Alex Masters

Latest blog posts

Alex Masters

Why pupil interview panels are a bad idea

Pupil empowerment is something to actively embrace in schools but, Alex Masters argues, involving 11 year-olds in the interview process is a step too far. 'I'd now like you to sing a few bars of your favourite song. In your own time...' I still remember it vividly. It was my fourth teaching job...
Read more...
Alex Masters

How my hour-long appraisal nearly destroyed me

Appraisals can truly make or break a person, as Alex Masters discovered. Use these expert tips to ensure your feedback is always constructive. It was an hour of pure hell. I was in the English department office, two pupils (who had just been sent out of a nearby classroom owing to disruptive...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Let’s end the fear around academisation

SBMs up and down the country are full of trepidation about their school’s impending academisation. We need to see this as an opportunity, rather than threat. ‘When nothing is sure, everything is possible.’ It’s fair to say that the education system is always in a state of flux and, given the fact...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Dreading that difficult conversation? Try these simple techniques

Everyone dreads those difficult conversations with colleagues. Alex Masters explores some simple techniques to help turn the awkward and stressful into the positive. They say there are only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. I would like to add one more to the list: difficult...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Are you feeling underappreciated? This needs to stop!

Many SBMs have positive relations with their heads. However, others continue to suffer misunderstanding and disrespect. ‘I love my head!’ one SBM told me. ‘He’s at the forefront of education but still cares about every child and every member of staff. A rare breed.’ ‘Mine is amazing!’ another...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Tick-tock! Time is not on your side

Sadly, The Rolling Stones song ‘Time is on my side’ rarely applies in day-to-day life. Get time on your side using these strategies to help you prioritise, delegate and learn to say 'No'! ‘I just need more time!’ has to be the most common refrain from people I meet in the education sector. And who...
Read more...
Alex Masters

NQT inductions are more critical than ever

Reasons for NQTs quitting the teaching profession may be varied but, with the right structures in place, we can turn this around. The statistics are pretty depressing. Almost four out of ten teachers quit within a year of qualifying according to analysis of government figures. The reasons will be...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Premises management brick by brick

Alas, for many SBMs, this summer holiday will involve more contractors and collateral warranties than camping and cruises. Check out our expert advice to help your building projects run smoothly. I’m starting to think that school business managers might actually be superhuman. Not only do they have...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Why this summer holiday is more important than you think

It’s holiday time! Drawing on famous wisdom and modern day research, we show you why reaching for that hammock and pina colada is more critical than ever Gone are the days when ‘summer holiday’ meant sitting on a bus with Cliff Richard with a quality quiff and a cheesy smile. Sadly, for many, the...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Academisation, NASBM and… motorbikes! Inspiration for SBMS

The future might be uncertain but it is a time of significant opportunity for school business managers, as a recent conference in east London proved. It’s always thrilling to see so many school business managers together in one room. With such a time-pressured, demanding job, for many it can feel...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Schools that reject technology are not switched on

A Steiner school has rejected technology in the classroom. Alex Masters thinks they’re missing a trick. A recent Guardian report ‘ Could Steiner schools have a point on children, tablets and tech ?’ reveals that a Steiner school in Nottingham has rejected tablets, computers and whiteboards in...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Teachers: you have every right to be boring

The recent news that an English teacher has been struck off, partly owing to the fact her lessons were deemed ‘boring’ by her pupils, has left me incensed. I don’t wish to comment on this personal case – especially owing to the fact there were various factors leading to her dismissal – but the fact...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Academy conversion: how SBMs can prepare

Could your school be considering converting to an academy? We offer expert advice on how school business managers can feel prepared. Despite the recent government U-turn on academisation, the prospect of academy conversion is still inevitable for many and SBMs are concerned about life without LA...
Read more...
Alex Masters

How to save your school money: small changes with a big impact

Imminent changes to school funding, tighter budgets and higher expectations… the pressure is on. Our exclusive report suggests simple ways your school could save hundreds of pounds. The recent news about a grammar school asking parents to pay for their children’s exams is yet another example of how...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Charging for activities at your school: the dos and don’ts

Schools are always keen to find new ways to generate income and charging for activities is a common and often lucrative way to do this. But sometimes the territory is murky and there are certain rules about when you should and shouldn’t charge. Check out our charging and remissions dos and don’ts...
Read more...
Alex Masters

SBMs: Why 2016 could be your most significant year

The school business management profession is a varied and challenging one but a new set of professional standards will set the SBM role on a path to dramatic growth. Stephen Morales, NASBM CEO, discusses the future of professional development for SBMs in his interview with Alex Masters. Someone...
Read more...
Alex Masters

What do you do if a complaint is made against you?

