As you know, I’m always very excited to be given the opportunity to talk about my favourite subject and I was thrilled to be invited to a meeting this morning to discuss career pathways for the School Business Manager.
I find it so interesting that we’ve all come to this role we love from many different backgrounds. I always think that we bring a diversity of skills that benefits the industry as a whole. Which is why I am so keen on collaboration. In order to realise the benefits of diversity, you have to work together.
Having been in this profession for so long, it is disappointing to be told that data suggests the role is not moving forward in terms of leadership in the industry. That the barriers of fifteen years ago are still there. And that we haven’t yet resolved the issues of succession planning or the loss of skills into other sectors.
It’s time to ask some hard questions.
I’ve said it before (and I’ll say it again). My aspiration is to be a MAT CEO. But is that pathway there for me yet? What about the School Business Manager in a medium-sized school? Is their career pathway clear? Or the small Primary School SBM? How do we formalise these steps, to retain the expertise we have, attract graduates into the profession and offer genuine progression for those coming in from other industries?
I’ve spoken to SBMs who feel threatened by talk of a career pathway for the profession. The suggestion is that an influx of qualified graduates or industry executives will overtake them, change the role into something less cosy, will mean they will have to up their game.
May I be blunt?… Good.
It is very clear that none of us can stand still. In the words of U2 “You gotta to stand up straight, carry your own weight…” None of us should want to stand still. We are leaders in education. Advocating learning every single day. It is the height of hypocrisy to say “I’ve done my Level 4 – that’s me trained up now” if you are capable of so much more. In my view, Level 4 is just the beginning of a long road of career-long learning.
Of course, we all know that career development in the mixed landscape of academies (SATs and MATs) and maintained schools is problematic. But I think that is true of leadership development in both teaching and support roles. There is a generally held view that many approved converter academies had neither the skills or capacity to run effectively as an academy and may not have moved forward since. Any school leaders who are reluctant to undergo the necessary training, particularly in the strategic aspects of running an organisation, are always going to be on the back foot.
We’ve all got to up our game
Somehow, we have got to find a way of formally identifying our profession with agility, innovation and progressive strategic thinking. Backed up by relevant and robust qualifications. It’s no good sitting back and waiting for someone else to start the initiative. Neither is it about pay.
Our regional groups are the key
We must start a discussion in our regional groups and networks about the career pathways we want to see. Let’s actually investigate the correlation between qualifications and working level. What are the skill differences between maintained and academy SBMs? Is there a gap? How can we narrow it? Do we want generalist qualifications or are we looking for a focus? How do we feel about practitioners whose qualifications mean they will leapfrog over us?
Then, get your regional group to report back into the ISBL so they can gather a national picture and consider the next steps with you.
What is the next step on your career pathway and what do you need to get there? If you’ve gone as far along your career pathway as you want to go, be honest with yourself about that too, but accept that your practice is likely to be limited in the future.
I really want to reverse the trend of the profession standing still in terms of education leadership. My strong belief is that we can do the research work on the most effective way of informing and training our army of current and future School Business Managers. Which will inevitably lead on to recognition, respect and acceptance of the School Business Leader as CEO of a Multi Academy Trust!