Laura Langley is an SBM consultant and is the former SBM of The Orchard Primary School in London. She advises school business managers not to forget to look after their needs while looking after everyone else’s
That awkward moment when you’ve had a long day at work, arrive home late, park your car, grab your bag, laptop, shopping and walk up to the front door trying to locate the key without dropping all your items… only to see a stranger looking at you through your kitchen window! You then remember you moved house three days ago and you no longer live there anymore…
This is what happens when you’re an SBM; we excel at looking after everyone else, but sometimes forget about ourselves. School business managers get paid to bring specialist expertise on a range of business and support functions including securing funding, managing budgets, looking after health and safety, premises and project management – all whilst ensuring there’s an environment where children can exceed. Each role is unique and varies from school to school, primary to secondary, but ultimately, the role exists so headteachers are relieved from the business side of running a school and focus on what they do best – leading education and improving children’s well-being.
However, no two days are ever the same. I speak to many SBM’s and I hear their frustration: “I love my job”, “I’m tired” and “they don’t know what I do”. Our role is so unique that we can find ourselves budget monitoring £3.5m of school funds one minute and watering 25 newly planted trees the next. We also play counsellor to tired teachers, stressed-out office staff and in one case – a delivery driver dropping off A4 paper!
Sadly, vital tasks often go unnoticed and taken for granted by fellow colleagues in schools. Who goes to the supermarket and loads their car with 400 packets of crisps and drinks for a last minute Year 3 picnic the next day? Who comforts the HR assistant when she accidently deletes the next academic year on SIMs? We always give more than what we get credited for.
The answer is, the same person who finds themselves avoiding the staff room to try and stave off the “Oh, just the person, can I just ask you…?” requests when you’re attempting ten minutes of quiet time to eat your egg sandwich – it can be a little draining. Our energy can be zapped out of us due to the ongoing demands of others, that their problem/issue/drama is a priority; from cleaners with no toilet rolls to a headteacher voicing frustration because a Year 5 teacher is unable to convert their Irish qualification into British QTS.
Clearly our role is non-stop and sometimes we forget to look after ourselves and thus make silly mistakes like driving ‘home’ in auto pilot, forgetting you’ve moved house!
Whether it be a Saturday spa day, a game of football with your friends, a work at home day to avoid interruptions – it’s essential to find ways to take time for ourselves to avoid burn out so we can continue being passionate about our role, provide positive transformation and deliver outstanding results.
Keep giving, but don’t forget to give to you too.
This article first appeared in Education Executive