Issue 6

LESSONS FROM THE 3RD ANNUAL SCHOOL BUSINESS MANAGERS CONFERENCE

By Keith Robson, National Official (Scotland), Association of Teachers and Lecturers

Now in its third year MacKay Hannah’s School Business Managers Conference continues to go from strength to strength. Expertly chaired by David Cameron, twitter handle ‘@realdavidcameron’, the conference afforded the opportunity for school business managers from across Scotland to participate in an engaging day of discussion, action planning and networking.

David set the tone for the day by recognising that the conference must achieve more than simply revisit the issues discussed at the previous conferences. A regular visitor to schools in England David has witnessed first hand the role of School Business Managers (SBMs) in driving improvement and change in learning and teaching. He believed this could happen in Scotland were SBMs not stretched by the demands placed on then and therefore unable to fulfil the potential of the role.

‘What support and recognition does the role need?’ saw a fulsome discussion amongst delegates. Tellingly David remarked that he had never seen a conference where from the start delegates were fully engaged in their discussion groups

This segwayed nicely into the first session of conference ‘Excellent and Effective Management in Scottish Schools‘.  The three speakers Eddie Broadley, Cllr Paul McLennan and Craig Clement covered diverse areas covering amongst other topics: leadership; curriculum for excellence; relationships with wider learning community and the review of devolved school management. Each speaker challenged the audience to make the most of their roles. Eddie started by asking what genre of movie delegates though Curriculum for Excellence would be and then showed a video made by pupils at St Margaret’s Academy in West Lothian?. Passion, commitment and energy were on display in abundance. In his discussion on East Lothian Local Authority’s experience Paul followed by highlighting that “no legislation exists that stops innovation in schools”; an interesting fact that took the audience by surprise. Finally in this session of conference delegates heard from Craig about the experience of Angus Local Authority and its use of the devolved school management guidelines toolkit to inform planning, prioritising budgetary spending linked to school improvement plans. The subsequent Q&A session elicited a range of observations, questions and comments which are covered later.  

In an important step forward to recognise the importance of the role of school business managers at a national level the second session of conference ‘What support and recognition does the role need?’ saw a fulsome discussion amongst delegates. Tellingly David remarked that he had never seen a conference where from the start delegates were fully engaged in their discussion groups; a summary of which will be collated and forwarded to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning as well as Heads of Education in Local Authorities. 

A short summary of the feedback from delegates:

What support is needed to enhance your role?

•    Greater awareness and support from Local Authority level- school understands what we do but LA don’t- need to understand not just what role is but potential of role
•    Greater consistency of role across local authorities (job description & salary)

What changes would you like to see happen in your school in the near future?

•    Forward thinking approach- looking at value for money- cuts mean doing more admin role and less time for the value added improvements. Authorities need to decide what Business manager role is and take a more focussed approach
•    Three year rolling budgets- empower schools through DSM.

What should the Scottish Government and Local Authorities be doing to support the Business Manager role?

•    Teachers are protected - admin staff are not. Must provide recognition and importance of role. Ensure business managers are provided with opportunities to contribute to strategic focus with career progression
•    With cfe changing how the curriculum is delivered in schools they need a revolution to remove bureaucracy that continues to stifle support that is necessary to delivery

One exceptional idea on how to build recognition and improve your role?

•    School business manager forum inc head teachers and senior LA officials
•    Do a risk assessment on what would happen if the BM disappeared - what wouldn’t get done - is this risk understood.

With cfe changing how the curriculum is delivered in schools they need a revolution to remove bureaucracy that continues to stifle support that is necessary to deliver

Session three of conference ‘Development and Data Management’ saw two crucial aspects of business managers’ work: data and systems management. Two key messages came out of the session from John Stewart (systems) and Maureen Falconer (data). In relation to systems management “if you’re not getting what you want ask for it” and in relation to data management “if it moves encrypt it”!

The fourth and final session of conference ‘You and Your School’ saw Judith McClure entertain, engage and inspire delegates in equal measure. Judith challenged the audience to: ensure that “whole schools lead learning not just headteachers”; play a role in strategic planning and to be a key player in the leadership team. Judith argued that SBMs should be better paid and their work should be reflected in the College of School Leadership.  

Moving Forward

If a conference, seminar or training event is to have any impact on the professional development of its participants then it must be more than a nice day out away from the workplace. It can be difficult to judge the impact of events on participants particularly in specialist areas of work. In this case delegates agreed it wished to see a series of ‘next steps’ or outcomes from the conference which makes the task of judging impact on their professional easier to manage.

The ‘next steps’ can be summarised as:
•    recognition and understanding of the role of SBMs
•    acknowledgement from local authorities and Scottish Government of the role
•    desire of a national network/association of SBMs
•    desire for a relevant qualification which will aid career progression
•    need for role to be made consistent across Scotland

It is difficult to accurately capture the mood of a conference in a report. For a flavour of the passion and ideas flowing at the conference I recommend you take a look at the Twitter stream #SBM2013. It is informative and entertaining including my favourite quote of the day from David Cameron as he tweets Judith McClure: “We need a revolution, let’s make some placards and get outside now!” I’m following her!!!

I look forward to seeing what advances have been made on the next steps by the time of next year’s conference.

By Keith Robson, National Official (Scotland), Association of Teachers and Lecturers

Issue 6

PREVIOUS ISSUES

Looking for a previous issue? Use the menu below to select an issue.