Everybody is Somebody’s Wingman

I’m feeling devastated by the announcement from my Wingman yesterday that she is leaving to take up a role in another school. Of course, as is the accepted way in Education, I knew she had applied and that she had an interview. I’d written her a reference and we’d had a discussion about what this new role might offer, but I never dreamed that she would actually go!

You see, in all my 15 years as a School Business Manager, this last year has been the most challenging. It has been a hard slog of almost constant change throughout the year. Together, my Wingman and I have had to find new ways of working, introduce new policies, cover for colleagues for whom the changes proved too much, as well as maintaining the day-to-day functions and the morale of other staff. I know it can’t have been easy but she has demonstrated such enormous resilience and, to my mind, she is leaving just when we are about to realise the benefits of all our foundation building work.

I know that I can’t expect to keep my Wingman forever; she isn’t the first one of mine to have grown sufficiently in confidence and skill to enable a move into a position of responsibility commensurate with her capability. Of course, I am thrilled for her success. But for a few days I am going to indulge in feeling bereaved, disorientated and unprepared for the future, so that I can move into a place that understands and accepts her choice.

When I told Barry, he helpfully reminded me of a recent statistic that (whatever they may tell you) 75% of employees leave because of the Boss! So as part of my grieving process, maybe I better spend some time reflecting on whether I could have anticipated and averted her desire to leave.

Am I a Team Player? One of the challenges of being an SBM is that you have to be an active member of a few separate teams. I consider that leading the Finance Team is one of my most important roles and my Wingman takes on all the day-to-day Finance function and staff. I like to do the budget and monthly MI, maybe sharing this will enable my Wingman to be more involved with the whole picture.

Do I push too hard? I accept that I am probably demanding to work with, not in a “do as you’re told” kind of way, but I’m conscious that I set quite a challenging pace. I expect my team to tell me when they have reached capacity. I’m happy to share work, I know there are peaks and troughs in our office and I can input a purchase order or count the non-uniform day bucket. But maybe they can see me working at capacity and don’t like to add to my workload, perhaps I should be more aware of this.

Am I too ‘hands-on’? As an ex-auditor my Wingman bought with her our saying ‘Trust is not a control’. Together we have set up some pretty tight controls, segregation of duties and risk management initiatives. She enforces these controls in the office very effectively and it does mean that I must take my role in the process and not try to do everything, perhaps I need to work harder at this.

So, after this weekend of feeling sorry for myself (and hoping she’ll come to her senses and stay!) here is the Wingman personality (in order of priority) I will be looking for,

Resilient – Not everything will go right, accept , resolve and move on.

Good listener – If I’ve got a problem, I like to talk it through. I find that explaining the issue to someone else is often the quickest way to discover a solution.

Policy enforcer – I recognise that I need someone to remind me of policy and protocol while I am in ‘solution-mode’.

Attention to detail – I need someone to help me control the minutiae. I find little, and avoidable, mistakes annoying. We just haven’t got time for them.

So, unless a miracle happens, I will need to demonstrate my own resilience and put an advert together next week. I need someone as soon as possible of course, but I don’t like rushing this process, the SBM Wingman role is too important to the wellbeing of the whole team and I also have to consider the person for whom I am Wingman. So, as I love to quote from Top Gun, you should be aware that, when it comes to choosing a new Wingman, “I will fire when I am goddamn good and ready.”


What do you look for in a Wingman?

Note: My wonderful Finance Assistant, who has been massively supportive, proactive and patient throughout our years together, doesn’t know about this blog. I have, of course, told her how much I value her contribution (and don’t want her to go). Feel free to share this with your Wingman. We need to look after them!

School Holiday Sleuth – Idyll Interrupted – 5

There was a momentary pause while Blandford took in the enormity of this small bag. He stood up stiffly and moved towards the door. “Perhaps we could break for a moment?” He signalled another police officer into the room and ushered Anna out and into the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

“Right.” Blandford continued, with his hands wrapped around a mug of hot sweet tea and with one of Barry’s Hobnobs in his lap. “That was a surprise. I have sent it away, as you suggested.”

