Our facilities experts have put together some good practice guidance and advice on cleaning procurement and how to manage cleaning contracts.

All Every users will find a more detailed version of this in their Guidance Library.

Why is cleaning important?

As with all public buildings, the first impression in schools can make all the difference. The ultimate aim of a cleaning contract, then, is not just to ‘get the job done at the lowest cost possible’ but to:

  • Attract and retain the best staff
  • Encourage all building users to strive for high standards
  • Attract students
  • Encourage all building users to have more respect for school buildings and facilities
  • Facilitate teaching and learning in optimal conditions

Regular cleaning can prolong life expectancy of elements, eg vacuum cleaning carpets regularly removes potential abrasive dirt, which can shorten their expected life expectancy.

Cleaning is needed for health and safety compliance, particularly in catering and welfare areas. This is to meet the needs of the COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002), thereby passing inspections of the Environmental Health inspector and to control bacterial contamination in catering areas, reducing the risk of food poisoning.

What cleaning procurement options are available?

There are two options open to cleaning procurement in educational premises:

  • Directly employed in-house cleaning resource
  • External cleaning contractor

Currently, in education, the split is about 50/50.

What are the advantages of each method?

In-house cleaners:

  • Greater management control
  • Pose a lower security risk
  • Vary cleaning requirements with minimal or no consequence cost increase
  • Good relationships can be formed, which increases reliability
  • Opportunity to build links within local community
  • More flexibility
  • Can be cheaper

External contractor:

  • More available labour
  • Availability of experienced and trained staff
  • Better cover for holidays and illness
  • More specialist knowledge
  • Available specialist equipment
  • More access to the latest equipment innovations
  • Risk is transferred and covered by the contractors insurance
  • Increased buying power for equipment and consumables
  • Able to benchmark costs against other companies
  • Other services may be on offer, including personal hygiene, waste management, tea towels for catering and laundered barrier mats
  • Cost savings for other services
  • Less time consuming than managing individual staff

Cleaning specifications and agreements

Whether you source cleaning in-house or externally, there is a straightforward logic in setting cleaning specifications and required service level agreements (SLAs).  You must say what you want and then state the acceptable level of performance, or what the standard to be achieved is.

Cleaning service specifications and SLAs are formal documents that should set out the following:

  • School’s expectation of the quality, performance and value of the cleaning service to be provided, in a clear and plain manner.
  • Minimum acceptable standards of the service and customer requirements that have to be achieved.
  • Output or performance oriented measures, concentrating on what is to be provided rather than how.
  • Agreements between the school and contractor for providing a range of target service levels.

Types of specification you may come across:

cleaning specification can be defined as a service specification, which is a document that quantifies the minimum acceptable standard of service required by a school and will generally form part of the contract with the cleaning contractor.

Input Specification – This defines the procedures, frequency and methods to be used during the cleaning process, often with requirements for standards of compliance at each stage.  It is more prescriptive than an output specification and typically details the exact materials, methods, labour requirements and cleaning products to be used. An example of a prescriptive based term; “on a daily basis, the floor should be dry mopped to remove loose soil’. This reduces the flexibility of a contractor to be able to use innovative or alternative methods, products or equipment.

If you are an Every user, then you can of course set all of these up as activities, meaning the cleaning staff (whether in-house or contracted) can mark them as completed, or flag up any problems (eg ‘could not clean gym as was being used by local netball team’, or ‘rotary cleaner has broken and so floors have been mopped only’)  and you or the site manager will get alerts instantly so you’re on top of things.

Output Specification – This focuses on the desired result to be attained by the contractor.  There is maximal flexibility, as the contractor is allowed to exert their own expertise to achieve the required objectives within a set timeframe. The contractor is assumed to have the experience and expertise to achieve the required standard. An example, based on the floor cleaning above, would be ‘mop the floor until it’s clean and shiny’.  Cleaning contractors also prefer the output specification approach, as it is allows for ownership and the ability for them to dictate how they do the work.

In either specification type, it is important to include details of a monitoring procedure and review process, to ensure the end result is achieved or addressed if deviation occurs.

It is important to consult with your staff and particularly those responsible for more sensitive areas such as laboratories and home economics rooms, to ensure the specification caters for their needs.

