April. The start of a new financial year.
In school the budget for 13-14 has been closed down, checks and balances done. Are we in surplus or deficit? Have we got enough funding to get us through the next financial year as the new budget is beset with rising staffing costs, rising costs of Service Level agreements and ongoing pressure on the budget for repairs and maintenance of the building before we even get to any new developments?…………………..
As a headteacher, all of these issues weigh heavily not only just at the time of a new financial year, but indeed all year round. I am not alone in this however; I have a key partner at my side – my School Business Manager. In my own school, her name is Carmen. @cking1607
Over many years, delegation of responsibilities to schools, including financial responsibility, has brought its opportunities and indeed its challenges. The freedom given by delegation of budgets and increased choice around procurement has indeed opened up opportunities to pursue suppliers and services that were not previously available and indeed, in many cases, improved the quality of those that were as they faced increased competition in what is becoming an ever more commercialised world of education.
I started my career as a teacher and being a teacher (albeit a head teacher), is still at the heart of what I am. I absolutely take my overall responsibility for financial management seriously and have over the years developed knowledge and skills in this area, including completing the obligatory module in NPQH. However, as delegation increases, the ‘business’ side of the role has increased and it would be impertinent and impossible to believe that as headteacher I could have the full knowledge, skills, especially the time, to be able to be able to fulfill all elements of what is required.
So bring on the School Business Manager ……………..
Of course I recognise that the role of the School Business manager covers more, so much more than finance alone. In different schools, of different sizes, roles and responsibilities will vary, however, in my own school, my Business Manager’s role also includes Health and Safety, overall premises and facilities management, some aspects of personnel management, marketing and income generation. She has overall responsibility for the admin team and site staff including acting as a reviewer for the Appraisal process. She has completed the DSBM, NEBOSH qualifications and is also a moving and handling trainer, delivering health and safety training to all the staff in school.
The knowledge, skills and experience of Business Managers as an integral part of school teams are clear. You only need to follow and read the tweets of the range of Business Managers on Twitter including @bbgeagles1, @smileydenden, @miconm, @SJJones2014 to name but a few to see the commitment, involvement and impact they have not only within their own schools, but also their contribution to the wider debate.
The relationship between the Headteacher and the School Business Manager is an essential one to get right. I work closely with Carmen to ensure we keep each other up to date on all aspects of school development and budget monitoring. She is an integral part of the leadership team and contributes her perspective on all discussions including the financial aspects of school improvement, recruitment and selection of staff, value for money on purchasing of resources, in fact, whatever is on the agenda – proactively bringing her own items to the table for discussion too.
In the time I have been head teacher at my current school, changes have brought us further into the commercial world, including, with the shrinking of services previously automatically received from the LA, the world of increased procurement and with the development of our own outreach service, the world of charging! We are all learning fast! We also find ourselves increasingly in a situation of losing essential elements of funding such as for our After School Club and so the world of income generation including fundraising and obtaining grants, becomes ever more significant to us.
April. Start of a new financial year. Are schools a business? I take the business of doing the best for the children and their families very seriously and in order to do so I want to take this opportunity to applaud the increasingly significant work that School Business Managers do to ensure Head teachers like me can achieve that goal.