Myths surrounding the role of the School Business Leader

Myths of the School Business Manager

Like Ancient Greece, there are many Myths and Legends surrounding the role of the School Business Leader. (I would call them ‘untruths’ but I thought I’d be a little more sensitive.) I heard two this week so I thought it would be interesting to write them down and see if we can’t lay them to rest!

Myth 1 – 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? Which member of SLT knows if you’ll be able to afford that idea/member of staff next year? Aren’t you 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 well-being 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 and the complaining parent. They will talk about that member of staff who isn’t pulling their weight. The SLT meeting is an important opportunity to share and support their own well-being. We all know that the SBL could use that too!
Myth 2 – 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. 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.

Myth 3 – That is not my responsibility

I’ve heard this one occasionally from SBL’s, often when they are called something other than SBL. Look around you, if you are the senior member of support staff in your school setting, alongside the Headteacher and SLT, 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.

Myth 4 – Im so isolated and unsupported

We all feel this, but the truth is, you are not alone. There are hundreds of SBLs out there, ready, willing and able to support you. Some are just down the road from you. Others may be on the other side of the country. 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 SBL 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.

Myth 5 –There is nowhere to go after SBL

I used to think this. In fact, I did my last qualification with a view that I could use it outside of the industry. If being part of #SBLTwitter has taught me anything, it’s that you can reach as far as you want to in Education. Our only barriers are our confidence, our mobility and our energy (move over Gavin Williamson!)

It’s up to you

I often say that it is up to you what you want out of this job. The more you put in, the more you will get out of it. Present and assert yourself as a leader and 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! (I’d have to argue that they don’t matter)

Some SBLs do find success and a career pathway in one place. 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 the SBL is confidence and self-assurance. They use it in their role everyday. Use it to dispel those myths and legends surrounding the role of the School Business Leader. Take opportunities to promote yourself and the importance of your position in your School or Trust.

Decide what you want and use your innate SBL skills to get it.

You’ve got this!

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