What are you contributing to the SBP journey of professionalisation?

21 May 2019 | by Jo Marchant

In my role as a School Resource Management Advisor, I have the privilege of visiting some wonderful schools educating pupils in very different contexts. It’s also a pleasure to meet the School Business Professionals who work in these settings, particularly as they’re generally people I haven’t met before. As someone who’s proud of my profession and committed to raising its profile, I always take the opportunity to ask those SBPs if they’re a member of the Institute of School Business Leadership - because, quite frankly, if you’re committed to our profession why wouldn’t you be a member of our professional body?

 The concept of how an “occupation” becomes a “profession” – i.e. the journey to professionalisation – is something that really interests me, particularly in the context of school business management and leadership. It’s something that I researched for my Master’s degree in Leadership when I was looking at what the opportunities were for School Business Managers to become School Business Leaders. But how do you know if your occupation is regarded as a profession? Enter Harold Wilensky, an American organisational sociologist who came up with 5 professionalisation criteria back in 1964 which have since been widely regarded as a way to measure whether an “occupation” is actually a “profession”. 

 So, what are these criteria and where is school business management and leadership at in regard to them? Well the most obvious marker is that our professional body has moved from being the National Association of School Business Management to the Institute of School Business Leadership. But apart from a name change, what else has ISBL achieved to move us all along on this journey of professionalisation? Here’s my take on Wilensky’s professionalisation criteria and progress to date.

  • Entry qualifications and formal on-going professional learning once appointed

 Whilst there is no mandatory entry qualifications to be a SBP, ISBL is committed to delivering a wide range of high quality qualifications. For more details on what qualifications you might need for your next career move, check out their excellent pathways document:


  • Self-regulation of professional practice through, for example, codes of ethics

 ISBL demands that all its members sign up its Code of Ethics. For those who are ISBL Fellows, Fellowship can be rescinded if that code is deemed to have been breached. But whether you’re a Fellow or not, we should all be following the 7 principles of public life.

 Source: http://www.standardsinpubliclifecommission.ky/nolan-principles

  • Professional associations that pertain exclusively to the occupation and advise and advocate for it

 ISBL is the only professional organisation for SBPs and a key aim is to help SBPs gain professional recognition in their educational settings and beyond.

  • Recognised skills, proficiencies and work standards

ISBL’s Professional Standards framework sets out the 6 main disciplines of school business leadership, along with the 6 principal behaviours required to be effective in the school business profession.  Find out more by clicking the link here https://isbl.org.uk/Standards/assets/pdf/ISBL%20Professional%20Standards%20Web%20Version.pdf

  • Level of eminence and esteem in which the occupation is held by the public at large

 Thanks to ISBL’s advocacy and those of many of its dedicated practitioners, the role of the SBP is gaining in respect and recognition both within and outside the sector. 

 So, what’s my contribution been then? Well, in the 5 years that I’ve been a member of ISBL, I’ve taken on the role of Special Schools Lead Practitioner, become a Fellow, engaged in international research and contributed as a member to their Editorial Board and Advisory Panel. I give up my time to organise and deliver conference workshops and to attend meetings. I take responsibility for ensuring that I keep my knowledge up to date through a continuing investment in my professional development and I utilise every opportunity I get to promote my profession. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Well she must have a lot more time than I do!” I don’t. But you know what they say, “If you need something doing, ask a busy person.” Well, I am a busy person but I feel that it’s a privilege to work in the dynamic world of education and I want to know that when I eventually get to retire that I’ve made the path slightly easier for my successors because of my efforts. 

 So, what’s your contribution going to be? How can you get more involved with your chosen profession? Here are a few options:

  • If you’re not already a member then join ISBL.
  • Consider becoming a Fellow of ISBL, not only for the status that it confers on you but also for ways in which you can contribute to the profession.
  • Help mentor and encourage someone in your team to develop themselves further.
  • Take a planned approach to your own continuing professional development. In education there’s always something new to learn and plenty of opportunities for you to do so.
  • Respond to educational consultations – don’t think that your one voice won’t make a difference. Remember, if everyone thought like that, nothing would ever change.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to step up and step out for your profession!