“I haven’t kept it from you. I only found it late last night.” Anna wasn’t sure if, or why, Blandford was cross.

“No, it’s not that.” Blandford’s face relaxed. “We’ve been looking for something, anything, to make some headway into this case and we have been unsuccessful, no one seems to know anything useful, but now it’s clear I began at the wrong end of the group.” He smiled. “Where shall we start?”

“Perhaps we’d better start with the victim.” Anna proposed. Blandford nodded, settled back into his chair and munched his biscuit. “I didn’t know Janice before we came here and I obviously didn’t know her for very long, but I think I have pieced together the sort of person she was which helps me understand why she was killed.”

“Go on.” Blandford reached for another biscuit.

“Janice played the ‘fragile-little-girl-lost’ character but she was, in actual fact, a very shrewd operator, manipulative and controlling. She has been entwined with this group since she was a teenager and her crush on Jeremy meant that the boys, as they were then, tolerated her but didn’t pay her much attention” Anna stopped, realising that Blandford wouldn’t know about Jeremy.

“That’s OK, the Jeremy incident is in Robert’s police file, there was quite a detailed investigation at the time.” Blandford reassured her that she could continue.

“After Jeremy died the boys went off to university and you’d think that would be the end of it, but Janice found her way back into the group when they all returned to work in their home town by attaching herself to Colin, Jeremy’s younger brother. At that time, Colin was involved with Rebecca and began playing golf with Robert, Neville and Elden, as his brother had done, I think they all wanted to help Colin, so they invested in his Fitness Club idea.”

Blandford tried to get it clear in his head. “Rebecca and Colin?”

“Yes but Colin left her for Janice when they started working together on setting up the Club and Robert was there as a shoulder for Rebecca to cry on.”

“I see.”

“So with the Club proving to be a success, Colin became more settled and, finally admitting he was gay, fell in love with Anthony. Janice then moved, perhaps rather too swiftly, on to Elden and his money.”

“Nobody else has talked about any of this.” Blandford was astounded at all this detail.

“It is just a case of listening to them all when they talk, and also what they don’t say.” Anna replied. “I spend a lot of time in my job listening to others.”

“So, what is going on?” Blandford was keen to hear more.

“It’s clear that Janice and Elden’s marriage has been struggling. I think he has grown tired of her ‘china doll’ persona, he wants someone who can be a Stepmother to his children and I don’t think they get along very well as a family. Elden might be very wealthy but he is unhappy that the Club is failing and he is worried about losing his investment.” Anna took a breath and a sip of her tea. “Indra and Neville seem pretty solid, I think Indra was good friends with Elden’s first wife, so her relationship with Janice was strained. Robert is still wracked with guilt over Jeremy which affects his marriage but I think they’ll be OK, they’ve got a major event on the horizon.”

“And Colin and Anthony?”

“I think they are a very strong couple. They have similar interests but their age gap puts them at different stages in their career.”

Blandford looked over the notes he had been making. “So, on the face of it, this is a happy group of friends in Cornwall for a golf tour holiday, what makes you so sure it was one of them?”

“There were a few initial clues that made me want to look a bit deeper. In my line of work we say that trust is not a control, everything has got to be evidenced.” Anna looked thoughtful. “I guess I’ve just got used to listening to my instincts and then looking for answers.”

“What were the first clues?” Blandford’s team hadn’t yet been able to put any of it together.

“For me, the sand in the Boot Room was the first clue.” Anna replied. “I’ve had an advantage over your team in that I was here earlier in the day and also at the time of the murder. As usual with holiday lets, the house was spotless when we arrived. The building and contents are a little dated but the cleanliness was impressive. No one walked from the beach through the Boot Room but the following morning, the floor was covered in sand. We had all arrived at midday, then Barry and I went down to the beach, and everyone had joined us by four o’clock.”

