What does ‘Professional’ look like? Part 2

My recent blog questioning what the term ‘professional’ meant to the School Business Manager (here) produced some interesting conversation, making me feel like a journey to clarify some questions, opinions and thinking might be valuable.

1. 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 and one 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, but the fact remains that this is a teaching scale and automatically comes with the School Teachers Pay and Conditions and Burgundy Book terms and conditions. My feeling on this is that all will be fine until something hits the fan and then 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 and leaving ourselves open to difficulty in the future.

Education has moved away from the tradition of being led by teachers and we as SBMs, FDs, and the future us as non-teaching CEOs need to start talking about a Leadership Scale that either is not attached to the STPC or an equitable one for those of us who are proud to have taken an alternative route to QTS.

2. Progression

When I wrote Part 1 my main thought was “where do I go from here?” A 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 about 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 so I’d advise you looked outside the industry for further qualification.” Little did either of us know how the landscape was about to change. 

We are so fortunate to have such a variety of qualifications on offer to us as SBLs and I also think we sometimes forget that we are not tied into this and that we choose to work in this industry (mostly because we love it). We have some incredible transferrable 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’ve 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.

3. 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 in order to call yourself an SBP, I’ve found, is that it does a number of things. Firstly, it opens doors, 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.

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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