Managing school finances well is a 'moral and ethical issue'

8th November 2016 at 18:32
school business managers role
Union leader stresses importance of the relationship between heads and school business managers as funding is squeezed

The role of the school business manager is becoming more vital than ever as finances become tighter, a conference heard today.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT heads’ union, said that as schools face times of increased pressure on budgets, the question of how to use resources becomes increasingly more urgent.

“It’s not a technical issue, it is a moral and ethical issue as well,” he told a conference of school business managers in Birmingham.

“When there is not enough to go round, making sure resources go where they are most needed and that they are used without waste, is important to all children having the access to the education they need.

“And so the deepening and strengthening of that relationship between teaching leadership and business leadership in schools is one we would deeply like to see.”

Stephen Morales, chief executive of the National Association of School Business Managers, told TES he agreed that the financial pressures on schools and uncertainty about the national funding formula had focused attention on the business manager role.

“School Business Managers (SBM) find themselves between a rock and a hard place,” he said.

“Wanting to satisfy the requirements of teaching leaders in terms of pupil outcomes and having a duty to balance the budget. It is a very difficult place to be.”

And he added that changes in the school landscape were also adding to “something of an identity crisis” within the profession.

A small-scale research project of ten SBMs, he said, found that they can cover a multitude of roles, from unblocking toilets to strategic planning of multi-million pound budgets.

Mr Morales said that he was optimistic that SBMs would adapt to their changing roles as more and more schools become academies.

He said: “If a school business manager is working in a local authority where much of the support has been stripped away, that individual has to be capable of operating without that support. Some will be fine, but some may be vulnerable without it.

“Some may be in an executive role in a school which becomes part of a multi-academy trust. If they are not successful in filling the same executive role for the trust, will they still want a local role?

“School business managers need to look at the skills, experience and qualifications they need for the role they want. Doing nothing is not an option.”

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