“Yes, everybody has agreed that you were all on the beach by four and stayed until Janice was the first to return to the house at nine thirty.” Blandford continued to write in his notebook and absent-mindedly nibble biscuits.

“Janice returning alone to the house was the first thing that I thought was odd,” Anna explained. “Elden had a sweater with him but he didn’t offer it to Janice when she complained of being cold. She had probably hoped her husband would come back with her to the house, a natural expectation, but he didn’t and no one else offered. She will have arrived at the house at nine forty, we watched her go in the front door and turn on every light in the house.”

“Is that unusual?”

“Every light seemed a little over the top to me, I wondered at first if she was signalling something, but now I think she was terrified of being on her own, she must have known her life was in danger and if she knew that, it must be someone in the group that she was afraid of. When we all arrived at the house at ten past ten, we also went through the front door, and left a lot of sand in the hall too, I noticed.”

“So, just to go back and clarify what I think you are saying, Janice was not afraid of Elden?” Blandford looked as though he’d had a revelation.

“That’s right, Elden didn’t kill his wife.”

Blandford looked over to the window and saw that it was nearly dark. “Let’s stop there for now. I need to take this back to the office and look at it with my team. We’ve been working hard to find evidence that Elden killed his wife, you’ve just blown a big hole in that.”

“The thing you must remember Blandford,” Anna pointed out, “Is that while the killer thinks your main suspect is Elden, they feel safe to carry on at the house.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t be sharing this with anyone other than my immediate team and I’ll be back first thing tomorrow morning. If you are at all concerned, just let my officer know.” Blandford indicated towards the young uniformed man at the door.

“YOU DID WHAT?” Barry’s rage was evident. “How could you do that Anna?” In a big dramatic flurry, Barry turned on his side, with his back to his wife and inched right over to the edge of the bed to demonstrate just how cross he was. Anna reached out her hand; she was very tempted to give him a firm shove to send him flying onto the floor, but relented.

“I’m sorry, that is all there was available.” She smiled to herself in the dark. “I promise to go to the shop tomorrow and get you some more Hobnobs.”

“Unforgivable.” Barry humphed, but then turned back into the middle to give her a hug. “I’ll let you off this once as you’ve had such a difficult day.”

The following morning, and back from her walk to the shop; Anna sipped coffee and felt rather sad to be spending such a beautiful day in a room with Blandford. “First of all, can we go over what you think happened? I’ll then talk to my team and we’ll resume again this afternoon.” Anna had noticed that there were a considerable number of officers in the house.

“Of course.” Anna was keen to get going and be outside. “We all arrived back at the house at ten past ten and found that the front door was locked, everyone spent time looking to see if they had a key, I eventually found one in the bottom of my rucksack and we opened the door and talked in the hall before Barry and I went up to bed. It was just after twenty to eleven that Elden found Janice.”

“OK, The forensics report says that Janice had been dead for about half an hour. But that would mean she would have been killed before you all got back.” Blandford looked confused.

“I believe the killer was extremely opportunistic. On approaching the front door, they saw Janice through the kitchen window, went through the Boot Room picked up a golf club and glove on their way and struck her over the head with it before she knew what had happened. They then picked up a kitchen knife and thrust it into her back before wiping the golf club with the glove and putting it back in a bag, before tossing the glove into the bushes and rejoining the group as we all went in through the front door. It would probably have taken less than a minute and in the darkness of the porch, no one noticed that they were gone.”

“So it was possible then.” Blandford couldn’t help but be impressed.

“Yes, all the killer needed to do was stall the discovery of the body for as long as possible. It is fortunate that Elden went for a glass of water in the kitchen after their round of whiskey in the lounge, otherwise she may have lain undiscovered for a lot longer.”

“So, whose is the glove?” Blandford was still struggling to put it together. “Wouldn’t they need two?”