It is what we all dread: finding out that someone has made a complaint about you. Your integrity and professional status are under pressure. It can be stressful, even soul-destroying. What do you do? If you’re lucky, an informal meeting between the parties concerned will end the matter. However,...
Read more...
Alex Masters

NASBM awards celebrate SBM transformation

The recent NASBM awards ceremony showed how dramatically the role of the SBM has changed. But there is still more to be done to promote understanding. The education landscape is in a constant state of flux: from policy change and academy growth to MATs expansion and LA contraction. These changes...
Read more...
Alex Masters

How to budget effectively

Budgeting will be a primary focus for school business managers, especially as schools face budget deficits, higher costs and frozen incomes. In a survey of more than 1,000 state schools published by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), nearly two out of three schools said they could...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Supporting your support staff with positive appraisals

The word ‘appraisal’ often conjures images of clipboards and awkward conversations. Alex Masters explores how this process can bring out the best in your teams. It’s the time of year for appraisals and, as part of their role, many SBMs carry these out for their school’s support staff. Indeed, these...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Support staff: training, appraisals and restructures

Training and appraising support staff, and (often-dreaded) restructures, shouldn't be a challenge. We have a range of expert advice to guide you through each process. Summary Support staff are becoming increasingly influential . Evaluate your CPD policy for potential improvement. Consider creating...
Read more...
Alex Masters

The pupil premium toolkit: your 3 steps to success

It’s great news that pupil premium funding policy is set to continue, but school business managers still face a huge amount of pressure. Our experts are on hand to help. Summary Our Pupil Premium Toolkit provides a range of information and advice. Find out what crucial advice Pupil Premium Champion...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Health and safety: a model policy

Health and safety is always a priority for SBMs, especially at the beginning of a new term. Our updated model policy will ensure you’ve got everything covered. Summary The autumn term is the time to review your health and safety policy. We have an updated health and safety model policy to download...
Read more...
Alex Masters

SBMs: we need to talk!

Many SBMs are worried about their relationship with the SLT. Alex Masters invites you to a new live forum where you can talk openly about your concerns and get expert advice. ‘I’m going to come out and say it. I love my business manager.’ This was the confession from a primary headteacher in his...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Bravo to the NASBM awards: celebrating our unsung heroes

Optimus content lead Alex Masters supports the crucial role of the SBM and welcomes this year’s NASBM awards . It’s distressing to hear a grown man crying on the phone. This was someone I’d never spoken to before: a school business manager sitting alone in his office and at his wit’s end. This SBM...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Early years pupil premium funding: expert advice from Dr Julian Grenier

How should you implement the early years pupil premium funding? Watch this two-minute video interview with Dr Julian Grenier , headteacher and national leader of education, for advice you can begin using today. The Department for Education’s introduction of the early years pupil premium in April...
Read more...
Alex Masters

NASBM and the Professional Standards Framework

NASBM are currently consulting on their Professional Standards Framework: this could be transformational for school business managers. Optimus content lead, Alex Masters reports. We have heard some depressing stories over recent months: SBMs have told us how they often feel disrespected and...
Read more...
Alex Masters

DfE round-up week ending 27/7/15

From data security and pupil premium funding to post-16 education, the DfE released another raft of reports last week. Alex Masters offers a condensed version. Leadership and governance Advice: the DfE’s advice publications for schools and LAs which reflect the current legal position but may not...
Read more...
Alex Masters

