School Business Leadership

The Magical World of Education

At this time of year it is great to switch off for a few days, spend time with those you love and let your mind wander off.

This holiday, my mind wandered over to the world of Harry Potter. Perhaps it is my daughter’s influence. MJ (at 25) is still a massive fan of the books and films and can reel off all sorts of facts, lists, characters and events in the stories. She can debate the higher issues and treats anyone who admits to not having understood or (shock, horror!) not having seen one of the films, with complete derision.

I started wondering (as you do) whether Hogwarts had a Business Manager and what the role might look like. I’m thinking that it would look pretty much the same as mine does now. It can’t be denied that there is a significant amount of magic involved in balancing a budget, procuring resources and planning capital improvements in any school. So, with tongue firmly in cheek and, with (possibly excessive) detail provided by MJ, using the Hogwart’s core subjects, here are my ideas for the training needs of a newly appointed or aspiring School Business Manager in 2018.


Training on the proper pronunciation of all those education specific terms and acronyms is crucial to the speedy induction of an SBM. Wand waving is entirely optional but does demonstrate dedication. A whistle is a good alternative and useful for all those duties for which you are going to volunteer (and is less aggressively pointy, best not take a child’s eye out on your first day).


A crucial skill to enable the SBM to predict the funding likely to be available in three years time. Reading the stars and movement of planets is as good a way as any of foretelling the future (and, some might say, the most accurate – I prefer a bit of reading my own palm, myself) May also assist in enhancing that most dull of SBM tasks – benchmarking.

Defence against the Dark Arts

Let’s be honest here. Teaching is a Dark Art. As support staff we need the ability to defend ourselves from its hypnotic ability to look easy. It isn’t. Know that your teachers make it look that way after many years of training, working tirelessly by moonlight (as well as daylight) and sewing their invisible cloaks of resilience. It is important that a new SBM understands the needs of that most distinctive, imaginative and diverse of creatures – the teacher. Also, an interesting interpretation of the subject of ‘Defence against the Dark Arts’ (MJ tells me) is that it teaches how to avoid natural hazards. With Health and Safety a major part of the day-to-day role, this is doubly a course not to be missed by the SBM.


A necessary skill for the SBM. You will need to be able to recognise that Deadly Nightshade or Japanese Knotweed growing quietly in the corner of the field and who else will ensure that Foxglove is not planted in the School perennial garden? (You think I’m joking.)


Another important skill for the SBM. Not only to transform themselves, at a moments notice, from Financial Controller to First Aider to Staff Counsellor to Gardener to Heating Engineer to Taxation/Pension Expert to Visitor Welcomer to Finder of Lost Items and back to Financial Controller, in the space of an hour, but also to find a way of transforming pennies into pounds and pounds into staffing, crayons, IT and a new roof.

Muggle Studies

The SBM has got to be able to relate well with those who don’t work in a school. The newly appointed SBM starts out as an innocent Muggle but very quickly transforms into a wizard of education operations, language and data. The SBM must always remember that they were once a Muggle and remain as patient as possible with those on the outside. (And when your patience finally runs out feel free to practice your transfiguration skills and turn them into a frog for the school bog garden!)


An SBM needs to move about quickly. Not only in body but also in mind. Until you qualify for a Firebolt, comfortable shoes are a must.

History of Magic

One of the most important things to know about the magic of education is that it all comes in cycles. If you know your history you can estimate, to some extent, where you’re heading. Talking to those old, warty, bent-over-double SBMs with the very pointy hats will give you much-needed background and a vital leg-up on best practice.

Of course, this is all fun, but it helps to illustrate the variety, humour and sometimes downright weird, that being a School Business Manager entails. Now is an exciting time to be in Education and I’m looking forward to 2018. Who’s in?

2 thoughts on “The Magical World of Education”

  1. It’s interesting that in the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett, the Unseen University has a Bursar who features in several books and because of the stresses of being both wizard and one assumes holding such a post, requires dried frog pills to keep him from going insane. For some reason I always related to this.

    Liked by 1 person

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