“The glove is Robert’s. He is right handed so the glove would be worn on the left hand. Barry is left-handed.” Anna added by way of explanation. ”The putter that was used to strike Janice was Neville’s. He is also a left-handed player. I think that is why the blow to the head caused so much internal damage, it was wielded by a right-handed person.“

“The autopsy did say there was unusual damage to the base of the skull, it is likely she was rendered instantly unconscious.” Blandford flicked back through his notebook to verify and then nodded. “The strike alone may have been enough to kill her without medical attention. Why drive the knife in as well?”

“Dramatic effect?” Anna paused. “A ‘knife in the back’ is an expression used to describe someone who has betrayed you.”

“Who had Janice betrayed?” Blandford’s notebook wasn’t any further help.

Anna looked straight at Blandford. “To some degree…over the years…everyone in the group.”

What level are you working at?

It’s back to work this week to make a start on a new academic year and I’m thinking about all I’ve learned about my work through this blog. I have found myself reluctant to blog about SBM functions because one of the main things I’ve learned is that it is nearly impossible to tell at what sort of ‘level’ I’m working as an SBM. For example, I would never have dreamed of applying to be a NASBM fellow prior to joining Twitter and starting my blog because I am cursed with that typically British humble pie, “Oh there are loads of SBMs out there doing a much better job than me.” Similarly, I’ve always felt that there is a difference between an SBM in the secondary and primary sectors. Not better or worse, just different, which makes me feel unqualified to discuss a wide range of topics.  I also wonder, will anyone be the least bit interested in what I think about the 2017 Academy Finance Handbook or have they all read it, disseminated and made adjustments to policy already?

So where am I as an SBM? I think the trouble with our job is that we are all doing it slightly differently, with different people, skills, situations and priorities. So I thought I’d write down what I think I do well (and not so well). I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the level you believe you are working at and why. 

5 things I do well. 

1. My MI – I’ve always liked my Management Information. It is a self set up system that draws links from staffing contracts, budget, forecast and actuals and reports it on one easy-to-view report for SLT and Governors. It involves some engagement and input from me (I don’t just press a button to populate it) but I like this because it means I know what is going on. There have been some challenges in converting my system into a MAT but nothing that can’t be resolved. 

2. Staffing MI – This has got to be a separate item because although it links into the MI it is extremely useful by itself. I keep 3 years of detail running so could answer pretty much any question you want to throw at me in relation to ‘impact to budget’. For example; “if a Science Teacher goes down to 0.8 in January and I employ another technician, what is the impact on the budget?” or “If 3 staff retired at the end of next year will we manage to break even the following year?” Again the system requires input from me but not onerously so and I love that it’ll give me the answers to any of the SLT efficiency suggestions. 

3. Building – I love building. I realise that our capacity to build is finite and I have considered the Prince 2 qualification but as this would probably take me out of Education I have, so far, managed to hold my ambition in this area at bay. 

4. Health, Safety and Wellbeing –  This is important to me and I find that this is the thing I most hassle other staff about. Are we compliant? Where is the risk assessment on..? Are we ever going to squeeze a wellbeing event into the calendar?

5. Theory to Practice – I find this comes naturally and it is a big interest of mine but, as a consequence I’m not good at writing it down and going through a formal process so that everyone else can see. 

Which brings me on to; 5 things I accept that I’m not so interested in (OK, not good at.)

1. Cleaning – Arguably one of the most important non-teaching services in a school. I guess as it has always been someone else’s remit I’ve never engaged. I know that this must change this year. 

2. The ‘politics’ – I’m interested in politics and healthy debate. I enjoy being challenged and will happily accept constructive criticism. What I can’t stand is unnecessary game playing and one-upmanship. I sometimes want to say ‘if you think you think you can do my job – please, feel free’.

3. IT – OK, please don’t tell anyone this but I have a background in IT. I worked for 12 years in a company building and selling IT equipment. But I don’t have any experience of using IT in a classroom so I try (and usually succeed) to stay well out of it. 

4. Catering – Having 5 children (4 of them boys), I have some very strong ideas about feeding children. However I have found that my ideas are often not compatible with the contractor so I admit that, unless intervention is really needed, I let them get on with it.

