The education landscape is forever changing. With teacher workload dominating the news as well as the new academisation plans, we understand that school business managers are feeling the pressure. Not only do you have to deal with the government agenda and different policies all changing at a fast pace, but your role is constantly evolving. I wanted to share my advice on ways that as a school business manager, you can make the most of your role without getting consumed by your day job.
The school business manager is key to setting the strategic direction of a school. They bring a different set of skills to the senior leadership team and much of their role links to resourcing the school improvement plan.
What’s more, the role is constantly evolving. It is diverse, it’s becoming far more strategic, the skillsets are very broad and the different levels at which business managers are operating are quite vast from one school to another. For example, there are some schools where the school business manager is working at an administrator level and processing transactions, while others may be working at board or director level. What’s key is defining that role and where it sits.
As a profession and a role, school business managers are becoming increasingly valuable to the senior leadership team and to the school’s strategy. Although the government advises that having a skilled school business manager who takes on a leadership role is key to an efficient school, some business managers are not yet accepted onto senior leadership teams. This is something that NASBM are working hard to raise awareness of.
The biggest challenge for business managers is the ever-changing landscape and being able to link their plans and direction to the resourcing. With the uncertainty of our finances and plans for a new national funding formula, it’s very hard to predict what income you’ll be getting. There are also a range of external factors that are coming in that are pre-determined that they have to try and fit into their plans as well.
My tips for school business managers
The business manager role is very much focused on resourcing, processes and efficiency and these are key areas where you can support your school. The school business manager should be looking at what’s required, where it’s required and who requires it. Because the role is so diverse, often your day can be consumed with the ‘reactive’ tasks. Making the time to be proactive is key. It’s important to take a step back from your daily remit, review your processes and consider how these can be streamlined to reduce workload and put efficiencies in place.
Review your systems
Data can be very time consuming for all school staff. As a school business manager, looking at your systems to ensure they are the most efficient and effective for your school is key. There are always parts of systems that don’t join up properly and with the government’s academisation plans, there are many different packages now available. Ensure you have a system that is automated and that takes out any double-handling. Often there’s so much paper that is going around schools, keeping data in an MIS can be much more efficient.
When it comes to systems, funding can also be a key issue and a barrier for schools. With funding affecting some areas more than others, some schools may have more money to invest in different systems and training. A lot of schools are struggling to pay for what they have and if you want to really review and change your processes and ways of working, you do need to take time and investment to put systems in place.
Network with your peers
Because school business managers are so diverse with the levels at which they work at, they can vary on experience and skills. It’s important to recognise which areas you don’t have the experience and strengths in, but where do you go for help advice? Networking with fellow school business managers and finding people you can get best practice from can be really useful. NASBM offers a wealth of school business manager groups that are dedicated to sharing best practice in the profession. When you can find the time, it’s also worth attending networking events to build relationships with your peers and understand how the role differs from school to school.
Maintain your knowledge
As the role is so diverse it is impossible to be an expert in everything. At times you will either need to get support and advice from colleagues, external experts or consider undertaking some training. NASBM have developed a blueprint for school business management, the NASBM Professional Standards framework, which was developed in consultation with practitioners and key sector stakeholders. Undertake a review of how the school business management activities are undertaken in your school and identify your personal strengths and potential gaps. Being prepared for the emerging changes and greater autonomy can only be beneficial to both your school and you as a practitioner.
It’s certainly a tough environment at the moment, not just for business managers but for all school staff. There’s significant change happening and business managers are instrumental to that change – the key is in trying to balance it all.
Are you a school business manager facing workload challenges? Please share your thoughts or questions below.