Section 3: The political and organisational context  print

Sun 5. Jun 16 13:29

The political and organisational context of school business management


To be effective in their role, school business managers need to have an understanding of the policy context in which they fulfil their responsibilities. This requires them to be able to locate the evolution of the profession of school business manager within the context of wider education policy developments. In order to do this they must be aware of, and be attuned to, wider developments within society which impact upon their work.

This unit addresses how school business managers can apply their understandings of developments in the profession and the broader education context to their school setting.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:

demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the policy context and professional practice of school business management
apply that knowledge and understanding to your own school setting
use problem-solving techniques to address key issues faced by school business managers in their professional role
communicate outcomes from the analysis of specific aspects of school business management in a professional manner

Section One: Analysing the policy context of school business management

A key skill for school business managers is the ability to keep up to date with developments in the profession and the broader education context. This enables them to respond to national policy developments, adopt and adapt good practice from other settings, and make wise choices about the future of their own school.

This topic provides an initial exploration of the policy context relating to school business management, as a stimulus for further your own research into national developments.

Since the early 2000s, the contribution of school business managers to the life and work of the school has been recognised and promoted by successive governments. The government White Paper 'The Importance of Teaching' expresses this as follows:

School business managers make a significant contribution to the effective financial management of a school, saving on average 20–33 per cent of a head teacher's time and covering their own salary in savings. Obtaining the services (shared or full time) of a high-quality business manager should be a priority for all governors and headteachers, unless there is someone in the management team with the relevant skills to undertake the role.Quote ('The importance of teaching: Schools White Paper)

However, in the early 2000s, it was very rare to find a school business manager in a maintained state school setting. Most independent schools and some secondary schools had bursars, primarily with a financial role, but the concept of school business management as a profession, and as a discipline, was not widespread.

But all schools were working in a context of increased autonomy and delegated funding, in which they faced increasingly complex decisions about how to use their funds and deploy their resources. A 2010 National College publication describes the growth of school business management as "a quiet revolution" that is transforming how "schools, and groups of schools, manage their organisational resources and maximise the yield and returns from them" (Southworth, 2010:4).

It describes the role of the SBM in this way:

School business managers deal with much more than money. They have a portfolio of responsibilities and skills that supplement and complement those of other school leaders, especially those drawn from classrooms and with teaching backgrounds… (Southworth, 2010:3)

Southworth has reported on the recent research by McKinsey and Company into the benefits of appointing school business managers. This concluded that school business managers can:

make a significant contribution to increasing leadership capacity within schools – particularly the primary sector (while 90% of secondary schools have an SBM, only around 30% of primary schools have access to one)
save up to one third of their headteacher's time – freeing them to lead learning
identify a minimum of 5% savings in resources for reinvestment within their school

The report also pointed out that SBMs raise an average £8,000 per year and one in 10 raised more than £20,000 through sourcing new income streams.

A key area of research and development in school business management has focused on the benefits of collaborative working across a number of schools.

In 2009, the National College sponsored a series of demonstration projects across England. The aims of the projects were to explore the practical implications and impact of fully utilising an Advanced School Business Manager or School Business Director to lead the SBM function within a range of school settings.



3.1: Researching the growth of school business management

Read pages 1–14 of 'School Business Management: A quiet revolution, Part 1' by Professor Geoff Southworth.

Make notes to summarise the key messages in the publication. You may find it useful to focus particularly on the following questions:

How does he define the purpose of the National College SBM programmes?
How does he relate the role of SBMs to workforce remodelling in schools and the increasing importance of staff other than teachers?
How does he define the significance of the 'School Business Management Competency Framework'?
How does he apply Gladwell's concept of 'the tipping point' to the growth of the profession?
How did the McKinsey report link the growth of SBMs in schools to the role of headship and the recruitment and retention of headteachers?
What are the key statistics about the employment of SBMs in the 'current state of play'?
What are the key benefits of employing a school business manager?
What has been the impact of the Demonstration Projects focused on the benefits of collaborative working in school business management?

Your notes will provide useful background information when you complete the work for the third part of your professional learning portfolio for this module.

The even greater autonomy of academies and free schools has added to the scope and range or the school business manager's responsiblities. The 'Academies Financial Handbook' (September 2012) notes that "All academy trusts must have a principal finance officer (PFO), appointed by the AT's board, who is the academy's finance director or school business manager or equivalent to lead the finance department." It goes on to say that "The PFO should play both a technical and a leadership role in the AT."

Additional specific responsibilities which are not associated with the school business manager role in maintained schools are set out as:

Key responsibilities for the PFO will include:

the preparation of the annual accounts;
the preparation and monitoring of the budget;
technical advice; and
liaison with auditors

The school business manager acting as the principal finance officer does not have to discharge all of these duties personally, but would at least be accountable to the academy trust board for ensuring that staff or contractors with relevant skills and knowledge discharged these duties effectively.

In this context, the school business manager role emerges as a key leadership role with responsiblity of all aspects of managing the business of the school.

Section Two: Applying analytical tools in your school setting

The second part of this unit looks at some of the different analytical tools and techniques that can be used to investigate different aspects of the school in more depth. In their various ways, the tools enable you to evaluate the school context and its daily operation and management.

In this module, you will already have used SWOT diagrams and process maps; in this section you will also look at tools such as PESTLE analysis, process maps, and the PAID problem-solving model.

