18 March 2020 (13:00)

The information previously provided still stands. As yet no additional measures have been announced to help contractors or individuals who work for them should schools be closed.

Please can you consider the following when making decisions about actions you take during this challenging situation:

  • Please seek to work with your contractors to mitigate some of the impact from what is after all an unprecedented situation. Schools are after all in a uniquely beneficial position where they will not take a budget hit directly as a result of this situation. It is very likely that contractors will fail if no additional measures are put forward by Government so any arrangements schools and trusts can put in place to support through this period will avoid mass redundancies and businesses going under.
  • Should the government make the decision that all schools are to close this would be classed as Force Majeure. Indications are that for the first time in our lifetimes there may not be any indication of a defined end date, or that the length of closure may be significant.
  • B4S contract terms and conditions were written with the intention that the school/trust would not be penalised nor liable for any payment in respect of any non- incurred costs or costs that would place the school/trust at risk. That said, it is also our view that Force Majeure would also be deemed ( and not excluded by default) to be covered under the “whatever reason” definition as per in the catering contracts ‘Snow days’.
  • We are using Snow as an example because this is the most common. Force Majeure as per COVID19 is unprecedented but would qualify, in our opinion, as a “whatever reason”.
  • This clause was included within the terms and conditions (both in terms of the original Framework and individual School/Trust contracts) to ensure that the tenders submitted and the prices therein were reflected equally in terms of and across the 190 day service, its length of tenure and fixed costs. Any reduction in service days and or tenure without such a clause would have resulted in higher pricing to manage potential risks and would have been deemed unreasonable.
  • B4Schools intention in terms of its procurement strategy and standard documentation has always been to enable good working practice and relations between the Schools/Trust and the contractor, in terms of value for money, not for profit compliant service standards and outcomes.
  • Until a decision is made by government as to its intentions re school closures and whether there are dates applicable re duration, decisions with regards to the next phase are difficult.
  • Should a decision be made to invoke Force Majeure with no, or a movable, end date, and this extended for several months this may be deemed to be a Modification under the contract and could potentially lead to the contractor seeking to terminate.
  • B4S want to support you through this difficult time and try to ensure that once we get through this situation you still have high quality contractors to provide school meals and clean your schools.

If you have any questions, please do get in touch.