A school business manager (SBM) is responsible for providing professional leadership and management to the school’s support and teaching staff. They are employed to enhance the overall effectiveness of the team in order to improve standards of learning and achievement throughout the school.
To strategically ensure the most effective use of resources, in support of the school’s objectives, is a pretty daunting task. This is a role that certainly comes with many challenges.
We interviewed Ms Craddock, a business manager at a school in the midlands, who offered an insight into the challenges currently facing SBMs in the UK today.
The following are common problems Ms Craddock believes are affecting SBMs:
- A rise in pupil numbers: by 2020 there will be 650,000 more pupils in the school system than there are today, as the pupil bulge continues in the primary sector and starts to feed through into secondary schools. Finding and funding these extra forms of entry and commissioning new schools will be hard enough, but will be made harder because of the fragmented nature of the planning process. Out of the new places, 250,000 are to come via the Conservatives promise of 500 free schools. In addition, if the Green Paper goes ahead, grammar schools will be allowed to expand and new ones open. Putting all this together, ensuring every child has a place and isn’t penalised on their background and capabilities is going to be demanding.
- Teacher recruitment: recently, more and more stories and surveys are coming out regarding the recruiting and retention of teachers. Over the past three years, 6,000 fewer teachers have been trained than the government planned for, and the number of teacher applicants holding an offer at the end of April 2016 was down by over 3,000 in comparison with the year before. Questions remain about the coherence and effectiveness of different pathways into teaching, especially with the recent scrapping of the National Teaching Service.
- People are averse to change: unfortunately, once a system has been implemented and becomes the ‘norm’ within any business, company, or body, people find it difficult to encompass any drastic alterations to that system. We’re sure that you, at some point, would have experienced a change – great or small – that you initially disagreed with. Whether it be your local supermarket changing the layout of their store or a software update on your phone; however, it is important to remember that without change, there is no development, and without development there is no room for progression.
- Communication: fractious communication could have significantly detrimental effects within any school. Communication should be between not only staff, but also pupils and parents. Talk to everyone to identify their frustrations and challenges; listen to their responses, outline what they want and find a way of implementing a solution that takes all opinions into consideration – but, be prepared to compromise.
- Keeping everyone happy: changing people’s mindsets is easier said than done. It doesn’t matter how passionate you are with an idea, there are going to be people who disagree with it. The only way to alleviate some of the backlash is to educate people as to what changes you’re putting forward, why you’re suggesting them and how it will be beneficial for everyone involved.
- Curriculum and assessment change: arguably, this is the biggest area of challenge, especially with recent up-rise regarding key stage 2 SATs, the English Baccalaureate, a new GCSE grading system, and not to mention a big rise in apprenticeships. This level of change requires schools to make a huge and sustained investment in teacher development, particularly as it can take four or five years for teachers to fully embed curriculum change in the classroom.
- Accountability measures: the challenge to improve outcomes continue – particularly for disadvantaged pupils. While some schools are closing gaps in attainment between free school meal pupils and their peers, the gap remains stubbornly large. Set against a backdrop of conflict surrounding the grammar school debate and social mobility, it seems that schools are expected to carry the main burden of promoting, and trying to eliminate, social mobility.
- Cuts to funding: the ever-changing landscape in regards to funding continues to remain one of the biggest challenges to face SBMs. With the uncertainty of finances and plans for the new national funding formula, it’s very hard to predict what income you will be getting. A lot of schools are struggling to pay for what they have, and if you want to substantially review and change your processes and ways of working, you need to take time and put in real investment to ensure the correct systems are in place.
These are a fairly daunting set of challenges – and this list doesn’t even include issues such as creating high-quality careers advice for all young people, or the doubling of the early years provision. Some SBMs may feel a sense of foreboding about the months and years ahead, but with the right processes and implementations in place, there is no reason your school can’t be run effectively, overcoming any challenges coming your way.
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