What does ‘Professional’ look like? Part 2

Career pathways and progression

In Part One of my recent blog, What does Professional look like? I questioned what the term ‘professional’ meant to the School Business Manager. It produced some interesting conversation. In particular around the career pathways and progression available for the School Business Professional. I felt like a journey to clarify some questions, opinions and thinking might be valuable.

Pay

We are quite eloquent when it comes to our pay scale and there seem to be two camps. One which believes that we should be paid on the Teaching Leadership Scale. The other which would like a Support Staff Leadership Scale. 

I sit around the fire in the latter camp.

I can understand the thinking behind tagging the SBM to the Leadership Scale. However, the fact remains that this is a teaching scale and automatically comes with the School Teachers Pay and Conditions (STPC) and Burgundy Book terms and conditions. My feeling on this is that all will be fine until something hits the fan. At that point an SBM may find themselves in a very difficult position of not knowing what their rights are.

I believe that as long as we accept the current leadership scale as a suitable ‘fudge’ then we are just allowing ourselves to be overlooked as a profession. We are leaving ourselves open to difficulty and inequality in the future.

Education has moved away from the tradition of being led by teachers. We as SBMs, FDs, as well as the future us as non-teaching CEOs, need to start talking about our own Leadership Scale attached to our Green Book contracts. One that either is not attached to the STPC. Or one that is equitable for those of us who are proud to have taken an alternative route to Qualified Teacher Status.

Progression

When I wrote the first part of What does Professional look like? my main thought was “where do I go from here?” A recognised career pathway is a vital part of any profession and it has been something that I’ve wondered about since I started in my first school. It’s 12 years since I was awarded a DSBM and started looking for a next step. My Headteacher at the time sat me down and gave it to me straight; “We are a very long way from non-teaching Heads in the UK. I’d advise you looked outside the industry for further qualification.” Little did either of us know how the landscape was about to change. 

As School Business Leaders we are so fortunate to have such a variety of qualifications on offer to us. I think we sometimes forget that we are not tied into this but that we choose to work in this industry (mostly because we love it). We have some incredible transferable skills and you just have to look at LinkedIn or Guardian Jobs to see how much variety is out there if we did want to move on.

My problem is that 15 years later, I am still in the same thinking position of “where do I go from here?” I’ve moved schools. I have been promoted. I’ve taken on new challenges but the underlying niggle remains about the acceptance in my industry for me to take the “top job” as a non-teacher.

Why?

Why would I want to align myself to the term ‘professional’? What’s in it for me? Isn’t it just a meaningless label?

Well…no.

The thing about fulfilling the criteria to call yourself an School Business Professional, I’ve found, is that it does a number of things. Firstly, it opens doors. It improves your network and gives you a wider pool of the very highest level of experience to draw upon. Of course a variety of settings in your network is invaluable but so is the ability to ask those really tough questions and know that someone will know. To quote Gavin DeGraw “Ever since the dawn of mankind, we all belong to a tribe; It’s good to know this one’s mine.” 

The second thing it does is give you more clout. As SBP’s it is our job to challenge. I’ve met a lot of SBLs who are happy to discuss and challenge every single cost centre except the teaching staffing one. The biggest and most important of them all. Why? Because the Headteacher does that. 

No. That is your job. If financial deficit comes knocking, you are the one whose job is on the line. Don’t ever take your eye off it. When you ask What does Professional look like? Know that it means taking responsibility for the whole job.

The crux of it is…

The crux of the matter is that as a School Business Professional I feel more confident in my views. I know I have a strong back up force behind me in the form of ISBL and fellow SBPs. I can work to support others and also help my profession to evolve. My own leadership colleagues respect my value to the team and, with all that I am continuing to learn, I feel I could, even, progress through that glass ceiling of non-teacher CEO.

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