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Not SLT but BMT: the need for a business management team
As a school business manager, the challenges involved in this job are always on the increase. This is evident especially by looking briefly at the changes in role that have occurred so far this century1.
Not least, we only have to look at the intent that drives Educational excellence everywhere, the 2015 white paper. Schools are increasingly being expected to form or join multi-academy trusts (MATs).
All of this leads us to the question related to the business manager’s increasingly complex and arduous role: how, under the weight of these exponentially-increasing demands, are they to survive?
One solution that schools, academies and trusts need to give serious thought to is setting up a separate school business management team. The boxes below outlines some benefits of this for the SBM, and also the core benefits for the school.
SBM team: benefits for the SBM
- Opportunity to distribute management and leadership responsibilities across the team, allowing SBM to focus on higher level issues.
- Less reliance on one individual, freeing the SBM to develop their own role.
- Greater opportunity to take on enhanced strategic leadership challenges – at own school and across MATs and other partnership arrangements.
- Sustainability of position.
- Improved systems and processes across the school.
- Ultimately, improved work/life balance.
SBM team: benefits for the school
- Distributed management and leadership within support staff leaders and managers.
- Discrete functions such as finance, HR, premises, led by skilled specialised middle leaders, ensuring compliance and best practice.
- Less reliance on one individual (the SBM).
- Broader understanding of the importance of management issues.
- Empower team leaders to work effectively towards the overall aims of the school.
- Enhanced opportunities for support staff leadership and management development.
- Strategic succession planning for all aspects of school business management.
Setting up a BMT
The core purpose of a business management team is to better support improvement of pupil outcomes. The process is all about drawing together and optimising the skills and experience that may already exist within the support staff to provide a more sustainable, robust and distributed management structure, complementing and supporting the school’s leadership goals.
As Stephen R Covey put it in Principle-Centred Leadership (Rosetta Books, 2009): ‘An empowered organisation is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skills, desire and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organisational success.’
When putting the team together, first identify the priority business components within your own particular school setting and recruit your managers from these areas
When putting the team together, first identify the priority business components within your own particular school setting and recruit your managers from these areas. More obvious business areas might be the finance, administration and site managers, especially within MATs, However, if you have colleagues with responsibility for data, exams, the library, etc, you may find it beneficial to include these as well.
Don’t just think about the present situation, but what you might like it to look like in, say, three years’ time. For example:
- you might currently have responsibility for data but as you plan to further develop your strategic role, it might be beneficial to delegate this particular responsibility to another colleague – who would then join your business management team
- if your school still functions as a separate entity, you may need to start preparing for a formalised partnership such as a MAT
- with local authorities unlikely to offer support in future, having the specialist staff in place to ensure continued compliance will be essential.
One example of a business management team in a large secondary school/academy is set out in the diagram below. But these roles can – and probably will – differ from one setting to another so use this example simply to kick-start your initial planning. If yours is a smaller school, you can probably still identify a business management team, but the variety of roles will be less.
Once the team has been formed, you, as SBM, will need to invest time and expertise in order to keep the staff in the team skilled and up-skilled, as well as informed and working towards whole-school goals. With the right CPD opportunities, members of the SBM team can also be developed to provide crucial succession planning within the business management structure.
BMT possible structure
This is one example of how a business management team might be constructed. The team should bring colleagues together who, between them, share the different operational responsibilities of the school/academy’s business. Within a MAT, the business management model may well look similar but with opportunity for a more complex support staff framework behind it.
If you are still doubtful about the efficacy of a business management team, consider the way geese ‘work’ within a team. Scientists have proven that when geese fly together in a ‘V’ formation, the resultant reduction in drag allows the geese to increase their flying range (efficiency) by an impressive 71%. Flying in formation also allows each goose to see the others, thus aiding communication. More effective communication allows the lead goose to fall back when tired, while successive team members ‘step up’ for their turn as leader. No one leader gets exhausted by leading from the front for too long. Just imagine if you could extrapolate even some of these benefits into your own business management and leadership!