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'I do my job and that lets her do hers'

When Heather Measom worked in a building society, her customers did not ask her to attend their Christmas plays. "We interviewed people for mortgages," she said, "but we never really got to know them.

"In school, you see children grow. When there's a Christmas play, I'm invited. And when you're having a horrible day, children talk to you."

For two years, Mrs Measom, 45, former assistant manager for a building society, has worked as business manager for two rural primaries in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Middleton-on-the-Wolds and Beswick and Watton primaries, with 110 pupils between them, are run by one head, Christine Bennison.

"Just because you're good at teaching doesn't mean you're good at managing a budget," said Mrs Bennison. "I had to go on three courses just to get to grips with the IT."

Mrs Measom's role now includes taking care of the schools' finances, risk management, site management and health and safety.

"In small village schools, everyone wants the headteacher for every little thing. Now I'm the first port of call, the gatekeeper. I do my job and that lets her do hers.

"She can come to me and ask, 'Is there enough money in the pot to do this?' And I give her another perspective. Coming from a business background, I often have ideas she wouldn't have thought of."

The job is not small; Mrs Measom often takes work home with her. But she has the knowledge that she is integral to running the schools: she may not teach, but she enables other members of staff to do so.

Mrs Bennison, whose job includes half a week of teaching, said: "People used to say to me, 'I wouldn't do your job for all the tea in China.' I didn't have a life. Now we have three members of staff on the leadership path. And I'm free to be a leader, rather than a business manager."

Photograph: Bob Collier.

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