ISBL is committed to supporting the sector through the investment in research that both raises the profile of School Business Leadership professionals and provides practical guidance that can be used to provide a benefit to their schools.


ISBL Exploring Ethnicity: School Business Leadership in England Report 2020



The Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL) is today publishing important research into diversity within the school business profession.

This study, ‘Exploring Ethnicity: School Business Leadership in England’, led by Dr Fiona Creaby and commissioned by the Institute, is in response to findings from the ISBL Workforce Survey undertaken in 2019. The findings revealed the disappointing statistic that only 3% of SBPs surveyed self-declared as being part of BAME community.

The research provides an initial exploration of ethnic diversity (within the SBP community) via a small-scale investigation. The study uses key findings from interviews with SBPs and other leaders from the BAME community in order to gain a deeper understanding of personal career experiences and access to opportunity as well as valuable insights into life as a practitioner with BAME origins.


ISBL hopes that this research will serve as a catalyst for future important conversations about equality and diversity within the school business profession and indeed the wider education sector. ISBL will continue to collaborate with a range of key education stakeholders to ensure ongoing dialogue leads to decisive action and positive change.

Stephen Morales, Chief Executive at ISBL, reinforced this, stating on the release of the research, “This is the start of a much-needed conversation. It's so important we speak up on issues related to diversity and inclusion, and we must ensure we afford people from all backgrounds the same opportunity and access. We are facilitating an important ongoing dialogue with practitioners, sector leaders, education organisations and the DfE; we need to seize this moment and encourage a more regular and honest exchange of perspectives.”

The full research findings and report are available to download here.


ISBL School Business Professional Workforce Survey Report 2020


The Institute of School Business Leadership has undertaken the most significant survey of the School Business Leadership community since this professional role began to emerge over 30 years ago. 


The findings provide evidence of a professional community coming of age, but also identify areas where our education system could make improvements, particularly in terms of representation, strategic leadership integration and investment in professional development.


Key findings:

  • The profession continues to be predominantly female profession at circa 87%

  • 96% of the practitioners surveyed identified as white and more needs to be done to attract and develop a more diverse workforce

  • The profession has an ageing workforce profile, and as a sector we must begin to think strategically about succession planning

  • Involvement in CPD activity and workload are intrinsically linked - We need to find a better way to ensure that School Business Professionals are given the time and space to develop as a managers and leaders and to ensure that the demands being placed on them are reasonable, proportionate and sustainable. 

The full report is now available to download


Guidance for Improving School Financial Outcomes (May 2016)

Register for a full copy of the report, click here.

At the end of 2015, NASBM (now ISBL) commissioned a deep dive research project into operational efficiency in schools. The research was co-funded by Optimus Education (an ISBL Approved Partner) and was undertaken by OEE Consulting, who are experienced 'Lean' consultants.

The report, Guidance for Improving School Financial Outcomes, found that even small administrative changes – such as using existing resources more prudently and implementing better time management and staff training – could result in savings of up to 20% on administration costs.


Launching the report, ISBL Chief Executive Stephen Morales said:

“This represents a real opportunity for school business leaders to look at new and innovative ways to make the most of their resources and target funding to the front line. The analysis we commissioned shows that by making modest changes to legacy processes and practice, schools can make significant savings.

“Despite a real-terms reduction in education funding and a bulge in the student population, schools are still required to demonstrate ongoing improvements in pupil attainment. School leaders are facing some really tough operational challenges. However, through careful planning, appropriate processes and well-executed strategies, this paper demonstrates how you can get the balance between efficiency and effectiveness right.

“By making subtle changes, important savings are within the reach of most schools.”

The report is available for ISBL members to access via the members' library.


The Negotiation of Professional Identity (October 2016)

In 2016, NASBM (now ISBL) commissioned case-study research in partnership with the University of Manchester to gather knowledge on the composition of the School Business Manager role and notions of professional identity amongst individuals occupying SBM roles within the wider context of increasing complexity of the SBM role, the evolving schools landscape and the turbulent educational policy landscape.

The findings indicate the considerable diversity in terms of the professional background of SBMs, and the wide and varied role they undertake. In relation to professional identity, and what it means to be a SBM in schools today, a number of factors were discussed, including membership of professional networks, attempts to build credibility with school workforce colleagues, and concerns over succession planning both at school and local system level. The SBMs also discussed the capacity of the SBM community to withstand and adapt to current policy shifts and their sense of responsibility in ensuring the profession survives and thrives. 

A copy of the full report is available to download.


Leading School Business: Professional Growth and Confidence in Changing Times (November 2018)

In 2017 ISBL commissioned Dr. Fiona Creaby to undertake research to understand the professional confidence and opportunity growth of  school business professionals across the sector.

 This independent report provides welcome evidence-based research into some of the leadership tensions that exist in the sector. It validates many concerns and issues that members have raised with us as their professional institute.

As the institute responsible for the professional development of school business practitioners, we take great interest in the issues addressed in this report, in particular the potential risks associated to attracting and retaining a talented School Business Leader workforce.

A copy of the full report is available to download.