TIP – Since the perception of what is clean and of an acceptable standard varies from person to person, it is worth considering preparing a document with a photographic schedule detailing the required standard of cleaning in each individual area. It has the added benefit it can form a useful document to monitor the performance of a contractor, especially at review time. It is important to agree the standard at the start of a contract or even at a tender stage, to ensure the contractor has allowed for sufficient resources to meet the required standards.

Again, if you’re an Every user then you can upload all photos free of charge into the relevant area of the system. You can ask cleaning staff to upload photos periodically, or as part of your monitoring work, and you’ll have all your evidence in one place.

Over the last 20 years there has been a move away from the prescriptive approach, towards a more results-led culture.  Whereas the prescriptive approach seems to stifle a contractor’s ability to use new technology, the output based approach does not. Contractors engaged on a results orientated basis have been able to embrace the advances in cleaning technology, chemicals and methods that made cleaning more effective and efficient.

The input specification approach has benefits, especially when you do not know the contractor and you want to ensure they perform to the required standard at the beginning. You may want to agree to a ‘probationary’ period where they have to follow an initial prescriptive approach.  At the end of the period they can be given more freedom to bring their own ideas and technology forward.

The Tender Process:

When you have decided to go down the route of engaging an external contractor to do your cleaning, it is good practice to follow a competitive tendering route, to ensure value for money.

Start With Drafting a Cleaning Specification

In the same way you would plan a building project, you start by defining the scope of work or specification of cleaning requirements.  You may include some or all of the areas detailed below:

  • Building Plans – It is good practice to start with obtaining a set of up-to-date building plans that identify every room and area within the school site. Each room could be labelled or numbered on a plan, which would then be referenced in a specification document, or even colour coded and referenced to a specification or key in the drawing.
  • Routine Cleaning Specification – The school needs to agree what areas will be cleaned on a daily basis. Typically, this will include office areas, staff rooms, entrance halls, corridors, canteen/dining areas, the library and some classrooms.

Typical cleaning methods found in such specifications include:

  • Vacuum cleaning carpets and soft flooring
  • Sweeping, mopping and buffing hard floors
  • Dust/damp wipe horizontal and vertical surfaces to an agreed height
  • Emptying waste bins and replacing bin liners
  • Replenishment of toilet and shower area consumables, such as soap and paper towels

General clauses – General standards required throughout the contract area should be as set out in the British Standards Institute (BSI) – ‘Uniform Cleaning Surface Standard’ document.  The document sets out methodology on how to agree a standard of cleanliness between contractor and employee, ie school, by defining what is meant by words such as ‘clean, unclean, foreign, undesirable, hygienic, blemishes, etc.’

Specification for Periodic Cleaning Tasks – The school may adopt a more prescriptive approach for periodic cleaning by including input specification clauses.  For example, with the heavy use of showers in the PE departments, it is good practice to do a deep clean every six months, to prevent the spread of any bacteria that may build up in the shower areas and also to comply with the requirement to obviate the risk of legionella within shower heads by sterilising them bi-annually.

Feminine Hygiene Services – Clauses may set out the need to provide a set number of sanitary vending units within the girls and female staff toilet areas and also set out a required minimum service frequency.  This visit may be combined with the removal and replacement of sanitary waste disposal bins.

Waste Disposal and Recycling – Clauses may set out the need to provide wheelable bins or skips, specifically for kitchen waste and general waste and recycling stations around the school.  The clause may also specify the need to ensure that they should never become full and may also require them to be locked at night to prevent vandals setting fire to them.  Ask to be provided with details of the recycling facility where the waste is to be taken and to be provided with the waste transfer notes.  These may be needed as part of an Ofsted inspection.

Management of the Contract – Three aspects should be covered:

  • off-site supervision and  the contractor’s senior management input
  • on-site supervision
  • agreed minimum staff turnover rates

Monitoring – A monitoring clause should set-out whether monitoring of cleaning will be either by the school checking on a daily basis or by transferring the onus on to the contractor.  It is good practice to hold monthly monitoring assessments, which may include:

  • Staffing performance and turnover ratios
  • Invoicing within agreed periods and accuracy
  • User complaints via complaint forms
  • Health, hygiene and safety compliance and issues/accidents
  • Number of user request forms submitted due to cleaning failure
  • Toilet areas cleaned before specific times, consumables replenished
  • Spot cleaning carried out within a pre-agreed time frame

The clause should also stipulate the need for attendance at regular review meetings.

To see this guidance within the Every system, and see how it can make managing compliance easier, book a demo with a member of our team.