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Important changes to Education Software Solutions (ESS) contracts

Many of you may be aware that Education Software Solutions (ESS) SIMS has changed its practice of having one-year rolling contracts to a model of a three-year contract extensions from April. ESS is responsible for running approximately 70% of school systems in this area, so many schools may be impacted by this.

This change to a three-year extension may force schools to have to make a quick decision about whether or not they wish to switch providers, with little time for due diligence to avoid being locked into a three-year contract. Given the deadline, members who aren't already aware of this and considering their approach to this change, and whether or not they wish to be tied into a three-year contact, should begin to consider this issue as a matter of urgency.

We also understand that some schools have signed up with a law firm (Stone King) to take collective action in relation to these contract renewal notices, and individual schools concerned about this may want to consult their legal providers. Stone King have commented publicly that they believe this change is legally questionable. We also understand that another law firm (Browne Jacobson) is considering this issue.

The Department for Education has commented on this in an email to school leaders, stating:

"Our advice is that schools should proceed in connection with the proposed contracts as they ordinarily would when procuring any contract, following the obligations they have as a contracting authority." 

The email also contains a reminder that schools should ensure that they manage public money in a compliant way and that they deliver best value from their budgets.

First published 22 December 2021