From education to employment

Hidden crisis in school business leadership must be urgently addressed, says NAHT

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary

@NAHTnews – Today (Thursday 11th November 2021), as school business leaders gather at the Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL) Annual Conference, school leaders’ union NAHT releases some advance findings from a recent survey of its school business leader members which shed light on a hidden future crisis in recruitment and retention for this crucial role.

Of the 369 school business leaders who responded to the survey, more than half (56%) said that they were considering leaving the profession in the next three years – with 8% of those stating it would be ‘as soon as possible’. Workload pressure was cited as the most common reason for this.

This is especially concerning given that only 3% of respondents reported having a strong field of applicants to choose from in their recruitment rounds over the last three years.

Commenting, Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said:

“The education sector is potentially facing a huge loss in skill and knowledge when our current school business leaders leave or retire, and the government has done nothing to secure a strong pipeline for these crucial roles.

“The government does not have a strong understanding of this part of the profession, or the career path leading to school business leadership, with limited data gathered through the school workforce statistics, so the problem is largely hidden.  An effective and holistic strategy for the SBL profession is required, one which focuses not just on recruitment but retention as well. The Government must recognise that school business professionals are under more pressure than ever before, which in turn is impacting on well-being.”

NAHT’s survey revealed that 73% of school business leaders feel that in the last 12 months their role had a negative impact on the quality of their family life or personal life.

Mr Whiteman continued: “In the face of immense challenges, school business leaders have played a key role in helping schools deliver all that has been asked of them. The stress of trying to keep things going in schools this year cannot be underestimated.

“The decade-long school funding freeze has led to increasing financial pressure on schools, and it is school business leaders who are required to balance the books. The Covid pandemic has only exacerbated this financial pressure, with tens of thousands of pounds of additional costs and lost income.

“The government must act urgently to address the recruitment and retention issues facing this crucial sector of school workers. It must learn from previous mistakes, made with other parts of the workforce and act now to ensure that there is a clear and attractive career path for future school business leaders, and that there is clear action on those keys areas we know are important for retention including pay, workload and CPD.

“NAHT has long called for a national pay scale for school business leaders, recognising their central leadership role and delivering parity and equity. The government must not delay.”

Stephen Morales, ISBL Chief Executive, said:

“In a fragmented education system with further reforms on the horizon, school business professionals are experiencing unsustainable demands on their time. We must do more to protect this critical workforce from an unmanageable workload and continue to invest in their professional development to equip them to confront the future complexities of our system.”

School leaders gather for NAHT Early Years and Primary Conferences 

10th Nov 2021: School leaders will be gathering on 10 and 11 November for NAHT’s virtual Early Years and Primary Conferences to reflect on “the bright side and the joy of education” 

The programmes for the two events will be focusing on some of the educational positives that have emerged through the recent testing times.

Each day’s programme includes keynote speakers and partners from a range of settings across the country and external experts in the field of early and primary education.

Speakers at the Early Years Conference on Wednesday (10 November), include:

  • Gill Jones, HMI, Deputy Director Schools Early Education, Ofsted
  • Jan Dubiel, Executive Principal, Little Lions
  • Professor Julie Fisher, independent Early Years Adviser and Visiting Professor of Early Childhood Education at Oxford Brookes University
  • Rt Hon. Dame Andrea Leadsom, DBE MP.

On Thursday (11 November), speakers at the Primary Conference include:

  • Will Hussey, award winning, best-selling author and keynote speaker, who specialises in “making a difference”
  • Shirley Clarke, a world expert in formative assessment, specialising in the practical application of its principles
  • Andrew Hammond, Senior Director at Learning and Community Discovery Education
  • Onjali Q. Rauf, best-selling author, human rights activist and the founder of the NGO, Making Herstory.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said:

“School leaders and their teams have gone to incredible lengths to protect and teach our children and young people in the most challenging of times. It’s not surprising that morale has got quite low at times for school leaders during the pandemic. An NAHT survey found that the top words used to describe this time are ‘challenging, exhausting and stressful’. Too many experienced leaders are looking to leave and too few middle leaders aspire to headship. We want to help our members find the joy in education again, and I hope our Early Years and Primary Conferences help to reaffirm that school leadership is still the most wonderful job in the world.”

Chair of the Early Years Conference, NAHT past president, and Yorkshire infants school head teacher, Judy Shaw said:

“Heads are typically extremely positive, and very optimistic people. Before the pandemic, schools were feeling the pressure from lack of investment. Despite all the additional challenges that we have faced and had to overcome in the last couple of years, there are many joys to being a headteacher. Teaching is a wonderful job, and we must keep our positivity about it for the sake of those aspiring to lead our schools in the future.”

Chair of the Primary Conference and Birmingham head teacher, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, said:

“The title is ‘The Joy of Education’ for good reason. We have had a shocker of a time for the last two years and a pretty awful time before that. We all came into the profession because of the joy that it is, it was and should be. If we are not careful, we won’t just run out of joy – we’ll run out of teachers and school leaders too.”

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