The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Sue Birchall

SBMs: let's focus on solutions, not problems

Given its skewed portrayal in the media, you'd forgive people for wondering if there's any hope left in education. It's time SBMs took a solution-based approach to funding challenges.

‘Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.’ ~ George Bernard Shaw

It is difficult to ignore the press coverage of the government’s funding policy for education, especially of the adverse reaction from many in the sector. Sadly, the policy is unlikely to change despite these concerns.

If you’ve worked in education for as long as I have, you may be of the view that what goes around comes around. We have seen the government’s investment in education fluctuate, change focus and be rebranded at various points in time. The change has occasionally been rapid and strictly-regulated, such as standards funds and Pupil Premium.

As schools are at the heart of the matter, and best placed to recognise the issues they face, it is only fair that their voices are heard and their concerns raised. However, and it's a big however, our reaction undoubtedly affects how our broader society views problems in education.

Moan and groan

As a student studying for my degree in school business management, I had to learn to critique my own views. Any argument is strengthened if you can demonstrate that you’ve explored the other options, and crucially if you can propose some solutions.

I have read and heard many views on the ‘crisis in education’, particularly as the new National Funding Formula reaches the second phase of consultation. While I agree that the new formula will cause severe problems for the schools that stand to lose funding, perhaps the broader assemblage of schools and academies needs to rethink its response to proposals like these.

Organisations that embrace change as an opportunity to take stock and streamline their spending are more likely to attract public support.

The media likes to single out the pessimism of a few to represent the views of everyone in education

The media likes to single out the pessimism of a few to represent the views of everyone in education. School leaders are portrayed as only wanting to moan and groan. It’s high time we embrace the challenges that these changes bring, stepping out of this stereotypical negativity.

After all, positivity is productivity!

Nothing to lose

If we take a solution-based approach to any proposals and recognise the opportunity behind every risk, we stand to lose nothing. As mentioned, attracting less funding can be an opportunity to cut the fat; not just restore but improve the school’s capacity.

School business managers have more experience than most of working collaboratively, seizing opportunities and getting the best value from the smallest budgets

School business managers have more experience than most of working collaboratively, seizing opportunities and getting the best value from the smallest budgets. It’s time we put it to use.

If the media only focuses on our outcry, the public response to whatever legitimate concerns we raise will be equally hostile. If we are to pressure the powers that be into reaching a compromise for education, we need to send out positive signals.

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