‘SBM is not a support role’

As teachers slowly begin to receive better financial treatment from the government, how can the SBM role – one which is vital and deserving of respect – catch up?

With the combined issues of school-wide funding and teachers’ pay consistently making headlines, it’s easy for office-based school staff to feel a little neglected. School business managers rarely come into the conversation as a topic to be concerned about, yet the job is an incredibly challenging – and ever-changing – one. In September, it was announced that teachers’ salaries will rise to £30,000 by 2022 – a 25% increase. Reactions to the news have been mixed, as the additional money will, in fact, be sourced from the school budget hike which the government announced just before. Additionally, some SBMs on social media began to discuss the fact that school managers are, too often, overlooked when these stories go viral.

One Twitter user, @ClareP86, tweeted, ‘I totally respect we need to encourage teachers into the profession, and high starting salaries are part of that. However, isn’t it time the salaries of SBMs are improved so they can be paid as part of the SLT, and not as support staff? SBM is not a support role’. Unsurprisingly, she received dozens of likes for this comment, with @ImStephenMitchell responding, ‘The issue is that there isn’t a set pay scale for SBLs. It’s down to the value placed upon the role by school leadership. I think that’s right – I wouldn’t want to be constrained by an artificial scale; our roles are too varied to easily fit into a box’.

Properly recognised?

All valid points, but one issue to focus on here is that of SBMs not being in a support role. The ISBL’s broad definition of the job is as follows: ‘Efficient school business management is widely recognised as an integral part of helping schools make the best use of their resources to support effective teaching and learning of pupils, consequently enabling head teachers and other leaders to focus on leading that teaching and learning’. Perhaps that recognition isn’t wide enough. The role of the SBM involves a myriad different tasks and responsibilities, making it all the more difficult to define and, as such, create a clear pay scale.

We spoke to several SBMs, back in September, about how SBM recruitment could be improved – unsurprisingly, pay – particularly when compared to teachers’ salaries – came into this in a big way.

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Nicky Gillhespy, SBM and COO at LEO Academy Trust, commented, “Someone tweeted recently about an SBM job they had seen where the salary scale was laughable, yet they were asking for a DSBM or a degree in school business leadership – if you’re going to be paying an office manager salary, you don’t ask for a degree in school business leadership! Someone with that degree shouldn’t be insulted like that.

“If we want the SBM role to really be seen as a proper profession, things need to be a lot more standardised – but that will require certain levels of education and training to reach the next level. There are a lot of opportunities there and, to my mind, once you gain a qualification, one degree is as good as another, and you’re no less a person than a teacher who has a degree – so why are we expected to be paid half the salary?”

Andrea Howard, an SBM at St Dennis Primary Academy, added, “The announcement, in September, that NQTs would be paid in the region of £30,000 per annum had many an SBM aflutter on Twitter; what does this mean for us? How can an NQT earn more than the majority of SBMs?  This does not seem right and has been taken as further evidence that SBMs are not, generally, viewed as school leaders.

“The salaries and positions of SBMs and SBLs vary vastly from school-to-school, trust-to-trust, LA-to-LA, and the majority are considered ‘support staff’. I am of the firm belief that, as with teachers, we need to have a salary set by the government which allows progression based on experience, qualifications and levels of responsibility. We have the framework, we have the national body – now we need the respect and remuneration for us to be acknowledged as a legitimate and essential part of the education sector.”

Perhaps a sliding scale of pay, based on experience, is the answer to help ensure that, not only is the SBM role taken more seriously, but that those performing the job are paid their dues. What do you think? Join in the conversation. @edexec

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