There has been much discussion and debate recently regarding job titles and pay for School Business Managers (SBM) but does it really matter and how important is it within the education sector?
Firstly, I believe that we should all remember why we do the role. We are striving to perform our job at the best of our ability, balancing the demands of an extremely varied role under many constraints and pressures, to give every child the best opportunity to succeed and to improve their life chances.
Wikipedia describes the SBM role as; “a senior member of non-teaching staff responsible for managing non-teaching activity in a school. They oversee the business management of schools – all the administrative and logistical aspects of running a school so that these are done in the most effective and efficient way possible...SBMs with appropriate training and experience are increasingly serving on the school’s leadership team.”
I believe that this role is a key position in schools but we cannot assume a ‘one model fits all’ scenario. Any position in a school where the post holder has responsibility for the key functions such as finance, HR, premises, H&S, administration and management of staffing auxiliary roles should be considered a SBM, for some smaller schools this may be a more hands on, operational role and be paid a smaller salary or in a larger primary or secondary school the position would be broader and more strategic, it would also require more leadership and of course pay scales must reflect the differences in responsibility and accountability.
In the same way a Headteacher of a small village school has the same title as a Headteacher of a large secondary school, the title is the same but there is a huge disparity between the day to day roles but there is a national pay scale, can the SBM community learn from this?
The SBM role should incorporate knowledge of all areas of school management and not just provide expertise for one area. As expert is one area would manage just that one area. The SBM role was originally developed following devolution of powers and processes from Local Authorities, so the SBM role was designed to free up Headteacher time so that they could concentrate on teaching and learning, their area of expertise.
Schools offer a vast array of different administration roles and there are excellent opportunities for career progression from an administrator to CEO. Schools seek to employ SBMs for their all-round abilities, expertise and knowledge. Lower paid jobs which are often questioned by more senior SBMs can suit and provide entry-level opportunities for new starters, and work requirements in these posts may of course be more operational rather than strategic.
The ISBL have produced a Professional Standards document (https://isbl.org.uk/Career-Development/NASBM-Professional-Standards-Interactive.aspx) which clearly sets out different levels of SBM roles to support schools with appointments and the job evaluation process conducted in the early 2000’s ensured that similar roles received the same level of remuneration.
The ISBL also provides a range of qualifications and training to aspiring and current SBMs to further their career (https://isbl.org.uk/Training/SBM-Qualifications.aspx)
However, for some people job titles and levels of pay can be important and feel like a badge of authority. Not getting the correct job title or pay which is considered appropriate to your position, duties, authority, and achievements can undermine your self-belief and standing within your school and local community. Additionally, not getting the job title that you are due can hinder your pursuit of future career opportunities. So job titles can be important but with such an array of levels of accountability and responsibility within a single job title it is difficult to differentiate between positions and developing a national pay scale certainly has many challenges.
Recognition for job performance can of course also come from holding positions on School Leadership or Management teams or through ISBL Fellowship or through various awards if your schools chooses to enter these, as well as levels of pay and job titles.
The SBM role, although 30 years old, is in some ways still developing and evolving with higher level, more strategic roles, such as Advanced School Business Managers, Directors, Chief Finance Officer and School Resources Management Advisors emerging. For me personally, I am proud and honoured to do the job in my school and in supporting emerging SBMs locally.