2021 Autumn Term 1

The know zone

  • Good business sense
    School business leaders are a vital part of education leadership but, sadly, many SLTs still do not include a business or finance lead. Here, ASCL Specialist Louise Hatswell shines a spotlight on their work. More
  • Academy Trust Handbook 2021
    ASCL Business Leadership Specialist and representative on the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) Academies Finance and Assurance Steering Group Hayley Dunn highlights the key changes from the recent update to the renamed Academy Trust Handbook. More
  • Vocational reform
    Highly significant changes to vocational qualifications are underway. Here, ASCL Specialist Kevin Gilmartin looks at the implications for students, schools and colleges. More
  • Don't believe the hype
    ASCL Pensions Specialist Jacques Szemalikowski shares tips and advice to help members avoid becoming victims of unscrupulous pension scammers. More
  • Wise words of wisdom
    Here, ASCL members share their advice for new leaders starting this September. More
  • Critical thinking
    Headteacher Hannah Millett says being on ASCL Council has helped her build a wider network of leaders to support her in her job. Here, she shares her passion for Council, leadership, football and not being afraid of criticism. More
  • Baby boom and bust
    Despite a short-term recruitment rush encouraged by the pandemic, we are still desperately short of secondary teachers. Carl Smith suggests some drastic remedies for the problem. More
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School business leaders are a vital part of education leadership but, sadly, many SLTs still do not include a business or finance lead. Here, ASCL Specialist Louise Hatswell shines a spotlight on their work.

Good business sense

Senior business leaders (SBLs) are an integral part of school leadership, leading on a broad range of areas, including finance, operations, health and safety, premises, IT and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to name a few. Their roles and job titles vary from a school business manager (SBM) in a small primary school to a chief operating officer (COO) or chief financial officer (CFO) of a large trust and a myriad of roles in between. Imagine the gap in your leadership team if these areas were not represented. Sadly, many senior leadership teams (SLTs) still do not include a business or finance lead.

Rising to the challenge

Since the onset of the pandemic, many business leadership functions have been brought into sharper focus. I’m sure there isn’t a headteacher or trust leader in the country who hasn’t depended on their business leader to provide them with the expert, and often complex, advice and guidance to help them navigate the most turbulent of times.

That turbulence includes the ever-changing risk assessments, track and trace, mass testing, complex staff management issues including shielding, working from home, self-isolation and managing the impact of additional costs, and sometimes huge losses in income, as a result of restrictions.

The business leadership profession has, as expected, risen to the challenge in the most admirable way, and as schools return for the new academic year, many of them will have been working tirelessly, again, throughout the summer break, managing building projects, catching up on the ‘day job’, working on year-end accounts, and, of course, setting up asymptomatic testing sites again.

Time to take stock With the spotlight on the work of our business leaders, it is the perfect time for all headteachers, trust leaders and governing boards to ask themselves whether the pay and recognition afforded to their business leaders truly reflects the level of strategic leadership and whole school/ trust responsibility they hold. In an ideal world, the answer would be a resounding yes. But we know from our work with business leader members and from discussions on Twitter and LinkedIn that, although this is the case for many, sadly there are still business leaders who do not receive the recognition or remuneration they deserve. Many are working at the same level of responsibility as their deputy head or assistant head colleagues on SLTs, but there can be a real discord when it comes to salary levels and recognition or acknowledgement of status.

The results of our pay and conditions survey (www.ascl.org.uk/payconditions2021) in February 2021 made stark reading, with school leaders reporting significant increases in workload since the beginning of the pandemic, from what was already a very high level. The same issues were reflected in the responses from SBLs. Significant numbers of school leaders were planning to leave the profession (49% of SBLs), with many planning either early retirement or to work in another sector (48% of SBLs).

Joining forces

ASCL has long recognised the value of business leadership colleagues, as demonstrated in our guidance and reaffirmed in the joint open letter (tinyurl.com/35huyh8x) with other sector organisations on the importance of business leaders in strategic leadership discussions and decisions.

We plan to strengthen our position on this even further, and ASCL’s Conditions and Employment Committee, Hayley Dunn, ASCL’s Business Leadership Specialist, and I have set up a ‘task and finish’ group to focus on all aspects of business leadership, to ensure our business leaders receive the pay and conditions, recognition, support and professional development they deserve. The group will also look at recruitment and retention, and wellbeing and workload. At various stages, we will also be working with key stakeholders and other organisations, including the DfE.

We have had a tremendous response from the committee and our business leader members for inclusion in the group. To provide a diversity of voice and role, we are seeking expressions of interest to join the group from headteachers, trust leaders and senior leader colleagues. This will also support the communication of key messages and outputs from the working group. If you would like to be involved, please email louise.hatswell@ascl.org.uk

Closing the gap

It should now be clear to all that our SBLs have provided invaluable support and guidance and helped to keep all schools and academies running safely and efficiently in the most challenging of circumstances.

It is time to coalesce and give them the recognition they deserve and make sure that they are remunerated fairly and appropriately for the responsibilities they hold, and the job they do so very well.

Louise Hatswell
ASCL Conditions of Employment Specialist: Pay