“SBMs value opportunities to network and we thrive on enhancing our knowledge,” Caroline Collins, SBM and chair of LPASBM, says. Marie Cahalane, editor here at EdExec, recently had the opportunity to attend LPASBM’s inaugural conference and valued the opportunity to network and learn! Here she considers the importance of these conferences and the SBM associations, networks and groups providing platforms for support
Working in the education sector, I think we can all agree the importance of learning, of developing your skill set and enhancing your knowledge. Working in school business management you will be very aware of the often-isolated part you play within your school’s operational system – usually the only non-teaching staff-member in a room of decision makers. These are two major factors that make conferences so important to SBMs – learning and networking to establish a support network for you.
A part of something bigger
While there has always been great support for business managers – for example, NASBM (soon to become the Institute of School Business Leadership [ISBL]), ASCL… – on a national basis, there have now emerged strong local and regional SBM groups. These are extremely important for those involved in school business management – whether in school or an academy – as they provide a real opportunity to establish effective support networks. Proximity alone allows for a more meaningful exchange; local groups, run by local SBMs, mean that regional/local challenges can be addressed and the pooled knowledge and experience of a group becomes an easy to access resource.
These are points that Caroline Collins, SBM and chair of the London Plus Association of School Business Managers – LPASBM – and organiser of their inaugural event (remind me to ask her how she fits it all in!), discussed in her opening remarks at the recent LPASBM conference. A set of ideas that shaped the content and order of the day.
On the menu
The conference brought together answers to the questions being asked by the group’s members, by practicing SBMs and by colleagues in the Twitter-sphere. Further, SBM-led and organised, it was an opportunity for SBMs to access content devised by peers and to meet and engage with others on a meaningful level.
The programme covered key issues affecting schools at present: the Apprenticeship Levy – a sore point in the budget of many schools – as well as absence management (well-timed given the approach of the ‘flu season), GDPR guidance and a thorough examination of the infamous ‘glass ceiling’ by Micon Metcalfe and Stephen Morales.
There were also a number of breakout sessions which enabled SBMs to select the more areas pertinent to their individual contexts. Sessions included, ‘The growth of the MAT and what it means for the school business professional’, ‘Compliance – how to keep on top of legislative requirements’ and ‘How to infiltrate the SLT’.
Speaking to SBMs on the day, it was clear that it was a valuable learning experience. This was not just down to content, however, but also to the mix of speakers who presented – union spokespeople, commercial companies and practicing SBMs – all of whom really understood the experience of delegates – something that we champion in our own event EdExec LIVE.
Learning is a shared experience
For me, events such as this are of great importance; they provide a platform for learning and the exchange of knowledge through networking. While it is difficult for SBMs to justify a day away from school – especially given the stretch on budgets – professional development, keeping up-to-date with policy and legislation and conducting your own research is value for time and for money. You need to be able to discern the best path for your school and ensure that it’s up to standard and compliant.
Following the event, I spoke to Caroline about her experience of both organising and attending the event. “Organising a whole day conference isn’t an easy task,” she told me, “especially when you have a full-time day job to manage, too. However, SBMs value opportunities to network and we thrive on enhancing our knowledge. The role of the SBM can be an isolated one, so getting a group together like this is very important in my opinion.
“Organising the agenda was probably the easiest part because all I had to do was think about what I want to know about and what my Twitter colleagues are discussing. Organising the day was tough, but it was worth it and I will be doing it again next year all going well.”
In her welcome remarks, and throughout the day, Caroline highlighted an alternative link that SBMs have at their disposal – Twitter, LinkedIn and other social platforms that facilitate discussion. If you’re not already online perhaps it’s time to create an alias and get involved. Social media is a great chance to send your questions out and, usually, you will get the right answers from SBMs who have been in a similar situation.