Inspiring to be… a School Business Manager

Our ‘Inspiring to be….’ series is about gaining an insight in to the different careers and roles within our schools. There are undoubted challenges to working in front line education today, and we wanted to talk to some of the inspiring people about their roles, challenges and why they are passionate about what they do.

This week, we talk to Sarah Markley, Business Manager at The Cavendish School, a Foundation School in Hertfordshire, to give us some insights into the role of being a School Business Manager.

‘Inspiring to be…. a School Business Manager’

How did you become a School Business Manager?

I originally started working at the school 18 years ago as a lunchtime assistant whilst my children were young. With my admin and finance background it provided an opportunity to progress on to other opportunities at the school. I started working part time inputting data and timetabling and after a period of time I was able to progress and took on more responsibility as an Attendance Officer. I worked with the Office Manager and supported with cover and exams, before progressing into the position of Office Manager. In December 2016 I was really pleased to be offered the position of Business Manager as a result of the leadership qualities and excellent staff management that I had shown.

What are your main roles and responsibilities?

A school business manager has a wide ranging remit which is one of the aspects that I really enjoy. I am responsible for an admin team of 17 staff;  I work with the leadership team and governing body to provide advice, guidance and strategic leadership to promote the schools aims; ensuring that all the business management functions operate in accordance with statutory regulations;  seeking to achieve “best value” in all areas of expenditure by testing the market, negotiating and monitoring contracts and services; I will be co-ordinating grant applications from statutory, charity and voluntary organisations and will use this to  maximise income generation from external sources; I look after long term recruitment, contracts and catering, Health and Safety, risk assessments, school policies and procedures.

I have recently been working on the due diligence process with the Business Manager of a multi academy trust which is still ongoing. This was a complex process and a great learning curve.  I am proud that I have been able to save the school £34,000 since December on recruitment spend, catering staff, management fees and network support for the school.

What does a typical day look like?

A day will start at 7.15am, when I come in and look after morning supply cover for teaching and support staff that are absent from school; and call an agency to support short term cover. After I have sorted out cover my day consists of the following but not limited to: long term recruitment, catering, and contracts. I generally finish at 4.30-5pm. I would say that at the moment with my workload as it is my day roughly breaks down into.. 50% on policies, procedures and risk assessments;  40% being focused on cover and recruitment; and 10% focusing on managing my team and general admin although this could change day by day dependant on what is happening at school at any one time. Whilst I have quite a large team, they are very self-sufficient, experienced and able to get on with all tasks independently which means I don’t actually have to spend too much time on the management side of things. They are a great team!

What do you find most rewarding about your role?

I enjoy seeing a project through from the start right to the end. I recently supported the school in the transition to achieving foundation status which was a process I had not been involved with before. It was a really good learning experience and it was very rewarding being responsible for managing that application process.

I feel like I am making a difference every day to the school’s future, which means a lot.

My role is varied and every day can throw up different challenges and issues which I enjoy. I get a lot of autonomy within my role and feel like I am growing and learning more every day.

What do you find most challenging?

Probably the most challenging aspect is having the confidence to manage all the different projects and tasks. My responsibilities have grown as I have developed in my role so it’s a constant learning curve, which is both enjoyable but also personally challenging! The recent foundation status application is a good case in point where I hadn’t had previous experience of doing one so was very much learning on the job.

What skills and attributes would you say that you need to succeed as a school business manager?

You need to be organised and time focused. It is a very autonomous role so you need to be a self-starter, efficient and able to prioritise your workload to get the most important tasks or projects completed in a set time frame. I have a clear strategy of what I want to achieve for the school and this is set out by putting together a clear plan each day.

People skills are also important – being able to communicate well, listen and develop good working relationships.

If someone was thinking about applying for a school business or finance management job what would your main advice be?

I would advise them to get to know more about the school, and understand budgets, the ethos, vision and the people within the school to be able to move forward and be successful. I am currently undertaking a Business Manager course and regularly attend workshops through Herts for Learning and recommend anyone applying for a position to take on all the training available to gain a better understanding and to stay up to date with knowledge.

 

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