Retiring Director General Dominic Savage gives his final address to the BESA membership. Reflecting on his 40 year tenure, Dominic first mused on some personal highs and lows before looking to the future of BESA within today’s rapidly changing business environment. After giving thanks to members for their friendship, Dominic ceremoniously handed his title on to Caroline Wright.

Toby Young, the British journalist and author of ‘How to lose friends and alienate people’ took members through his arduous venture setting up the West London Free School in 2011, delivering a humorous account of what he considered to be the greatest successes and failures of the project. He also discussed the effects of the free school movement on the education sector, particularly in relation to procurement. The following Q&A brought about some thought-provoking questions relating to the free school experiment and how this could affect the education industry. 

 
The first panel discussion of the day featured Jason Gould, The Education Company, Headteachers Darren Woollard and Claire Cantle, Jo Palmer-Tweed, Essex & Thames Primary SCITT and Jeremy Crook, MATs Consultant, all with firsthand experience of the Academisation process who presented their personal experiences before opening the floor to questions. BESA members were given an opportunity to explore the driving factors behind schools’ choices to convert to academies and the rise of Multi Academy Trusts. The panel highlighted local authority procurement barriers as a key reason to change – with an explanation of how a greater control of budget has affected procurement and insights into how suppliers could best tailor their services. 

 
The export panel consisting of Geoff Gladding, UKTI, Diane Glass, ISC Research and Andrew Whiteley, Worldidac discussed opportunities for international expansion and overseas markets. This involved both the current British system, comparisons with the German model and suggestions of pathways for the industry to follow in the future. The panel concluded that the best way to access markets would be to make local visits and pursue business through adopting a philosophy that centres on the dynamic relationship between suppliers and buyers, and that emphasises tighter collaboration between suppliers to successfully pitch for, and deliver, large-scale projects.

 

Caroline Wright, BESA’s new Director General sums up the morning’s proceedings and outlines future challenges facing the industry.