5. Expecting too much – I think because I expect so much of myself, I expect the same of others and I need to accept that their priorities and interests are different. This can often result in my feeling let down in some way until I give myself a good talking to and appreciate my colleagues for what they have done. 

So, that is me. I like to think of myself as a high functioning and strategic SBM but I don’t really know how I compare and in a room full of SBMs I think I will always feel the least qualified and knowledgable and the most disorganised! As long as that doesn’t ever stop me giving an opinion and contributing though, I guess it doesn’t matter. 

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think your strengths and weaknesses are?

Branding Anonymity

Being anonymous has some challenges. As I’ve been blogging regularly since the beginning of 2017 I figured I’d better turn my attention to creating a ‘brand’ which starts, I guess, with the logo I use for my profile picture. I originally chose what (I thought) was obviously an automatically opening door signifying my approachability and availability as an SBM to support. Maybe it was too subtle and it certainly makes for a dull picture. 

So, where do I start? For a recent MAT branding at work we used experts in brand design. They were excellent at teasing out what we were about, what our vision was and where we were planning to take the MAT so it makes sense to go back to basics and think about characters that inspire me as a woman and an SBM. (Clearly there are real people that inspire me too but I can’t use them – that pesky anonymity issue!)

So, in a traditional ‘Strictly’ no particular order style, here they are;

Wonder Woman. One of the few brunette female superheroes, DC’s WW has been part of the British consciousness for a lot longer than most of the other comic book characters.  Everyone secretly wants to be a superhero and as a child, I enjoyed the American television series with Lynda Carter. Her ‘Lasso of Truth’ is particularly relevant to an SBM. I was pleased to see that the awful pants have been replaced with a skirt for the 2017 movie.Lucy Van Pelt. I love the bossy boots older sister from Charlie Brown and she is inspiring because she is so assertive. I like her use of the word ‘crabby’ (something I can often relate to) and that she has very high opinions of her opinions. She is also very supportive (as long as things are done her way – see brackets above).Pocahontas. My favourite Disney Princess, Pocahontas is free, alive, outdoors and understands that not everything can be bought. I always thought she was way too good for John Smith so in my head he sails back to England and she gets on with her life, becomes the Chief of her village and leads her people on a continuing journey of connection with the natural world and complete absence of capitalism. (I know, I know what really happened, both in the movie sequel and real life!)Elizabeth Bennett, even at her age, is a modern, no nonsense kind of woman. Forthright, says what she thinks, defends her family, doesn’t tolerate injustice and doesn’t roll over at the first time of asking, (even though she quite likes him).Ellen Ripley. Of course Ripley has got to be in here. She’s a fighter, protective and proactive, but still manages (to my mind – I was very much a tomboy as a kid) to be feminine. She is the strongest female sci-fi character because she takes the lead and successfully completes the mission, albeit that she is the only one left standing!Elizabeth McCord. I’ve spent time considering whether Olivia Pope was a more accurate character likeness than Madam Secretary but, what can I say? I want it all. I want to be the power behind the sword and have the happy family life. McCord is the only blonde on the list so couldn’t accurately represent me in a photo but I channel her calm authority, her fabulous dress sense and her ability to always say the right thing (not a forte of mine – ok I’m nothing like this character but I’d like to be!)So, if we could merge all these characters together into one strong, kick-ass, compassionate, kind of woman who leads with authority and understanding, who doesn’t lay waste to the environment (particularly nasty aliens excepting), who appreciates that she is part of a team, and who doesn’t fall at the feet of the first man she encounters but who has her wellbeing in a settled family life…Then that is what I’d call inspiring and that would be my brand vision. 

Please use the comments box to let me know who inspires you (they can be real or fictitious) and I’ll put a wider list together for a future blog. 

School Holiday Sleuth – Idyll Interrupted – 4

The full moon lit the way back up the cliff for Anna and Barry and they chatted quietly as they made their way up the steep path. They were close to the house when Anna stopped. “That makes me so cross,” she hissed.

