Schools framework fuels innovation and pain-free procurement.

Colm Buckley
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On: 29 Aug 2019
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Schools Payment

As parents gear up for a new school year, they may be surprised that at least one part of the preparation is simpler thanks to the latest technology. If the school has signed up to a modern payment service such as Way2Pay, they will be able to pay contributions towards their child’s education simply and quickly by clicking on a text message from their mobile phone. The chore of popping into the school office to make a voluntary contribution or sending the kids in with a cheque for a school trip, may become a thing of the past.

Innovative services like this are transforming day-to-day interactions across the public sector because of procurement framework agreements that take the pain out of complex tendering processes. Without them, smaller state agencies and organisations – like a village primary school, for example – would perhaps not have the scale or resources to go looking for leading-edge technology.

More efficient procurement.

Procurement frameworks are a model of efficiency: mitigating the risk of paying too much or signing contracts that don’t deliver. To be selected, companies have to make a case for their ability to deliver the tendered service, including an indication of price.

The framework devised for the Provision of School Payment Solutions to Irish primary and post-primary schools was introduced in 2017, part of a wider government initiative, the National Payments Plan, to increase secure and efficient electronic methods. The goal is to reduce reliance on cash and paper-based payments. Three with Way2Pay is one of three suppliers in the framework.

The contracting body – in this case schools – have the autonomy to pick who they choose from what is essentially a pre-approved list of suppliers. They get to make the final decision on the solution that best fits their needs. Crucially, they benefit from all the cost saving advantages of centralised volume purchasing – even though their needs may be modest – without having to organise a competitive bidding processes that can be onerous and time consuming.

Engaging with stakeholders.

The frameworks also give vendors the opportunity to engage with all the stakeholders behind a tender. In the case of schools and Way2Pay, we get to meet parents and teachers as well as the school management – financial teams as well as administrators.

A demonstration gives stakeholders the chance to experience a service, rather than judge it solely on how much it costs. Frameworks recognise that this has been a problem in the past, and that a race to the bottom on price is not the best way to procure a new service. It so happens that delivers on value, but that’s a small part of what we want to present to stakeholders.

For John Gorman, Principal at The Rosses Community School, Dungloe, County Donegal, Way2Pay solves a very real problem. “West Donegal has been particularly affected by the closure of bank and post office branches in recent years,” he told me. “Way2Pay makes life very easy for parents whom, after receiving an SMS from the school, are just three clicks away from making the payment. It’s so simple and can save parents multiple long trips to the bank over the course of a year.”

Simple and leading edge.

Core to Way2Pay is that it marries security with simplicity. The tokenised encrypted SMS has a link to a portal where a credit card and the last four digits of their mobile phone are used to authenticate who they are and complete the transaction. Uptake among the schools that use the service is 70-90%, which suggests the focus on ease of use has paid off.

Another big benefit for schools, according to John Gorman, is that it allows educators to concentrate on what they do best. “With Way2Pay the focus is on letting school administrators and managers run the school and not worry about banking services. It’s about value for money and value for stakeholders, an easier way to pay that benefits all of them,” he said. “But what’s arguably even more exciting about the payment framework agreement is that it allows a small school in rural Ireland to become part of the cashless society, and be every bit as clever as the coolest high street retailers in their use of mobile payment technology.”

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