Dear Anna, I saw your tips to Newbie SBM and I’m hoping you’ll be able to give me some advice. I have been SBM at my school for 5 years and know that Governors and SLT are starting to talk about joining a MAT next year. I’m worried about what this is going to mean for my role in the school. What questions should I be asking? How can I help to make the conversion as smooth as possible? Should I be concerned?
MATure SBM, Bristol
Dear MATure SBM,
Such a lot of questions in one post! Let’s take it one step at a time.
If Governors and SLT are taking about Academy conversion and/or joining a MAT, it is important that you are part of that conversation from the beginning. This is because the SBM is crucial to ensuring a smooth transition and it’ll be your role that facilitates a lot of the initial work. They need you on board, so if you’re not there already, ask if you can be involved from early on in the process.
Converting to an Academy and joining a MAT can seem daunting. There is a lot to learn, a lot of process, policy and procedural changes, and lots of new people and bodies involved, but at a very basic level it is just a different way of doing the same job. The benefits are that joining a MAT can bring new opportunities, interesting challenges, increased responsibility, new colleagues and new day-to-day practices. But, (there is always a ‘but’) in order to get there it is fair to say you are going to have to utilise your Mrs Incredible flexibility, the patience of your average saint and your Mr Bounce-like resilience. Fundamental change in any organisation is not for the faint-hearted (who also never won fair maid/chap/dream job either). It can often be frustrating and the learning curve can hit vertical and stay there for a good few weeks. For a short time, during the transition, it will feel like your job is no longer yours but, I promise, you will come out the other side stronger and more able to lead your school as it goes through its transformation and successfully evolves.
What questions should you be asking? Once the decision is made it will probably feel a bit like a whirlwind, even though it takes a few months. It is worth asking questions early on such as;
1. Who will be leading the conversion? Is it likely to take place over the summer holiday?
2. Who will be my contact for the due diligence process?
3. Is there another school like ours in the MAT that I can talk to about the steps to conversion?
4. Who will be my line manager?
5. What vision do our SLT and Governors have for their SBM in the MAT?
You might not get instant answers (and it is probably better if you don’t because then you know some thought has gone into the response) but if the questions are out there everyone can start thinking about how to answer them and get the advice they need.
As I’ve said, the local SBM is crucial to a smooth transition as you’re the one with Personnel, Premises and Finance in your role. You’ll find that the MAT has established procedures so it’s vital to make sure you ask for training. I would also advise that you read through any documentation that is passed your way and say if you would like clarification. Those contracts and agreements might seem complicated but it will help you understand the process and set you up well to contribute effectively after conversion.
Finally, I don’t think you should be concerned. You are an SBM. You are well used to curve balls, conflicting demands, spikes in workload and new initiatives. Find support in SBM colleagues, locally or nationally, and keep asking questions. Enjoy the process. It is interesting, challenging and a really good experience.
You’ve got this.
If you’d like to ‘Ask Anna’ please email AskAnnaSBM@gmail.com All emails will be read and I hope to be able to answer some of them via this blog. Unfortunately, I am unable to respond directly. I look forward to hearing from you.