So what do you ACTUALLY do?

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague yesterday. It transpired that she didn’t know what I did. In fact, it transpired that my role in school was a complete mystery to some! If I’m honest, sometimes it’s a mystery to me too, but I try my best to make sense of it…

Following that, I saw posts on twitter which confirmed that other colleagues across the world of school business management have a similar issue and it started to concern me that a large chunk of the teaching profession think there is an army of people in schools who are paid for hiding in an office, Internet shopping and drinking coffee.

We don’t. Really we don’t!

The role is varied, definitely. It is different from school to school dependent on the school size and the other non teaching staff around. Having worked in a mainstream infants and now a large special school, the differences are huge. Three form intake infant school budget? £1.2m, same amount of pupils but larger staff team special school budget? £5m. The daily management of the budget and the 3 year forecasting forward of the budget is just a small part of the role. We negotiate and manage contracts for all sorts of things from teacher absence insurance to catering to waste management. We deal with daily HR queries, payroll problems, staff contract issues and occupational health referrals. We review risk assessments, deal with health and safety around the site. Many of us in larger schools manage site teams, kitchen teams and admin support teams.

Our role, quite simply, is to provide the building for you to teach in, the resources for you to use, the environment for children to learn, and support for you to be able to teach and then we have to make sure that we pay you for it!

Alongside the day to day stuff we can end up planning all sorts! In my 15 months at my current school I have been querying, chasing and questioning enormous water bills. Harassing water companies week after week to get a possible leak on site acknowledged. 15 months I have been working on it. Possibly next week it will be fixed – I cannot tell you how excited that makes me! At my last school it was soakaways, again, months of wrangling but eventually it got fixed just after I left (water and drainage appears to be my forte!)

Things like this won’t be seen by teaching staff, they just happen with no acknowledgement of the hours spent trying to get a result, that result being a saving in water costs meaning more staff or resources. It’s that simple.

Many of us are specialists in our field. Not secretaries. Not photocopier engineers. Not admin clerks, but qualified business specialists. For example, I am a qualified Accounting Technician, with six years experience in social services budgets, eight years in inclusion in schools, three years in an infant school as a business manager, three years as a SEN funding officer for the LA and a Diploma in School Business Management. I’m now 15 months into my business manager role at a PSCN special school. I’m still studying, and would hope by the end of the year I can apply to become a Fellow of the Institute of School Business Leadership.

So I would urge teaching colleagues to work with us, we lovel what we do, we want to make sure you have everything you need to mould young minds, but we need to work together to achieve that.

Let’s work together!

I went to Bett and I wanted to buy…

Everything!

What an amazing place. What fantastic ideas we have now. How many lovely things do we want to buy our students?!

Today was my first visit to Bett and I was really impressed. What really struck me though was that in these times of reducing budgets and increasing costs, some of these amazing technological concepts will have to remain so far out of reach. Whilst we walked round my Headteacher and I could see fantastic things that our children could hugely benefit from, but we will need to make huge savings in other areas and fundraise bucketloads to make these dreams achievable.

But we will try. Each and every one of them deserve it.

Our PMLD children would be excited by VR headsets. Our top achievers would love the STEM robots and coding stuff, we have budding DJ’s who loved the school radio stuff.

I’m absolutely determined that we will get this for them.

Best I go and find a course on bid-writing!

A short gripe about school funding…

I promise it will be short!

This week we found out our per pupil funding from the LA for 2019/20.

It’s slightly less than this year.

I’m doubtful our lump sum will be any bigger either.

On the same day, the trading arm of our LA sent out their annual letter about their cost increases.

3.5%

Yes, they are giving us a flat cash budget, but their trading arm increases their costs by 3.5%. And politicians and other professionals wonder why School Business Managers are grumpy. We’ll manage it though, that’s what we do.

On a positive note, the lovely Mr Hammond will be sending us our additional capital funding soon. We are very grateful as it means we can replace an ageing minibus with a shiny new one. With school budgets as they are we could not have afforded one otherwise, so I genuinely mean it when I say thank you.

He might not be quite so impressed if he sees the sign writing on it…

#LittleExtras

What are you up to today?

Every morning I am asked this. As I’m putting my coat on to go and walk the dog, my husband says to me ‘What are you up to today?’ Sometimes I can give him a rough idea ‘finishing this months budget monitoring’ or something exciting like that.

The reality is though that as a School Business Manager you never really know what is about to bite you on the bottom! I suspect most people, like me, love the role because it is so diverse. That’s definitely a highlight for me. Having worked in an infants school for three years and then leaving to work for the LA’s SEN department, I knew within weeks that it was not the environment for me. Whilst in mainstream infants the variety was interesting, in an all through special school it is something else!

In my fourteen months in special, I have directed traffic, cleaned toilets, acted as a security guard when the powers gone and the maglocks don’t work, waved at ambulances to let them know which end of the school they need to be at, swept glitter and fake snow off the floor, tried to hunt down missing stock from various classrooms and the medical room, worked in the primary office when staff were off, helped get keys and shoes off the roof, and in between this looking after a £5m budget, 200 staff and 265 children.

At times it is jolly challenging, but you know what? 99% of the time it is bloody amazing!

So, if my husband is reading this and he wants to know my plans for tomorrow, I have a contractor to see at 8am, the PTFA AGM at 9.15 and after that, who knows!?

I ordered my dinner in Dutch…

This morning I was invited to secondary assembly by our 6th form lead.

Back in September it was suggested a group of 6th formers might partake in a little jaunt to Belgium. Easy for most schools you may think, but this was our first trip abroad, one child had no passport and had never been away, all had severe learning difficulties. Working with the 6th form lead we sorted out insurance, transport arrangements, liaising with the hostel, supporting a parent with getting a passport for her son and booking the Eurotunnel, purchasing warning triangles and fire extinguishers (only to discover the extinguisher was still sitting in my office after they had left the country!)

This morning I watched the video of their trip and the PowerPoint presentation that they had created.

They’d had the trip of a lifetime.

They had been abroad. They went to the Menin Gate. They played football against Club Brugge on The Peace Field, the site of the truce in WW1. They ordered their own food in Dutch (but were thrown when the waiter responded in Dutch – apparently asking if he wanted fries with their meal!)

What was so lovely this morning was to hear their story, what the 5 of them had done and how proud they were to stand up in front of the rest of their peers and read their presentation. It’s easy to sit in the office and forget what is going on around you, but I think it is important to take 10 minutes out to soak up what goes on in the rest of the school. It was lovely to be invited along, and now we know how easy it was to organise, we should do it again…

And so we begin…

Well here it is. After months of thinking about it, here is my first post!

My name is Tina. I’m a School Business Manager. My school is amazing. The staff are amazing and the children are amazing.

Our school caters for children with profound, severe and complex needs. We have just over 260 children currently and 220 staff. Life is never dull!

What I hope to do is share some of the goings on, particularly around school funding, premises and other peculiarities. Schools are amazing places, ours particularly, and I hope to show that here.

Today was our first day back, and no doubt it won’t be long before I have something exciting to write about.

Hello term 3!