SBMs are Finally Receiving More of the Recognition they so Deserve
In a blog first published on 24 February in Education Executive, a monthly business management magazine and website, Nicky Gillhespy, NAHT’s SBM representative on National Executive, spoke of increasing respect for SBMs.
“The role of school business manager is taking on increasing importance. For many schools, the diminishing role of local authorities or the shift to academy status has resulted in additional management responsibilities being placed on their shoulders. This means the individual with the SBM responsibility is no longer an optional, though useful, addition to the leadership team but a vital cog in a successful school’s operation.
“With so much responsibility – and the likelihood of this workload increasing - SBMs need the best representation they can get. As someone who’s passionate about their job, I was therefore heartened and relieved when NAHT picked up the cudgels on behalf of SBMs.
“Formed in July 2013 as a subcommittee reporting to NAHT’s professional committee and National Executive, the SBM committee aims to bring together and represent the interests of NAHT’s ever-increasing number of SBM members from all over the country.
“When I was first elected to represent SBMs in NAHT membership back in March 2013, I decided straightaway that I’d be true to myself and other SBMs and not merge into the background. As it was originally a temporary post I was determined to make the most of every opportunity to promote the SBM profession.
“When National Executive agreed to make the SBM position permanent, it signalled for me – and, I’m sure other NAHT SBM members – that our union was wholeheartedly committed to pressing the SBM case. In fact, my role has been far from an after-thought at NAHT and I’ve been fully engaged with the work of the association. As well as attending National Executive meetings, I’ve joined a range of sub-committees covering issues from policy to funding, and I’m also chair of the SBM committee which meets termly.
“It seems NAHT has led the way in its recognition of the essential work of SBMs and part of this has been to spread the word at the highest levels. As a result, it now seems the Department for Education and local authorities are regarding SBMs with greater respect. The DfE’s Review of Efficiency in the School Systems in 2013 concluded that one of the seven key characteristics of the most efficient schools is that they employ, or have access to, a skilled SBM who takes on a leadership role. What an excellent step forward for us in terms of how SBMs are now perceived.
“Meanwhile, NAHT has also been working closely with colleagues at the National Association of School Business Management (NASBM) to press for even greater recognition. Moves by NASBM to set up a national set of professional standards for SBMs are being enthusiastically supported by NAHT with the association forming part of a stakeholder group to help develop the framework by November 2015.
“Earlier this month, the education sector came together for the first time to formally mark the launch of moves towards defining SBMs’ professional standards. Stephen Morales, the executive director of NASBM, said: “This launch marks a new chapter in the school business management profession. We now have a total commitment from across the education sector of the absolute need to define a suite of professional standards for those working in school business management.”
“Of course recognition is also reflected in the salaries jobs attract. I believe the biggest issue for SBMs is securing pay as equal members of our school leadership teams. NAHT is working to address the significant variation in how pay levels are set across the country, even for posts of equal responsibility since SBM pay falls outside the school teachers’ pay and conditions document (STPCD) and pay is set at a local level by employers.
“NAHT has engaged Hay Group to work with the association on developing a pay framework. To inform this work, NAHT sent out a member survey in May 2014 to gather information on current SBM roles, responsibilities and pay levels. A key finding was that only 28% of respondents thought their pay represented a fair reflection of their responsibilities, with the other 72% dissatisfied. So there’s a lot going on and so we’ve been extremely pleased with the strong links we’ve forged with NASBM.
“Collaboration between these two powerhouse professional bodies has resulted in some promising work on behalf of SBMs, not least of which is a joint membership offer to provide the best of both organisations at a special rate.
“NAHT and NASBM remain entirely distinct from each other but share a belief that their partnership will help business managers to do their jobs more easily. Offering discounted joint membership enables SBMs to draw on the expertise and resources of both the UK’s leading SBM professional association and the largest school leadership union.
“To put it into perspective, SBMs now typically lead on: strategic budget setting; financial management and control; procurement and contract management; premises and estate management; staff recruitment and management; HR management; health and safety; and project management. This is by no means a comprehensive list of duties, just a typical one. It’s an impressive brief and one which reflects the gradual shift towards heads and deputies feeling confident of being able to focus on teaching and learning, and leave the other duties in the hands of competent SBMs.
“My job is busy and can be challenging but at last it feels as if SBMs are making real progress in terms of marrying our work with recognition of our true value. There’s a lot to do and a long way to go but if we keep up the pressure, we’ll get there.”