2019 Autumn Term 2

The know zone

  • Reception baseline assessments
    ASCL Primary Specialist, Tiffnie Harris, gives an update on the new Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) pilots and says while overall feedback has been positive, there are some concerns. More
  • Building strong foundations
    Business Leadership Specialist, Hayley Dunn, shares top tips to help you work effectively with your school business leader. More
  • Collaboration wins the day
    Deputy Director of Policy, Duncan Baldwin, on why collaboration gets a 'gold star' and the DfE gets 'must do better'. More
  • Internal scrutiny
    While the new Academies Financial Handbook adds more regularity burdens on trusts, if employed correctly, the scrutiny undertaken can add significant value to trusts and reassure trustees that key risks are being mitigated effectively, says James Taylor from Cooper Parry. More
  • Mobile coverage
    Do you allow mobile phones to be used in class or do you have an outright ban on usage? Are they useful or are they a hindrance in your school or college? Here, ASCL members share their views. More
  • Equality for all
    Chief Executive Officer Kamal Hanif OBE has been a member of ASCL Council since 2015 and is on the Council's Ethics, Inclusion and Equalities Committee. More
  • Little wonders
    A new intake of 11 year-olds is a colourful, joyous - and well-equipped - thing to behold. If only we could bottle that initial courage and infectious passion for later years, says one head. More
Bookmark and Share

Business Leadership Specialist, Hayley Dunn, shares top tips to help you work effectively with your school business leader.

Building strong foundations

Have you recently started a new leadership role that gives you the opportunity to work with a school business leader (SBL)? If so, here are some guiding tips and a list of ten top questions to help you work effectively with them; your school business leader has one of the most diverse roles within leadership and should be a key player in your SLT.

The role of the SBL varies greatly from school to school, with some practitioners operating in a generalist role, that is, bursar, school business manager; some in specialist roles covering a specific discipline such as finance or HR; and a number in executive roles, that is, chief finance officer or chief operating officer.

A useful guide to help you understand the role of your SBL and the business function in your school is available from the Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL) in the ISBL Professional Standards and guidance paper that ASCL was involved in writing (see https://tinyurl.com/y6kf3wru). The standards framework sets out the six main disciplines of school business leadership, that is, leading support services, human resources, marketing, finance, infrastructure and procurement. These disciplines are alongside six principal behaviours required to be effective in the school business profession, that is, agile, decisive, leads, collaborative, resourceful and emotionally intelligent.

Building trust

Your SBL should be an integral part of the leadership team, an important ally and a critical friend. It is important to build a trusting working relationship with mutual respect, a clear understanding of the roles that each of you will deliver and what the boundaries will be. Keep each other informed and have a structured plan of how change will be communicated. Invest time in your business leader; plan regular catch-up meetings to keep the communication open and regular.

Top ten questions to ask your business leader:

  1. What is it important for me to know about the school, the business operations and our staff that is, who may need support, and what background information do I need to know?
  2. What are the top five things that you are concerned about and what resources do you need to help you address these concerns?
  3. What are the business risks our school is facing?
  4. What does our budget look like for this financial year and what does it look like for future years?
  5. What are the assumptions that have been made in producing the budget?
  6. What is staff pay as a percentage of our total expenditure (note that more than 80% would be considered high)?
  7. Do we have a contract register?
  8. Which contracts are due for renewal in the next 12 months?
  9. Do we have any curriculum-led financial planning analysis information and, if so, what does it tell us?
  10. What actions do we need to put in place?

It is important to have these important conversations earlier in your new role because it will support the strategic planning to deliver your vision.

Delivering your vision 

Explain your vision and your priorities, allowing an opportunity for collaborative leadership in ensuring that your business leader can support you in shaping your vision through optimising the resources available to deliver clear objectives, and having a common understanding of goals and affordability.

Priorities should relate to the school development/ improvement plan. It is vital to plan the budget meticulously, along with understanding and using the Integrated Curriculum and Financial Planning (ICFP) metrics together with your business leader and your curriculum leader. If you have not used ICFP then I would highly recommend this DfE guidance: https://tinyurl.com/y5xcecqx

Agree as a team what the priorities are, including costing what is affordable, finding a balance between the resources available and the curriculum vision. Everything has a cost and therefore it is essential that the business lead is included in all leadership team discussions, including curriculum, teaching and learning.

Hayley Dunn
ASCL Business Leadership Specialist