We’ve got to Let It Go

I’m always a little in awe of @shropshiresbm blogs and I read a timely retweet of Are you a next generation business leader? with interest and optimism. I was inspired, as was the intention of the theme, to consider myself an ambitious business leader, with the potential to go as far as I wish to. “There is no glass ceiling” is an inspiring ‘call to arms’ to achieve, collaborate, get qualified, lead, fly… but then that nagging disquiet floods in. Because in the back of my mind a small voice reminds me “but you love being a School Business Manager”.

Yes. I do. I love the variety and the broad skill set needed to lead all those different non-teaching functions in a school. But I am fully aware that I have got to Let It Go. I know that my job, in its present form, is disappearing over the horizon. 
I am in no doubt that our profession is about to change significantly. The government’s attempt to mount the first step on the Change Management Ladder by ‘Creating a Sense Of Urgency’ back-fired dramatically when they had to u-turn on the policy of forcing all schools to become an Academy by 2022. As a result, schools with the drive and resources to take up the leadership reins have been left hanging and everyone is confused by the continuing debate. 

Of course, we are told that the policy is still, quietly, going ahead, but without any momentum it is clear that the process is going to be piecemeal, ineffective, damaging and slow. It will also lack the required buy-in from Governors and SLT to make conversion a success for every school. 

And, as a result, step 2 is becoming unachievable. Unless school leaders can be convinced that change is necessary, they are never going to join together to ‘Form Strong Coalitions’ in order to weather the storms of change. Why would any school add to their already significant workload to follow what is still a rather vague idea promoted because it ‘might’ improve delivery and cost effectiveness?

Yes. You picked that up correctly. The required formation of Multi Academy Trusts is not the change that is coming. It is just step 2 on an 8 step process. ‘Communicating the Vision’ doesn’t come until step 4.

The glaring fact is that a Single Unit Academy or School cannot continue to operate in splendid isolation because it is clear that the funding model is not sustainable. 

So here is my idea for ‘Creating the required Sense Of Urgency’ that I believe every SBM will understand and hopefully we can use it to help us all get on step 1 of the Change Management Ladder. If you like, this is my ‘call to arms’.

Take hold of your school budget and project it forward to 2025. Use the same staff and add 1% cost of living every year, also add 1% to both pensions every year and 2% NI in 2022 (there is going to have to be a cash injection into the NHS at some point.) Then minus 1% of your income in 2021 and leave the following years at the same level of funding. 

Now do you see why there is an urgency to change the system? It is unaffordable, unsustainable and unrealistic in a modern Britain with its current size and diversity of population. 

So I am also going to be so bold and tell you that I think it is time for all SBMs to take the lead in this. Yes, it is going to mean your job changes out of all recognition. Yes, it means you are going to have to decide in which direction you want to take your leadership role. Yes, it means significant change is coming and we don’t actually know yet what that change is going to be. (Step 4 remember?)

And, if I may, I am going to stand beside @shropshiresbm to tell you that you need to be ready. To tell you that it is up to us SBMs to lead on this. That it is up to you. You absolutely do need to #Bethechange. 

Welcome to 2017

Happy New Year! I know it’s been a good holiday when I’ve spent most of it not knowing what day it is!  As this is going to be an entirely indulgent record of 2017, I can start by wishing all readers a happy, healthy and prosperous new year and tell you that it is Sunday (I think)! 

You will understand that it is unusual for me to lose track of days. As a School Business Manager of over 14 years, l not only must have a phenomenal memory but I must also be able to dig out of my brain some of the most trivial information at a moments notice. “How much is left in my budget?” (I’m usually asked this one when I’m away from my computer and clearly doing something else), “Why is my tax more this month?” (Erm, you claimed some overtime?), “What time is lunch today?” (Isn’t lunch always at 13.10?) and, my personal favourite this one, “if a car knocks me off my bike, how long do I have to make a claim on their insurance?”(I promise you I was asked this in all seriousness while on duty in the middle of the school field)!

My brain is now so trained to retain all the information that might be needed by others during the working day that I am frequently unable to find room for all the stuff I myself would like to keep in there, such as jokes I’m told, funny and endearing events, my husbands name etc. etc. So 2017 is the year in which I write it down in the form of this blog.

My plan is to include the happy, the sad, the laughs, the challenges, the successes (and the failures), the ridiculous (which comes from working in a secondary school full of young people), and also the joy, generosity, professionalism and the incredible support that comes from working in a school. 

A bit of background is needed, I guess, in this first post. I’m the SBM of a secondary school with a sixth form in a rural town in England. Last year the school formed a MAT with a primary school, making me now also FD and a Trustee. 

Incidentally, working in education is like living in acronym city but explaining meanings is going to make for a very boring blog so you’ll just have to google it and try to keep up!

Additionally, it would be unfair for me to name names (and probably contrary to data protection) so everyone and everything is going to be wrapped up in acronyms, initials and name changes. As I said…try to keep up!

So I look forward to 2017 with interest and enthusiasm and hope you will join me along the way. Here goes…

…Oh and my husbands name is…Barry (but names have been changed to protect the innocent)