Tina Buttom is SBM at The Wyvern School, in Kent, a special school for children with severe, profound and complex needs that caters for learners from three to 19. A firm believer in CPD, she sits on her SLT, has a DSBM and is a member of ISBL – as well as a familiar face of the SBL Twitter community. CARLY WOOD caught up with Tina to discuss her leadership style
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to your current position.
It’s been a bit of a convoluted route to be honest! My first job when I left college was at Lloyds Bank as an audio typist. I spent two years doing that before I swapped to the banking side; then, four years later, I got my first job for the local authority (LA) as a cashier – dealing with money received for both residential and home care. From there I moved into the budget team – that was when I did my AAT qualification. I then spent eight years working for the LA as an inclusion officer and this was where my interest in SEN really started. Following eight years of doing that I went to work in an infant school as a school business manager and did my DSBM – but felt that the school wouldn’t give me the opportunity to use what I had learnt, so I moved back to the LA for a couple of years as a high needs funding officer – funding SEN provision in mainstream schools. I then saw my current job advertised – which seemed to encompass all my strengths – and, luckily, my headteacher saw that too!
Can you explain your input into the development, strategic planning and communication of your school’s vision?
I am a member of the school’s senior leadership team (SLT) and work closely with the headteacher and deputy head, particularly. I meet with the rest of the SLT on a weekly basis and present budgetary information to our finance sub-committee on a termly basis. This is then shared in a shorter format with the whole governing body.
What’s been your most difficult challenge so far – and how did you resolve it?
I think my biggest challenge was at my previous school. Having worked there for nearly three years, and completed the DSBM, I really wanted a role that I could get my teeth into. This was hard to do at that particular school; even though I explained to the headteacher that my role was to deal with anything that wasn’t teaching and learning, she still wanted lots to do with everything around school. I made the decision that, although I loved the school, I was not getting the opportunity to use my skills and so I decided to move on. That was a really tough decision to make.
How do you evaluate success?
I believe if all our children are happy, safe, fed, have excellent teachers and are making good progress, then we are doing well!
What motivates you?
Watching our children progress. All the children at our school have different battles to face; they either struggle with their learning, or their mobility or, sometimes, both. Some find the school environment challenging. To see them making progress – whether that be speeding down the corridor in their walker or an amazing piece of work on the wall – this is why we do what we do.
A massive part of leadership is motivating your team; how do you support yours?
I will be honest – until this role I hadn’t led a team. I believe strongly in leading by example. I will muck in, help out and I never mind getting my hands dirty! I would never expect my team to do anything I wouldn’t be prepared to do. You need to show people how you want them to work with you, and model good practice, while supporting and encouraging. I would be the first to add that I don’t always get it right, but I am learning.
How do you encourage learning and development within the team?
I feel, strongly, it is important to grow in your role – whether that be through official training courses or visiting other schools to see how they do things. We can learn so much from our peers, and learning doesn’t have to just be done in a classroom environment. As a really active member of the SBL Twitter community, the advice and support I have received on there has been huge.
I have been at my current school for just over 18 months. During the past two years the school has brought in a new curriculum and also a new system to monitor children’s progress. Both of these are regularly discussed in SLT meetings and I try to make sure I have a grasp of these so that I have a good understanding of the effect these will have on the budget. We are also looking to vastly improve our secondary outdoor areas and we are engaging with a fundraiser and organising events to fund this. I am working with outdoor play companies to find a suitable solution which both meets the varied needs of our students, but also is cost-effective.
What are your goals over the next five years?
My first goal this year is to apply for ISBL fellowship and I have IOSH training lined up in November. I intend to spend the next 12 months improving the outdoor areas for our youngsters and this will be a major project. Professionally, I am very happy where I am, and want to continue in my current role for the foreseeable future!