“What’s that?”

“Can you give me one of those poo bags that are always threatening to clog up the washing machine?” Barry sighed, he had to accept that his failure to remember to empty his pockets before his clothes went into the wash was one of Anna’s pet hates.

“Useful sometimes though” he smiled, handing her a small black plastic bag. Anna wrapped it over her hand and dived under a very prickly gorse bush, picking up the offending mess and securing it tightly before placing it in her jacket pocket. “Totally yuk!” Barry exclaimed, “please don’t ask me to hold that hand again tonight.”

“Are we spending the day on the beach tomorrow?” Anna asked brightly. “I’d like to do some rock pooling.”

“As long as you’ve got decent picnic supplies.” Barry laughed.

 

Blandford arrived early the following morning and had decided it was Barry’s turn to answer some of his questions. The blue skies promised another stunning day so he agreed to meet Anna on the beach when he was finished and she started down the cliff. “May I join you?” Robert, carrying a towel, was on his way for a swim.

“Of course.” It was difficult not to like Robert. He was, as Rebecca had observed, very handsome and aging extremely well. He had a relaxed ‘trust-me’ air about him and Anna guessed that this was what made him such a good estate agent. “If I may join you for a swim?” Anna smiled.

Anna was competent but she wasn’t a strong swimmer and she was nervous about swimming in the sea alone. “Everyone should be able to swim well.” Robert said forcefully “You never know when it might save your life.”

“Is that what happened to Jeremy?” Anna enquired cautiously. “Only if you want to talk about it.”

“It was a long time ago. I still find it difficult to talk about.” Robert stumbled slightly on the path and Anna put out a hand to steady him. “Thank you. I’m sure Janice would have happily told you all about it, she would never let me forget, and she was full of ideas about what had happened, even though it was ruled an accident at the time”

“How was Janice involved?” Anna was astounded that there were further connections that she hadn’t yet discovered. “She wasn’t involved, she had a complete crush on Jeremy, wouldn’t leave him alone. He couldn’t wait to go off to university and escape. She’s never forgiven me.”

The water was cold and Anna was annoyed to find the warm gentle lapping of the shallows had deceived her. By the time she’d waded up to her thighs she realised she was either going to have to dive in or head back to the shore. “You OK?” Robert was beside her in the water. Anna nodded and launched herself under the water.

“Next time, I’m bringing a surf suit.” She gasped on surfacing, trying to block out the cold and keep moving, they started to swim. Robert maintained an even pace alongside her, matching her crawl stroke with very little effort and slicing efficiently through the water with long tan arms. As they swam farther out, Anna slowly became aware that Robert seemed to be swimming closer to her, every time her face turned towards him he met her eyes and Anna could feel herself becoming anxious at his proximity. His body’s rhythm appeared to be locked in synchronisation with hers as if watching and waiting for an opportune moment to strike her. His eyes bored intensely into hers, he looked desperate, almost wild. Panic started to rise in her chest and the tightness gripped inside her, interrupting her own rhythm and making breathing difficult. In an effort to keep calm, Anna concentrated on swimming off to one side, trying to put at least an arms length of distance between herself and this man.

As if to compensate, Robert manoeuvred even closer to her. At every arm stroke Anna’s fear grew, aware that if he locked his arm over hers he could pull her under the surface without any difficulty. She had nothing with which to defend herself and started to contemplate whether stopping dead in the water and turning back to the shore would give Robert the opportunity he was looking for. Anna looked behind her, the shore wasn’t so far away, she turned in an arc away from Robert who continued to keep pace. “I’m going back.” Anna knew that her terror was causing her to flail ineffectively in the water and she was splashing like a frightened child. Seawater was going up her nose causing her to splutter the acrid salt taste as it went down her throat. Her arms and legs burned in protest at the demands she was making on them and her brain seemed to disconnect from her limbs. She could feel herself sinking in the water.

