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More than just a finance officer

The role of leadership teams has been expanding considerably over the years. The wider aspects of the Every Child Matters agenda with extended schools, children's centres and multi-agency working, however welcome, is still another set of responsibilities bolted on for schools. Added to this is the consultancy work the leadership team undertakes in other schools.

This has an impact on the workload for all our staff, and so decisions had to be made as to how we were going to manage it.

A few years ago, our then-finance officer and I attended a meeting about how the workforce was likely to be remodelled. This was some time before it actually happened, but the local authority was clearly being proactive about it.

We suddenly turned to each other in one of those blinding, evangelical moments and said wouldn't it be great if we could extend his role and give him more opportunity to work on premises issues, managing budgets and the line management of other non-teaching support staff?

I was ecstatic at the prospect of not having daily contact with the budget or having to worry about negotiating every building, cleaning or personnel contract.

While this didn't happen overnight, it was the beginning of the change in his role from finance officer to school business manager, and an officially recognised member of the senior leadership team. This has had the most direct impact on the reshaping of the leadership roles in our school.

I admit we were in a good position because we had someone who was interested and capable of developing the role. But the benefits of finding someone to whom leadership can be genuinely distributed in this way are hard to overestimate.

Unfortunately, funding for such a senior post can be a problem for many primary schools. The soup kitchen approach which the Government employs for aspects of its funding for education can be helpful to some, but there are many schools, particularly small ones, to which this does not apply.

It is being suggested that one way of overcoming this is to develop a funded system for all schools where the resource of having a business manager can be shared in a network, reducing the cost for individuals.

I hope this happens because business managers can be the single biggest support to schools. Their work allows teaching, and teaching support staff, to concentrate on educating children by freeing them from much of the bureaucracy that accompanies modern school leadership and management.

Sue Robinson, Headteacher, Cherry Orchard School, Birmingham.

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