In recent years I have been involved in a small way with the development of two professions. As a member of the Teachers Professional Development Expert Group, I helped draft the DfE’s Standard for Teacher Professional Development. I was able to engage with a lot of research information about what good professional development looks like and the group looked at standards in other countries, as well as taking advice from other professions. At around the time, the Expert Group met, I was also a member of the reference group which was developing what became the ISBL Professional Standards. The work of both groups was similar in many ways and provoked thought about what it means to be part of a profession.
Here’s one definition of what it means to be part of a profession:
A profession is something a little more than a job, it is a career for someone that wants to be part of society, who becomes competent in their chosen sector through training; maintains their skills through continuing professional development (CPD); and commits to behaving ethically, to protect the interests of the public. (http://www.totalprofessions.com/more-about-professions/what-is-a-profession )
One of the things that I learned on the DfE Expert Group was that after the NQT year, there is no requirement for teachers to undertake any further professional learning. Yes, there are INSET days in schools, but research indicated that this time is often turned over to administrative type training, rather than subject or pedagogical knowledge. The DfE is trialling the Early Career Framework and investing in teaching as a profession. Teaching also has clearly defined Professional Standards and the Teacher Regulation Agency to consider cases of professional misconduct. The DfE play a lead role in ensuring that teachers are registered and regulated.
For those of us working in the School Business environment, there is no requirement to have any formal training, or to maintain and develop our skills or to behave ethically to protect the interests of the public. That is not to say that we do not have relevant training or that we do not seek to develop our skills or that we do not maintain professional standards; my question is though, is that enough?
There may not be the drive or funding from the DfE to develop and regulate the School Business Professional (SBP) sector. Funding for the SBM suite of qualifications is a distant memory, but the Department is certainly taking an interest in the role SBPs can play in driving forward school improvement. Lord Agnew recently wrote to accredited School Resource Management Advisors, many of whom are practising SBPs outlining how much he valued the expertise.
I am clear that the work you do, as accredited SRMAs, must be viewed in the same light as the work National Leaders of Education do for education and National Leaders of Governance do for governance. You are key system leaders, and it is vital that you share your expertise with others to help make improvements across the sector as a whole. (Lord Agnew letter to SRMAs 9 April 2019)
The DfE is also supporting School Business Professional Networks and is supportive of a range of SBP apprenticeships at Levels 3-7, as well as developing the Level 4 and 5 diplomas. They want all schools to have access to an appropriately qualified school business professional.
The final sentence of the professional definition talks about behaving ethically and protecting the interests of the public. I mentioned the Teacher Standards and these are used to ensure that teachers are held to account where they fall short of this standard. Professional standards don’t just hold to account though. They protect. The give an ethical framework and ensure that the professional has to show particular behaviours – even if that means challenging those who are the ultimate decision makers.
I believe that there is still quite a long way to go before the status of the School Business Professional is fully established in the sector, despite the support from the DfE. This is why I support the ambition of ISBL to become a professional institute. Professional status will benefit SBPs at every level, from trainees to system leaders. It would give employers confidence that minimum levels of training have been met and that certain standards of conduct will be upheld. It may make those conversations about ethical behaviour easier as there is a clearly defined code. It is quite different from and not in opposition to being in a union. It is for all of us.