From the magazine: Live and learn

As school business leaders we are all educationalist and, as such, we should all be prioritising our own learning, argues Julie Ricketts, director of operations at Kingsthorpe College, Northampton

How many different areas of responsibility do you have within your school – five, six…more? Most SBLs have overall responsibility and accountability for finance, HR, site services, health and safety, procurement, data protection, income generation, capital projects and line management for support staff, to name just a few.

Having worked in commercial environments before moving into education, I can’t think of any other industry where one person is expected to have accountability for – and up-to-date knowledge of – statutory and legal compliance in so many diverse areas of expertise at one time. That is not to say that most SBLs I have met don’t take on this challenge with humour, vigour and enough resilience to fill most sports halls! Is that enough, though?

Find the time to improve
Whilst it would be difficult to be a SBL without humour and resilience, we owe it to ourselves, our schools and our students to make sure we update our training and learning regularly. I often hear SBLs say, ‘I have no time’ or, ‘We can’t afford it’ – but can you afford not to?

Learning can take many different forms; it doesn’t always have to be costly, or mean a day out of the office. I have been a member of the ISBL for the last three years and have logged all of my training on the CPD portal. Recently, I needed to summarise the training I’d undertaken for an ISBL fellowship application and was surprised at how much I had completed. Surely this was too much time away from my role – what could I have skipped that hadn’t actually impacted on my role? I can honestly say, however, that I’ve used all of these experiences to improve my school environment.

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Self-development resources
As part of my learning I’ve compared supplier pricing with contacts I’ve met on Twitter – contacts I’m still yet to meet in real life! Reading articles in industry magazines is also part of our self-development, as we gain deeper insights into areas such as IT procurement and have our thinking challenged on everyday practices and processes.

Networking is also a key part of our role; without it, the isolation and enormity of our responsibilities can be too all-consuming. ISBL even holds a networking session at the annual conference for those who attend alone. Use Twitter to ask a fellow SBL the question that you don’t know how to answer and my experience tells me they will answer quicker than you can say ‘Hey Siri’!

SBLs face huge pressures to improve learning experiences for students, with reducing resources, so it’s time to step forward and ensure we prioritise our own learning. As the instruction goes: fit your own oxygen mask first, before helping others.

This article featured in the May issue of Education Executive. Subscribe now to keep up-to-date with the latest in school business management and leadership.

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