The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Sue Birchall

SBMs, don't look back in anger

From budgets and academisation to the NASBM professional standards, here’s what we can learn from the last twelve months but also what we can expect looking forward.

As we broke up for the summer the announcement that the government was to honour the promise of a national funding formula (NFF) came as welcome news.

Not many would have been surprised at the decision to delay it again. This will at least mean that our forecasts for our budgets and school improvement plans for the next two years still have some credibility.

Whether you are a maintained school, academy or other you will be able to see that this policy needs to be implemented with some sensitivity.

It has far-reaching implications for most of us and we will need to have some knowledge of these in advance of it being put into place to allow an informed and accurate transition.


The apparent change of heart of the government with regard to their plans to have all schools as academies by 2020 may be felt by some to have given a respite. The truth is that the academisation programme hasn’t truly lost any of its momentum and is still high on the government agenda.

Whether as a school you have even entertained the idea of becoming an academy, this year is likely to see more of a drive towards the aims of this agenda. 

As an SBM your role within this is paramount and keeping ahead of the game by making sure that you are up to date on all key developments.

Attend the Establishing or Joining Multi-Academy Trusts to get an in-depth look at what’s involved when setting up or joining a MAT.

Budget cuts

We faced another year of what was in reality budget cuts and ahead lies a year with much of the same financial outlook. For some of us this will be favourable, for others a period of austerity and making savings.

This is where we as school business managers come into our own: the ability to make savings based upon value for money which perhaps acknowledges the emotive argument but keeps it in perspective is our forte.

For many it may not be that the savings have to be immediate but, with the use of forecast budgeting and a more whole school approach to the way that we use our funding, longer term planning is available.

We must keep in mind that predictions of the effect of a NFF show that many areas will see either significant gains or others equally sized reductions.

The upcoming Efficiency in Schools conference looks at what schools can do to promote and challenge staff through effective CPD, the recruitment crisis and create a robust staffing structure.

Professionalising the profession

And what of our profession? With the publication of the SBM professional standards by the National Association of School Business Management (NASBM) last year, we are a step closer towards a fairer salary system.

In an industry with so many constant changes, these can stand at the heart of our drive to create a more professional approach to our salary structures and the NASBM Professional Standards is certainly working for this.

We can do our bit by using them as a way of benchmarking where we sit within our profession and to assess our CPD pathway, career ambitions and development of our roles within our schools.

Many of us will see changes within our roles as the education system follows the government agenda and we need to be ready for this.

Challenge and opportunity

So, is 2016-17 a year to be faced with trepidation? Maybe, but in my view every challenge and every change brings not only risk but also opportunity.

This of course is only really true if we are informed and ready for said challenge and as SBMs we are in a unique position to ensure that this is the case.

I know from various conferences and seminars that many consider training and time spent doing research as a luxury and time that should be spent physically doing our job. But I can assure you that this is absolutely not the case.

Change management requires knowledge, desire for the change and ability to share and communicate the change.

As SBMs we have the ability to bring all of these skills to the table but only if we ourselves are prepared to ensure that we are up to date with the changes and have the understanding to offer informed and accurate information.

So, is 2016-17 a year of opportunity? Why not!

Let’s embrace what it has to offer us and be in a positive position to make sure that these opportunities work for us and then, next year when we review, who knows, the sky is the limit.

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