire.”

He added: “This will give the next generation the ability to stay local, rather than having to leave the county to increase their future business careers.”

This is something this family enterprise is deeply attached to, regularly offering young people the opportunity to work with them. For example, after supplying Stourport High School with brand new 6th Form Science laboratories last summer, Witley Jones continued working with the school through supporting their work experience programme.

Dave told me: “In 2017, we hosted four pupils for one week’s work experience, giving them a taste of accounts, administration, CAD software and the production line in our three manufacturing premises. This year, we look forward to welcoming another four pupils from the local community.”

In addition to this, Witley Jones has had a full-time apprentice administrator since September 2017. “Jasmine spends four days a week gaining a solid grounding in daily operations and accounts while, for one day each week, working towards her Business Administration level 2 NVQ at Kidderminster College,” Dave enthused. “We have enjoyed being part of Jas’ educational development, and seeing her grow in confidence and competence has given us a great sense of pride. We enjoy offering all our employees the chance to learn and gain further qualifications, so that their academic journey continues long after leaving school.”

Clearly, in more ways than one, educational suppliers can do wonder in a school’s and children’s lives. How are you working with your suppliers? Do email me at cleo@besa.org.uk to share your story!

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