Are you an SBM?

Over morning coffee in the garden today Barry welcomed “Mr Robin”, a frequent visitor who has been stalking us for some time. I, of course, queried why it was “Mr” Robin and discovered his belief that it was only the males with the red breast. A quick google confirmed that male and female robins are identical (to the layperson – I’m sure that there are ways ornithologists can tell them apart) and the discussion moved on to did-I-actually-have-a-“prove-Barry-wrong”-search-engine? 

It’s not going to be very pc to say this but I clearly remember the days when there was a marked difference between the male and female SBM. When I first started in the role there were quite a number of “old school ties” as they were affectionately known in my local area. Gentlemen, perhaps ex-forces or retired bankers, who felt that they were qualified to be the School Bursar by virtue of the long years of experience gained in their “proper job”. They used to bug me. Not because they weren’t doing the job but because they weren’t taking it anywhere. 

As Bursar evolved into SBM, they began to look more and more uncomfortable with the role which, I believed, they had felt would have tided them over nicely until they were ready to retire into their garden and the local gentleman’s club. 

But the SBM evolved more quickly than I think anyone realised it would. In 2003 I attended an SfE course “From Bursar to School Business Manager” (I have a certificate and a dusty file to prove it!) This was the first indication that the SBM was to become far more than Treasurer in a school. Instead, the course claimed, the role was moving to “All functions that affect the provision of the learning environment” including “Admin, HRM, Site, Information and Support Services Management”; and proceeded to teach these new SBMs how to get themselves accepted as a strategic thinker and leader in their school. 

Even so, I’m not sure even then that anyone knew how vital and professional the role would become. How it would be different in each school depending on the individual appointed (and frequently the forward thinking attitude of the appointer); the sector; and the skill set of the rest of the SLT. How it would evolve further and how, after all this time, it would continue to do so. 

I’m nearing the end of my 15th year as an SBM. I continue to embrace and be excited by the changes and I get cross with individuals that, I perceive, are holding back progress in the role, stalling improvement of systems, putting up barriers to collaboration and efficiency and, yes, holding back my profession. 

I’m not suggesting that there is still a difference between male and female SBMs. There are very few “old school ties” left, but I do believe that there are quite a few jobs out there, calling themselves SBMs, who would actually just like to be the Treasurer. 

So while I’m not attempting to devalue the SBM who doesn’t want the whole role, I think the sooner we find a way to identify the differences, the easier it will be for everyone who does actively want to be part of a very worthwhile, strategic and forward thinking profession to gain recognition for their contribution. 

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