There are a lot of Myths and Legends surrounding the role of the School Business Leader (I was going to call them ‘untruths’ but I thought I’d be a little more sensitive – not like me I know.) I heard two this week so I thought it would be interesting to write them down.
- The School Business Manager doesn’t need to be on the School Leadership Team. In my view, there are a number of reasons that this myth is peddled but it is such a common one.
- “All we talk about is teaching and learning – nothing relevant for you – you’d be bored.” So…Who is allocating the funding towards all this teaching and learning? Who knows if you’ll be able to afford that idea/member of staff next year? Who is going to be supporting the staff carrying out this teaching and learning? Who leads all the support staff that you are allocating work to? Who leads on the infrastructure, resources, procurement, recruitment process and community communication required for these ideas? Anyone already round the table? Anyone? No.
- “You’ve got enough to do.” Yes, sitting in a long meeting once a week is going to add to your workload but also enhance it in that you know what is going on!
- “If you’re on the SLT you’ll be wanting more pay.” This is such a lame excuse. Respond with “Include me in it for a year, we’ll assess benefits and impact, then we’ll discuss pay.”
- “I can let you know what’s going on.” The control-freak Headteacher is their own worst enemy. The effective SBL needs to have a relationship with all the members of the SLT, not just the Head. The point is that you will be there to contribute and inform the decision making. Protect the wellbeing of your Head and insist.
- “We only talk about operational classroom stuff.” Start scanning your local job vacancies so that you don’t go down with a sinking ship! The majority of SLT meeting time should be a strategic platform. Of course, they discuss the naughty child, the complaining parent and that member of staff who isn’t pulling their weight but this is an important opportunity for SLT to share and support their own wellbeing. We all know that the SBL could use that too!
- The budget can’t afford to pay you full time/during the holidays/for extra hours that you do. This is another common one for the SBL. We are a conscientious bunch and take pride in what we do, meaning that we often work unrecognised overtime. In my view you would have to be a very financially efficient school (or in a massive deficit) not to be able to find funds to pay you fairly for the work you do. In most schools the SBL sets the budget, so allocate a suitable sum and put it into the support staff budget. Oh look, the budget can afford it! There has to be a caveat here in that a small school might not want you to do extra hours. Talk frankly to your Headteacher. If this turns out to be the case, stop doing overtime so that they can clearly see what isn’t getting done. This then allows them to decide whether to give you more hours, training or support. Your working for free is just hiding the problem and you will, eventually, resent it.
- That is not my responsibility. I occasionally hear this one from SBM’s, often if they are called something other than an SBM. Look around you, if you are the senior member of support staff in your school setting, then in my view, alongside the Headteacher, everything is your responsibility. You may have support from your own team, you may have support from a central team if you are part of a MAT, you will have support from your own SLT, but in your school, when it hits the fan, consider yourself responsible! If you don’t like that, you need to look for another job, or wait for your capability to be questioned – your choice.
- I feel so isolated and unsupported. We all feel this, but the truth is, you are not alone. There are hundreds of SBMs out there, ready, willing and able to support you. Some are just down the road from you, some are on the other side of the country, but in my experience most of them will drop everything to help you – you just have to ask. I know this is hard, especially if you are experienced or what one might term as ‘high up in the SBM hierarchy’ (if that even exists). But I assure you there is someone else that has been through what you are going through and can help. Use your local and regional cluster or association, and join #SBLTwitter and start talking to others. Your sanity can be saved, I promise.
- There is nowhere to go after SBM. I used to think this. In fact, I did my last qualification with a view that I could use it outside of the industry. But if being part of #SBLTwitter has taught me anything it’s that you can reach as far as you want to in Education and my only barriers are my confidence, my mobility and my energy (move over Damian Hinds!)
I often say that it is up to you what you want out of this job and the more you put in, the more you will get out of it. If you present and assert yourself as a leader, you will quickly begin to be recognised as one – by the people who matter. (I say that because a HoD in my school asked me recently if any member of SLT was coming down to the staff room for an event!)
Some SBMs do find success and a career pathway in one place, but more often being mobile and willing to change roles to experience different settings is what turns the job into a career (if that is what you want). What I’m trying to say is that if you are really not happy and can’t get anyone to understand – move to another school.
Two of the most important attributes of an SBM is confidence and self-assurance and they use it in their role everyday…until it comes time to promote themselves and the importance of their position in the School or Trust.
Decide what you want and use your innate SBM skills to get it.
You’ve got this!