The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Sue Birchall

Sue is an experienced business manager with knowledge across the sector both in maintained and academy through all phases.

She has worked as an assessor for the DSBM, written for various sector publications and contributed to training manuals. She is currently a specialist leader in education and is registered as an associate trainer for the NASBM.

Latest blog posts

Sue Birchall

Ofsted is coming: how SBMs can prepare

No truer is the saying 'Proper preparation prevents poor performance' than when an inspector calls. Here are the steps school business managers can take to stay ahead. For many school leaders, the autumn term can be the winter of their discontent. Image source: HBO At the beginning of term, nothing...
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Sue Birchall

A day in the life of a SBM

I recently left my job as the financial controller of a multi-academy trust and returned to a more ‘traditional’ school business manager role. Or you could say I rejoined the circus. If I look up to the ceiling in my office, all I can see are a series of spinning plates that I – the school's top-...
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Sue Birchall

Education: on the ballot, or in the clouds?

After more than a month of campaigning, election day looms. Are party promises for education trustworthy enough to determine where we mark our cross, or is there more at stake? The NAHT’s summary of the party manifestos offers a simple table of the various education policies that voters should keep...
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Sue Birchall

Dawn of MAT or: the evolution of the SBM

The old days of school business management are gone, but not forgotten. Sue Birchall looks at the history of this complex role. With the announcement of an election and the subsequent freeze on publishing the response from the grammar school consultation process, the education sector – and the...
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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...
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Sue Birchall

To MAT, or not to MAT?

Academisation has significant implications for the role of the SBM. If you place your trust in trusts, collaboration will be the key to meeting the needs of pupils. Are multi-academy trusts the future of academies? As someone who works within a multi-academy trust (MAT), I’m eagerly watching the...
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Sue Birchall

Short-changed: the future of the small school in financial hardship

In a time of ever-shrinking budgets, there is evidence that smaller schools are beginning to feel the financial pinch a little more than the rest of us. A report by the BBC highlights concerns previously raised by the ACSL that smaller schools ‘will fall off a cliff’ before the next round of...
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Sue Birchall

Academisation u-turn: a change for the better?

The government's decision to row back on academisation spells uncertainty for many, a welcome relief for others. What will the future hold for the sector? The Education Bill, which included legislation forcing academisation, has been dropped. Yet another conundrum for schools, a change of heart...
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Sue Birchall

The May education philosophy and the SBM

The start of the new school year again brings fresh announcements from the government on the direction of education. The prime minister, Theresa May, announced her wish to increase access to grammar school education for our young people. Theresa May's ideas of a meritocratic education system based...
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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...
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