At that moment, Anna felt Robert grab her roughly. His long arm stretched around her chest under both arms and he flipped her onto her back. Anna gasped, a mouthful of seawater flooded in and knew she was helpless. In the next movement, Robert’s strength lifted her upright onto her feet and she realised she was standing in three feet of water. Coughing and choking, Robert half dragged and half lifted her back onto the beach and dumped her in the sand.

“What on earth was that?” Robert asked crossly. “Can’t you swim?”

“Of course I can swim.” Anna’s terror had turned to indignation and anger. “Just not when someone is practically swimming on top of me.”

Robert’s face softened “Oh God I’m so sorry was I doing that?” Anna finished coughing and turned to look at him, realising she wasn’t in any danger. “I haven’t swum with anyone in open water since that day with Jeremy.” Robert slumped beside her on the sand, he suddenly looked older and more worn out than his years. “It was so awful, we did it for a dare, to race across the lake at the golf club. I’d got right over the other side before I realised Jeremy wasn’t with me. I shouted and searched but I couldn’t find him. It took Police divers two hours to recover his body. He was such a good swimmer, I still don’t know what happened, he should have beaten me easily.”

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“Yes it was, it was my idea and I should have stayed with him.” Robert’s raised voice indicated just how much rage was still within him.

“You couldn’t have known what was going to happen.”

“I’m so sorry Anna, the water in the lake was freezing too, I just didn’t want the same thing to happen again. I needed to be close to you, protect you.” Robert was beginning to compose himself.

“Well, thank you for rescuing me before I swallowed the whole English Channel.“ Anna smiled. “No harm done.”

 

Barry waved from the top of the cliff and started down the slope, Anna couldn’t help but be relieved to see him and started to dig the picnic out from the bottom of her rucksack. “How did it go?”

“It was OK, I think Blandford wants to talk to you next but he said it would have to be later this afternoon. He’s gone now.” Barry bit enthusiastically into his cheese roll. “How’s the water?”

“Freezing.” Robert replied, accepting a proffered roll. “I’d stick to paddling if I were you.”

“Anna wants to go rock pooling, I’ll be carrying the bucket.” Barry laughed, proudly holding aloft the child’s red plastic container, he held out his other hand to his wife. “Ready?”

 

Anna and Barry strolled back up to the house after a happy afternoon picking their way over the rock pools, turning boulders and watching the tide recede down the beach, uncovering new shoreline plants and wildlife as it went.

Blandford was waiting for Anna and directed her into the small family room behind the kitchen that had been set up as an incident room. Anna sat in a comfortable chair and looked at Blandford as he patted his jacket pocket and opened a small notebook. “I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get to you.” Blandford started. “Your husband was very helpful this morning and suggested it might save a lot of time if I talked to you next.”

“No problem.” Anna had decided to wait and see in which direction Blandford took his questioning of her. He seemed to be struggling in that decision himself.

“I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to try something.” Blandford started. “Your husband thinks that you know who did it and that you could prove it, but he tells me that I will have to ask the right questions.” He looked directly at Anna who remained impassive. “Do you know who killed Janice?”

“Yes.” Anna replied.

“Do you know why she was killed?”

“Yes” Anna replied.

“Do you know how she was killed?”

“Yes” Anna replied

“Do you have any evidence?”

“Yes” Anna replied.

Blandford considered his next question carefully. “Do you think there is any likelihood that he or she will kill again?”

“No” Anna replied.

Blandford smiled. “Normally I would just now sit here and wait for you to crack under the pressure of my stare and tell me everything, but I have a feeling that won’t work with you.”

“No and before we go into any detail, I’ll need you to do something for me” Anna reached into her jacket pocket, pulled out the small black poo bag and passed it to Blandford.

“What’s this?” Blandford held it cautiously.

“I think that should give you all the evidence you need. It’s a golfing glove. You should get it tested because it is likely that you will find Janice’s blood on the outside and the murderer’s DNA on the inside.”

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.