I am going to tell you a story to start and something that I believe will resonate with many of you.
I was recently having my haircut and the conversation, went like this:
Barber: So anywhere nice planned for your holidays?
Me: I’m going to South Wales for a couple of weeks.
Barber: Oh nice. What line of work are you in again?
Me: I work in a school.
Barber: Nice, all that time off for holidays eh?
Me: No, not me. I work all year round.
Barber: What, but teachers don’t work in the holidays! What subject do you teach in the Summer?
Me: Oh I don’t teach, I am the School Business Manager.
Barber: Oh right…………**silence** what does that mean?
Me: Well you mentioned teaching, I deal with everything else. Finance, Human Resources, Procurement, Marketing and INFRASTRUCTURE.
Barber: Oh I see, do you want a square or round neck………………….?
That typifies our role, the vast majority of people have no idea what we do and what we are responsible for. I also think that the word infrastructure tipped the barber over the edge and she had to resort to her standard conversation to quickly get back on familiar ground.
A definition of infrastructure is the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.
Rod Stewart – one of my all-time favourites. When he treated the world in 1978 to the classic - Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? I have to admit, following that conversation with my hairdresser, I did draw a parallel (or perhaps the opposite of a parallel!) in my mind: infrastructure – perhaps it just doesn’t quite sound that sexy. However, unsexy as it may be, I believe it is one of the most important aspects of the role.
Looking a little deeper at that definition and in the first example, put simply, without having a safe and secure and fit for purpose building for teaching, a school cannot be called a school. It is just a building.
Take a moment to think of all the facilities that surround and enter that building and you begin to realise both how vital they are but equally how much they are taken for granted. The surrounding roads, paths and playground areas that include the drainage, the lighting, the grounds maintenance and the cleanliness become evident.
The utilities that enter the building such as gas, electric, maybe oil, broadband and telephone lines are all so very important to a school remaining in good working order, legal and able to operate.
Now think who in the school is responsible for ensuring that all this is happening, seamlessly and without a hitch? Who is also responsible for making sure that these services if disrupted are repaired in the least possible time? Not the Chair, not the Headteacher but YOU!
This was further reinforced when I recently attended the ISBL IOSH Health and Safety Course for School Business Professionals it became abundantly clear of the need to ensure that the school is secure in operating within legal requirements. This responsibility for many of these aspects will be down to you. We are there to ensure the school is compliant and that the Headteacher/Principal and Chair of the Governing Board are legally safe and protected in the knowledge that you are doing what is both right for them and right for the school.
The Pub Landlord
I often refer to this sign above the door of the school bearing the name of my Headteacher on it, to reinforce that he, like a landlord is responsible for operating within licensing laws within their pub, is ultimately responsible for what is going on in his school. I am merely the conduit in making him feel safe that his or her school is beyond reproach when the word infrastructure is mentioned.