The Stone Age didn’t end because they ran out of stones.

If you could go back to your GCSEs (I know, it’s a horrendous thought) what career choices would you make? I love being a School Business Manager but I always think I would have liked to have been an archeologist.

Unfortunately science didn’t engage me at school and I had the bad luck to be doing A Level history when the ‘Age of the Chartists’ was all the rage. Later, I was of course hooked by Time Team. I watched every episode (more than once), I’ve got the DVDs and books and I have even been kissed by Phil (it’s a long story…I could never tell).

I find the Romans especially inspiring, where I live you can pick up samian ware shards just by digging in your garden, and I always felt the Iron Age with their round houses and domesticity show us a time when life seemed simple, but was undoubtedly harsh. 

It is so easy to be romantic about times gone by but when you have spent a week on your hands and knees with a trowel and a bucket, picking the impacted soil away from an ancient stone surface in which you can see the cartwheel ridges, you realise that all through the ages we have all just been trying to do one thing – improve.

Nothing has changed. Ever since I’ve been an SBM the focus has been the same, continuous improvement. Improvement of the structure and organisation of schools, the curriculum, the delivery, the targeting of funding, the learning environments, and, of course, results.

So, to improve we need to innovate, think ‘outside the box’, try something new and evolve. I think, as SBMs we are good at that. Our remit to continuously and strategically find new economic efficiencies helps to drive the improvements in our organisations and we need to be more assertive in pushing forward our ideas and agendas.

In the past I’ve been the employee that tugs my forelock and bows to the opinions of the teaching staff around the SLT table. It can be lonely as a ‘non-teacher’ and it is daunting to justify your ideas to others that, even though you might be respected, consider you to be unqualified. I know I am in the immensely fortuitous position of working with an SLT that will listen to my voice and support my ideas, but I know a lot of SBM colleagues who don’t have that advantage and I think we need to work together more closely to make our ideas heard. 

So how about this? You have an idea for improving a function in your school but, for a variety of reasons, can’t get your SLT to consider giving it a try. Why not go along to an SBM colleague, discuss it with them to see if they might approach their SLT to give it a try and allow you to monitor the outcomes? If it doesn’t work you can both take the learning forward. If it does work, you will be able to take it back to your SLT and show them the evidence that the idea is sound. 

I do believe that working together and pooling ideas is the most effective way to innovate and improve, but one downside of my situation in the shires means I could be oblivious to the extent of this element of collaboration already taking place. I’d love to know if anyone in the UK (or abroad) has used this method to introduce innovations in their school?

I know one thing for sure, as SBMs, we are all on the same team and we’ll never drag ourselves into the next ‘Age’ if we all try to innovate independently.

My trench (I didn’t dig it all myself!)

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