Comparing the SBM role to a decade ago

A lot can change in 10 years. For example, we’ve had a total of eight general elections and large referendums and eight royal babies since 2010. But how has the role of a school business manager changed in the last decade?

The role of an SBM is defined by ISBL as being a professional role which is very context-specific and varies widely from school to school. The role can cover a number of areas of responsibility including the strategic and operational management of finances (savings and fundraising), premises and facilities management, human resources, line management and the professional development of all non-teaching staff, marketing and communications.

As well as the role itself varying, the job titles can also vary – ranging from finance officer or school administrator through to business manager or finance director – reflecting the mix of strategic and operational focuses that they have in their school. It is clear from the ISBL description that the role of an SBM is very varied in a multitude of ways, but how has the role changed in the last 10 years?

We took to Twitter to ask our followers!

How has the job description changed?

@ImSteveMitchell: “It has become a much more professionalised and defined role than it ever was, dealing with compliance to a level that was unimaginable 10 years ago. That being said, the core aspect of the role hasn’t changed – we are still here to support the school, and be a key part of ensuring that children and young people get the best deal possible.”

@Alison_m_moon: “The job description for me has been completely re-written as, during the past 10 years, my role has evolved from finance officer (at a LA primary) through to school business manager, and then on to trust business manager. The change in the job description has been the level of responsibility and accountability, but this is more down to moving from LA to our own trust.”

@Sbmontheedge: “The job description has changed as a result of all the hard work at local and national level having the school business manager role recognised and the job description altered to reflect what SBMs (or bursars) were already doing at the time, and what the profession wanted to do. The many different structures of schools now, none of which is hailed as the preferred approach, has taken us back to the days when no-one could be sure what the role involved in each school.  We’ve gone from bursar and SBM to a whole range of specialist roles which, in many cases, aren’t as specialist as they appear.”

What are the differences between the resources available then and now?

@ImSteveMitchell: “There is a much greater focus now on finance, and it seems fashionable to call out the funding crisis afflicting the sector. Yes, we could do with more money, yes there are difficult decisions being made to balance the books in some schools but, as a sector, we’re not yet consistently good enough with our collective pennies to have the credibility to demand more funding.”

@Alison_m_moon: “In terms of staffing, within the business team, our team is growing – but not at the rate that the workload has increased due to our changing organisation structure and the increased elements of the role. In terms of systems, the education system is quite archaic and we are going through a continual period of change to introduce more streamlined ways of working. In the end this will result in more cost-effective methods but, during our growth period, these changes are taking their toll.”

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@Sbmontheedge: “Resources are definitely tighter. The last 10 years have seen schools having to save one per cent, year-on-year – so at least 10% of back office savings, plus all the additional savings needed to cover unfunded salary increases, changes to national pay, NI changes and pension increases. Then there have been all the curriculum changes requiring investment in new resources – outside of education there is little appreciation of how much it costs to replace books for a change in curriculum in a secondary school.”

How has the pay changed?

@ImSteveMitchell: “Pay is still a sore point across many colleagues in the SBM world, and for good reason. Too many schools are not yet recognising the SBM as a key part of the SLT in schools and remunerating them as such.”

@Alison_m_moon: “The staff I have in my team carrying out the closest match to the role I was originally employed to do 10 years ago are not on a hugely different salary to mine back then – FTE being approx. £1,500 more now which, over a ten year period, does not represent a great inflationary rise.”

@Sbmontheedge: “Pay remains a sore subject. The role can be similar in schools but pay differently dependent on the school size. This could be seen as good business sense, but it doesn’t reflect how hard SBMs work regardless of setting. With the slow decline of a coherent SBM role and structure this is unlikely to change.”

What still needs to be done to make the role better supported?

@ImSteveMitchell: “The ISBL is a great move; there are many SBM groups now across the country and this is a fantastic resource for supporting colleagues in what can sometimes be quite a lonely and isolated role. To further support the role we need to see schools and academies better resourcing their school business teams, and welcoming them as a full part of the operational and strategic make-up of the organisation. We need to come together as a profession, to call out the bad practices where they exist, learn the lessons, and celebrate and share the excellent work that is done in the vast majority of schools.”

@Alison_m_moon: “As a fellow of ISBL I am delighted to see the strong links that are being made with the DfE/ESFA which, if managed appropriately, can act as a conduit to champion the role of those working in the business areas within the education sector. Anything that can support the inclusion of those in non-curricular leadership roles is needed. As the only person on the leadership team that is non-curricular you are often not included. You have to be a bit of a champion for yourself, and that can be quite draining over time.”

@Sbmontheedge: “Apart from pay, a cohesive future view and clarification of the role, we all need more funding. No SBM wants money for money’s sake, no SBM would spend additional funds recklessly, but we all know how much we’ve had to cut and how difficult it is to not have the cuts affect the education of future generations. SBMs really need their own union to represent and advise.”

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