Whenever we go about our day to day life, one thing that people always love to ask in introductions, at parties, or meeting up with an old friend is ‘what do you do for work?’ However when I reply with ‘I’m a School Business Manager’ I usually receive a slightly bemused look and hear “you’re a what?”
(Unless it’s a fellow educator who thinks we control the purse strings and say no to everything!)
Ultimately we are ‘The Plate Spinners’. The jugglers. The multi-taskers. The swans.
Many SBM colleagues that I’ve spoken to have mentioned the ‘Swan’ effect. We’re the feet constantly kicking away under the school’s surface. I don’t mean that we are what keeps schools seamlessly going forward in terms of results, but more in the way of infrastructure. When you say the term school, you automatically think of pupils, teachers and learning. You don’t necessarily think of what’s going on behind the scenes that is designed to keep everything afloat.
This is where School Business Leaders come in. Our roles are designed to lead support services in school and protect the Head from time-consuming elements and enables them to focus on teaching and learning. We’re responsible for marketing, operations, HR, H&S, procurement, and finance amongst many others we’re asked to be involved with or naturally absorb. We could be on the safeguarding team, cover reception, step in to cover a class, put on our trackies and do some caretaking, even be your school’s own answer to Florence Nightingale and administer first aid and medication. We try and keep everything ticking over, keep disruption to a minimum, and achieve the best we can with what we have, so that staff are given the best possible chances to help students flourish.
Guaranteed within our roles is that no day is ever the same. A teacher friend sent me the above picture with the caption ‘THIS IS YOU!’ - spinning plates. She’s always amazed at how many times she sees me around school from her classroom on the top floor, in a completely different area of the site having been called away to sort something else along the way. We can go in to work in the morning with every intention of completing that A4 list of jobs (double-sided!) and as you walk through the door are greeted by any member of staff with any sort of query, emergency, or some sort of ‘fire’ that needs putting out.
It could be a day filled with back to back HR appointments but you must deal with frozen pipes in between; you could have every intention of redesigning the prospectus when you’re informed of a major leak or the phone lines have suddenly gone down; you’re in the middle of a procurement tender and a student has disturbed a wasp nest and all hell has broken loose on the playground.
I could go on with my list of examples, but I’ll give you two more and probably my most bizarre ones from across my years in schools: the grand theft auto of a sit-on lawnmower by a man in a joke mask and watching it go down the road on CCTV; or with a caretaker having to drag a horse that wandered on to our site from a nearby field, up this hill, in the pouring rain, on Year 7 Open Evening, in front of dozens of prospective students and parents laughing their heads off. I’m hopeful that footage will never come out!
So in this role you definitely have to have the ability to multi-task, stay calm, drop everything you’re doing and fight some fires, be forever spinning plates, and above all have a sense of humour because there will be so many days where you can’t believe what you’re dealing with!
Please get in touch and tell me some of your stories!
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