DfE round-up week ending 19/7/15

The DfE issued a whopping 48 reports this week, including news on SEN funding, reception baseline and census data. Content lead, Alex Masters, offers a condensed version. Leadership and governance Britishness: Nicky Morgan offers her definition of ‘Britishness’ stating that it involves: the arts...
Read more...
Alex Masters

The DfE round up – week ending 10/7/15

From teacher pay and maths hubs to definitions of education and tackling LGBT, it has been an interesting week at the DfE. Alex Masters sums up this week’s reports Leadership and governance Census: A guide to submitting school census data , including deadlines, technical information ,...
Read more...
Alex Masters

The DfE round-up – week ending 3/7/15

From the pupil premium and ‘coasting schools’ to academy conversions and governor responsibilities, content lead Alex Masters sums up this week’s reports from the DfE Leadership and governance Academies: This offers a detailed overview of academies’ performance in the 2013-14 academic year and...
Read more...
Alex Masters

DfE weekly round-up

The Department for Education (DfE) released 34 reports this week. To save you time, Optimus content lead, Alex Masters, has condensed the information and selected the key points most relevant to you. Teaching and learning Parental power: Why do pupils from other ethnic backgrounds do better than...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Educating Ruby: the importance of character in education

Character-building is just as important as achieving good grades, Guy Claxton argues. Optimus content lead, Alex Masters, reports on his compelling speech at the recent Festival of Education . ‘I kept telling them I needed the Albert Hall!’ Guy Claxton joked as yet more people squeezed into the...
Read more...
Alex Masters

The early years funding challenge

The DfE’s decision to introduce an early years pupil premium was welcomed with open arms. But with opportunity comes challenge, as content lead Alex Masters discovers Did you know that 90% of all brain development occurs by the age of five ? Did you also know that recent research shows a 19-month...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Evidencing impact: the million-dollar question

It’s the ‘million-dollar question’ that you hear across schools today: ‘What is the best way to evidence the impact of Pupil Premium Funding?’ I’ve been talking to a lot of educational professionals recently, and the same concerns arise: not only are people struggling to close the gap between...
Read more...
Alex Masters

The state of play: how Lego can lead to deeper learning

‘Play is the beginning of knowledge,’ so a wise man once said. Indeed, recent studies have found clear links between play and deeper learning...so much so that there have been calls for Ofsted to stress the importance of play in its inspection framework. There are many compelling cases for the link...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Good vibrations for middle leaders

‘It has never been a more exciting time to be a middle leader!’ James Toop, chief executive of Teaching Leaders, announced in his rousing opening speech at our recent Secondary Middle Leaders Conference. ‘You can make the biggest difference in helping the system to move forward.’ Toop explained...
Read more...
Alex Masters

David Laws on workload, Ofsted and CPD

Lib Dem MP David Laws gave a revealing interview with TES this week. Here we have selected the top ten quotes from the Minister of State for Schools with some relevant links to articles from Optimus Education. Teachers still work long hours outside the classroom compared with teachers in other...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Nicky Morgan on the curriculum, PPA and more...

From curriculum reform and PPA time to collaboration and RE, education secretary Nicky Morgan addressed key concerns during an interview with the TES. Here, we offer a breakdown of the key themes and links to our own relevant information and advice. On curriculum reforms: We need people to have...
Read more...
Alex Masters

‘Tis the season... 12 festive educational pieces to share!

On the first day of Christmas, Optimus gave to me... 12 top tips to ensure you and your school have the best Christmas! Get traditional...and bring back Christmas ... or create your own nativity to tell a ‘real’ Christmas story Engage children in a multicultural setting Use the religious and...
Read more...
Alex Masters

What would happen if Labour won next year?

From Ofsted and curriculum changes to pay rises and extremism, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt recently gave a detailed and intriguing interview with the TES. Here, we offer a breakdown of the key themes and links to our own relevant information and advice. On Ofsted: We are not going to...
Read more...
Alex Masters

Middle leaders: the pressure is on but help is at hand

‘The success of Primary phase in the next five years will depend heavily on its middle leaders.’ Russell Hobby’s statement sums up all too clearly the pressures that today’s primary middle leaders are facing . Middle leaders have to get to grips with more demanding curricula, cope with declining...
Read more...