February 2019 edition: Supporting the Key Contribution of the School Business Professional

Supporting the Key Contribution of the School Business Professional

It’s that time of year again when schools are beginning to consider what their curriculum and staffing structures might look like in September. The process of making the head’s educational vision a reality is not easy, and we know that School Business Professionals (SBPs) are a key link in the chain to make it happen.

The DfE understands how important it is to make sure finances are spent in a way that secures the greatest impact on pupil outcomes and is determined to help build capability in the sector to meet the demands placed on those who manage finances. We have supported the Institute of School Business Leaders (ISBL) and partners to develop the suite of qualifications, and importantly, apprenticeship training specific to the school business profession. Many schools across England are now benefitting from apprenticeships as a way to recruit new staff and retrain or upskill existing staff.

The Department also wants to raise the status of the role, so that headteachers, deputies, executives and trustees – and indeed teachers, – understand exactly what their school business leader can do for their school and appreciate the contribution they can make.

The Department has made lots of resources available over the last year to support School Business Professionals to make every pound count and I would urge you to take a few minutes to look at these. The Schools Benchmarking Website and the School Resource Management Self-Assessment will soon be updated with the latest academy data, making it a good time to see how your school’s spending compares to that of similar schools.

The most effective schools and trusts include their SBP in all the important discussions on curriculum and strategic planning. While setting the curriculum might seem like a purely academic process, it also needs to be affordable and the Business Professional’s role in making the most of a school’s resources is an invaluable one. By monitoring common metrics – such as teacher contact ratio at secondary or pupil teacher ratio at primary, class sizes and size of the leadership team – the SBP can help model a curriculum that invests in what pupils need most. They bring the educational vision to life by making it affordable and therefore possible, and SBPs can access the DfE’s workforce planning guidance for further advice on this.

School Business Professionals can make an enormous difference to a school’s financial health through their knowledge of good-value procurement. Challenging a school’s non-staffing costs is one of the most practical ways to increase the amount a school can invest in the front-line – this could include increasing economies of scale across a MAT by synchronising contract renewal dates, or accessing the new School Switch service to make sure your energy deal is as competitive as possible.

With the biggest season for teacher recruitment on the horizon, it’s also a good time for schools to sign up to the new Teaching Vacancies site. It is completely free for schools to use and the national rollout will be complete by the end of February, but schools in many areas can sign up today. It is estimated that schools spend between £60 – £75m on recruitment advertising per year so switching to a free service is an opportunity for potentially big savings to individual schools and Trusts.

One of the most powerful forms of support from the ESFA is the School Resource Management Advisors (SRMAs) programme. SRMAs are sector practitioners and experts who are deployed by the ESFA, to those schools and trusts who will benefit the most. They provide schools and Trusts with tailored advice on how they can use their resources as effectively as possible. Speaking to Trust CEOs such as Roz Thompson from The Great Learners Trust in Buckinghamshire, it is clear to see that the exercise has been hugely beneficial. After she had worked with an SRMA she said, ‘The exercise provided exactly the information we need at this stage of our development. We have been able to use the report at both an operational and strategic level. We have gained a much clearer insight into our effectiveness as a Trust, and the process has certainly sharpened our awareness of how we can do even better’. Schools and trusts who would benefit from a review, but who haven’t received notice of an SRMA deployment, can consult the Financial Health Check directory on gov.uk for independent advice.

"The most effective schools and trusts include their SBP in all the important discussions on curriculum and strategic planning."

Kate Dethridge

Of course, we need to make sure that we are constantly improving the support we give to schools – and the way we let you know about that support. The Department is inviting School Business Professionals to join the conversation about our products through our SBP User Network and if you are interested in getting involved in this group, please contact schools.commercial@education.gov.uk.

In addition, last year the Department launched a new communications channel for the school business profession in order to send out information about our tools and products direct to your inboxes. Sign up to this list here.