We are being contacted by a large number of schools and Academy Trust clients who are very concerned about how to respond to the contract renewal notices they are receiving from ESS, which propose a minimum contract term of 3 years going forward. Given the timescales, clients must urgently review their options. We have prepared this briefing to alert clients to this issue and to invite clients who might be affected to get in touch as we review whether the actions of ESS may be the subject of a legal challenge. Schools and Academy Trusts cannot simply renew with ESS without complying with relevant public procurement rules, which all schools and Academy Trusts therefore need to consider, along with securing best value for money.
The relatively short notice given to schools is concerning. This is a fast-moving area, and we understand that the DfE is currently investigating, and has therefore told schools and Academy Trusts to hold off from renewing. Further clarification from DfE is being sought. In the meantime, from a contract management point of view, schools and Academy Trusts previously planning, and now bringing forward plans, to migrate upon expiry of the current annual contract, are feeling enormous time pressure and facing the prospect of urgent procurement exercises.
We would encourage clients to get in touch if they have concerns about their particular case.
Our lead contacts at Stone King on this issue are Graham Burns, Tony Pidgeon and Eleanor Reilly.