From education to employment

School business manager peer support improves financial health

A school business manager establishes a peer-support network of 50 schools to generate innovative solutions to shared challenges in schools.

Jacqueline Straw, a school business manager (SBM) of The Minster, a local authority maintained teaching school, established a network of around 50 SBMs in her area. She also provides one-to-one support to some of these SBMs. Peer support helps SBMs to be efficient in their spending and improves their schools’ financial health.

The SBM network

Jacqueline’s SBM network provides a forum where SBMs share advice on a wide range of issues. These include funding changes, the impact of changes to National Insurance and pensions contributions, contract management and writing bids for additional income.

Networking also allows SBMs to explore potential efficiencies through shared procurement across a number of schools to achieve economies of scale. SBMs help each other to develop effective contract negotiations skills to make bigger savings.

Schools are now seeing concrete results in their budgets from being part of the network. For example, the network has helped some schools to identify procurement frameworks. These have led to savings in staff absence insurance and in larger contracts such as cleaning and catering.

Jacqueline has some tips for running a successful SBM network. She has found that it’s important to:

  1. Have a range of different types of schools involved in the network. She recommends a mix of academies and local authority maintained schools, and primary and secondary schools. This provides a range of different perspectives in the network and helps to generate innovative solutions to shared challenges.

  2. It’s important that the network has regular meetings. This builds up and maintains relationships between peer members and means the network can develop quick responses to urgent challenges. Jacqueline’s network meets every term.

  3. The network needs to develop and own the agenda. At each meeting, Jacqueline’s network agrees the agenda for the next meeting.

One-to-one support from a specialist leader of education

Jacqueline also works as a Specialist Leader of Education (SLE) providing coaching support to her peers. She has been supporting a new SBM in another school in special measures. Initial weekly coaching sessions became less frequent as the new SBM gained confidence. The sessions are well received. The new SBM said:

“Jacqueline’s support has been invaluable. She came more than once a week in my first half-term. She helped me to set up monitoring systems, manage my budget plan and collate sources of funding. She also provided support with the governor finance meetings. Along with practical advice, she offered help and support when I felt overwhelmed. She is always full of new ideas on how I can drive the role forward. I have now started my Certificate of School Business Management (CSBM) qualification. Jacqueline is my mentor offering advice when I need it.”

Where to go for further support

You can find lists of SLE specialisms in your area (and their contact details) by searching for teaching schools on the NCTL Directory.

If you’d like to find out more about the support that the Minster School providing, you can contact Jacqueline Straw.

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