Mutual Ventures

Sandwell MBC – School Support Services

Sandwell Council historically offered a number of education services that received all or part of their income from trading with schools. In the current environment (of increasing competition from the private sector and financial austerity) it became hard to sustain these traded services as an internal council offering. After a lot of research and consultation, the Council decided to set up a public service mutual to run the school support services, securing approximately 450 jobs and ensuring the continued provision of quality services for schools.

The service groups in scope included:

  • ICT
  • Music and Arts
  • Leadership and Management
  • Catering

The alternative delivery model aimed to:

  • Improve outcomes for children and young people through the provision of high quality school support and improvement services;
  • Increase engagement with service users through a legal model that allowed schools to join as members;
  • Enable responsive services whereby decisions were taken much closer and in consultation with the service user;
  • Develop commercial capability by capitalising upon the positive attitude of the staff and council to spinning out; and
  • Create more efficient processes and procedures for the new organisation.

Mutual Ventures were commissioned by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council to support them in establishing the co-operative.

Our role was to support the Council to develop a five-year business plan, setting up the governance structure, defining procurement processes and drawing up an implementation strategy.

The impact of this so far is set out below:

  • Sandwell IPS went live in January 2013.
  • After spinning out, the IPS broadened its customer base by entering into 50 contracts with non-Sandwell borough schools.
  • Sandwell IPS experienced a good first trading period culminating in a healthy surplus, which is being reinvested back into the organisation to develop services and efficient systems and processes.
  • The members of the society have a voice in how the services are developed and the impact that these services have on school life e.g. Sandwell IPS supports teachers in the classroom to improve the quality and standards of teaching, as well as, defining the catering service being provided in their schools to ensure that children have a nutritious meal.
  • Since spinning out, Sandwell IPS has worked with MV through the Social Investment Board’s Investment Contract Readiness Fund. MV has supported the organisation to re-secure its core contract for over 2 years, despite competition from large scale and national competitors, and to secure an additional Teaching and Learning contract for over 2 years.

Tracey Pearce, Chief Executive, Sandwell IPS: “The support provided to develop our business plan and business case to put to the council was invaluable and integral to us securing our initial contract worth over £11m, made up of individual school contracts and £1.1m over 1 financial year with Sandwell Council, who is currently our single biggest customer.”