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Schools waste £50m on a year on phone bills

Tuesday, September 2nd 2014 by Dean Reilly

Schools across England and Wales are wasting over £50m per year by not checking if they could pay less for calls and line rental, a new report claims.

The study, carried out by independent telecoms broker Equinox, suggests that in the last five years, eight out of ten schools haven’t considered if they could save money by switching to a different tariff.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, Equinox broker Dave Millett said of his findings: “Five or ten years ago, telecoms, along with a number of other services, were purchased centrally. There was generally a professional buyer who had collective buying power, meaning if you’re acting on behalf of a large council or a large number of schools, you’d get a better deal.

“With devolution and some schools going independent, a lot of the buying has gone to individual schools. The task has been transferred, but not necessarily the skills or awareness needed to complete it. It’s left many schools overpaying.”

Mr Millett said that his research found average potential savings of 50% for sampled schools, with one institution able to cut costs by 80%.

He added: “The telecoms industry is competitive, and as a result of that – and Ofcom regulations regarding landline and mobile calls – costs have come down. Schools that haven’t gone out in the last two or three years to check what’s available will still be paying the prices they had before the new Ofcom rules.

“If something hasn’t been looked at in a couple of years, then they’re probably overpaying. If it’s something that’s reviewed regularly, great – as long as you don’t just review it with your existing supplier. It’s as simple as this: schools must do more to test the market.”

The £50m projected savings across the 24,347 schools in England & Wales could, Mr Millett claimed, be used to pay for 1,500 additional primary school teachers, 12,000 new interactive whiteboards or a year’s worth of free school meals for 114,000 primary school children.

Some telecoms providers are already working with schools to offer money saving schemes. When presented with the findings, a spokesperson for Virgin Media said: “Virgin Media Business has undertaken a lot of work with schools relating to technology, including the London Grid for Learning (LGfl), which is an IT framework that will save schools in the capital £100m.

“This is a framework which is being rolled out across the UK as TRUSTnet – forecast to save schools across the UK £840m over the next three years.”

BT, the largest provider of telecoms in the UK, declined to comment.

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