SBLs here, there and everywhere

No two days as an SBL are the same, but how much do they differ around the country? We spoke to three SBLs from different locations about their roles

Tell us a bit about your school? Size? Type? Rural, Urban or other? County?

@LellyBurtonTwo form primary school in Bradford South; high deprivation rate.

@MonicaMommoI work in a Voluntary Aided secondary school in Essex; we have nearly 1200 students including sixth form.

@Rachaeljstewart Single form entry rural primary school in Gloucestershire; part of a MAT. We also have a preschool for 2 years up and a school kitchen; we run our own breakfast and after school club.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

@LellyBurtonThe funding crisis and having to find money out of thin air for children who deserve better.

@MonicaMommoThe biggest challenge is having to ‘plait the sawdust’ to ensure, with the reduction in funding, we can still offer the very best educational experience for our students.

@Rachaeljstewart Knowing that the ‘to do’ list will never be complete and coming to terms with that. There is always more being added than the time you have to complete allows.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

@LellyBurtonHugs from the children, and seeing their faces when they return from a trip or achieve a goal.

@MonicaMommoBeing a part of celebratory events during the year is most rewarding – sharing in their successes is so great!

@Rachaeljstewart The most rewarding part is definitely seeing the children grow and develop in confidence and personalities. This age group are like sponges, and their happiness is contagious.

What do you wish you had known about the role before you became an SBL?

@LellyBurtonThat the ‘to do’ list is never complete!

@MonicaMommoI wish there was a better understanding of the role and that it was taken seriously as a leadership role. We fall between two stools; not seen as SLT, not seen as support staff – hence the isolation. Trying to be seen as an enabler rather than a blocker proves a challenge. When people ask what I do I say, ‘I work in a school’ and the assumption is I’m a teacher; when I say what I do it’s ‘Oh I didn’t know schools had those’.

@Rachaeljstewart I wish someone had told me what an emotional rollercoaster it was. How you have to learn to switch off or it’ll consume you.

What is the best bit of advice you’d give to another SBL?

@LellyBurtonDon’t take yourself too seriously or expect to fix everything.

@MonicaMommoAdvice for those new to a school would be to get a clear picture of the dynamic of the SLT.

@Rachaeljstewart Plan your day in small, achievable chunks. Celebrate the wins and learn, and move on, from the lows – and always approach the day with a sense of humour!

How do you ensure you have a good work/life balance?

@LellyBurtonMy dog Harry ensures that #bemoreharry.

@MonicaMommoMy work-life balance is poor and that is mainly down to me and my expectations and aspirations. To unwind, I love to cook, eat, travel, go to the theatre, make cards and spend time with my wonderful friends and family.

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@Rachaeljstewart My kids ensure I am occupied with being taxi driver when not at work. Having a fab team behind you, that forces you to stop, is also helpful.

How would you describe your role to someone who doesn’t know what an SBL does?

@LellyBurtonBudgets to bog rolls! We make little children happy, and keep our heads out of jail, with a few bits in between!

@MonicaMommoI find it difficult speaking to staff who say ‘I wouldn’t want your job’ to which I have to say, occasionally, ‘There are days I don’t want it either!

@Rachaeljstewart The head runs the education and teaching bit of the school, what happens in the classroom, and I run the rest!

How long have you been an SBL?

@LellyBurton14 years!

@MonicaMommoFive years.

@Rachaeljstewart 18 very, very long months!

Would you consider a career change now and why?

@LellyBurtonNot even for a second!

@MonicaMommoIt has got harder over the last five years, and the introduction of GDPR has almost driven me to distraction, but I am determined to see out my career here.

@Rachaeljstewart No. I moved from 20 years in another corporate industry to become a SBM. It’s much more rewarding. I am always amazed at how supportive the SBL community is. Not one person wants to see another fail, and there is always someone who can help, or sympathise, with a predicament. I don’t know any other profession that has this level of community spirit.

What part of the role excites you the most?

@LellyBurtonMaking the magic happen! Finding the money for things that make a difference to children is the most rewarding thing.

@Rachaeljstewart Bringing new ideas and ways of working that bring efficiencies; having my nose in all aspects of school life and people appreciating the commitment.

If there was one thing you could change about the role, what would it be?

@LellyBurtonThe government realising how bad things have got financially for schools, and rectifying it.

@Rachaeljstewart More money for the school and for me personally.

What would you say might be different about your role compared to other SBLs around the country?

@LellyBurtonThe amount of deprivation, maybe. Some of our children don’t have food at home. Some dread holidays as they know they won’t be fed or warm or loved. Breaks my heart.

@Rachaeljstewart As the school is in a small town it is very gossip-led which impacts on many aspects of the school. It’s sometimes like being in a real-life soap opera.

What do you like to do to unwind?

@LellyBurton – Trash telly, gin and holidays!

@Rachaeljstewart – Walk my dog, watch movies and have fab snuggles with my kids.

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