Schools do not exist in a vacuum; they are affected by many factors. Some of these factors may have an immediate impact while other factors are fairly slow to impact upon the school.

Impact can be beneficial or detrimental but in either case the school business manager needs to have an understanding of the underlying issues so that they can support the future planning for the school. It is important therefore for the school business manager to be fully aware of the political, social, economic, legal and cultural context of the school.

A PESTLE analysis considers political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental issues. It can be used to serve a number of purposes. These include:

identifying trends and factors from the environment external to the organisation that can impact on the organisation
informing strategic planning by assessing what is significant to the organisation

The information gained can be used to assist the organisation to determine its response.

The task within a school is to understand which factors are relevant to the school's current situation. Many factors will pertain to all schools, such as a change in the level of public expenditure, but others will be seen to have less immediate relevance.



3.2: Analysing key trends impacting on the school

Consider the school in which you are employed, or if you are an 'aspiring SBM' focus on your link school.

Complete the PESTLE analysis shown here, to identify how this school may be affected by each of the key trends.

Provide specific examples of the impacts that are already observable in the school and its local context.

Section Three: Applying problem-solving skills in your professional practice

This final topic of the unit focuses on the use of problem-solving skills in a school setting. It sets out an analytical approach that you should apply in your professional practice.

It is part of everyday life that we meet problems. Sometimes these problems are exclusively related to processes, but often they are related to the people within the process. As a school business manager, you need to have the ability to address issues and at times take critical decisions.

This involves taking a systematic approach to problem-solving by investigating current issues and analysing situations in depth. The investigation might involve talking to people, looking at documentation or observing what happens in practice.

You could apply a simple step-by-step problem-solving process as follows:

Step 1: Describe the problem and set a ‘problem statement’.

Step 2: Analyse what is right and what is wrong in the current situation.

Step 3: Identify the likely causes of the problem.

Step 4: Identify the most probable cause and test this out.

Step 5: Take action to address the problem.

The following material outlines this model in more depth.

The PAID problem-solving model

Overview: Background to problem solving

Problems exist when someone or something is not performing as expected. Action needs to be taken to solve the problem.

Action should follow from a clear understanding of the problem.

To understand problem solving it is necessary to distinguish between symptoms of a problem and its causes.

Identification of the cause of a problem is the key to problem solving. Once you know the real cause of the problem, you can decide how to deal with it

Jumping to conclusions about the cause of a problem can be catastrophic.

An opportunity is the exact opposite of a problem. Opportunities occur when performance is better than expected.

PAID is a logical problem-solving process, which has four steps:

  • set a problem statement (P)
  • analyse the problem in detail (A)
  • identify likely causes (I)
  • define actual causes (D)

3.3: Developing further problem-solving skills

Once you have read more about the PAID problem-solving process, test your understanding by applying it to a specific issue in a school setting.

Write a short account of how you applied the problem-solving process in your professional practice, including what you learned through doing this and what the outcomes were.

Mapping proceses and improving systems

The previous unit of this module examined the management role of the SBM and related this to the development of efficient and effective systems to achieve the strategic goals of the school.

Process mapping is a key technique for creating and reviewing the school’s systems. This is particularly important in areas where transparent systems are needed and strict compliance with agreed procedures.

Such areas might include:

health and safety
human resource management
financial administration

The purpose of process mapping is to design a system that will produce desired outcomes. This could be the appointment of a new member of staff, the allocation of curriculum resources to departments or the procurement of services to the school. In some cases, the processes will need to conform to statutory requirements or standards of equity or probity. You can use this technique as an SBM to develop new systems or review existing ones.

Process Map


A process map is a particular kind of flow chart, giving a diagrammatic representation of a series of activities and decisions.

The diagram opposite is a simple process map of getting up in the morning. You will see from this that events or actions are shown in rectangles and decisions are shown in diamonds. Some process maps show key documents in clouds.

To produce a map, you will need to conduct a step-by-step analysis of the critical moments within a series of activities intended to deliver these outcomes. You may also need to write detailed procedures for each step to ensure consistency of action. The following stages should be followed to design a new process that is intended to produce a desired outcome.

Define what the process is intended to achieve and identify some of the key requirements and potential problems. Keep this as a note to refer back to as you go along.
Brainstorm the critical moments (events/activities/decisions) involved in the process, and record each one.
Identify the people associated with each of these critical moments. Who is responsible for what?
Arrange the critical moments into the sequence in which they should happen. This will enable you to begin to give a shape to your process map.
Analyse how long will be needed to work through the different stages of the process map.
Use rectangles to show a task or event, diamonds to show decisions, clouds to show the information and documentation associated with each critical moment.
Identify issues in the process and consider amendments you could make. These could be:Are there too many moments/phases in the process?
Are there too many or too few people involved?
Do the elements flow?
Are there blockages, delays and time lags?
What are the administrative requirements?
Is there anything missing?
What are the mechanisms to get feedback on how this works in practice?
Is the process fit for purpose?
Which critical moments will require detailed procedures in writing for those involved?Finalise the process map, presenting it as a diagram and also summarising in writing its key phases, decisions and activities.


3.4: Using process mapping to design a system

Identify an area of the school's operations which could benefit from clear procedures to achieve a desired outcome. Use process-mapping techniques to design a new system to achieve this.

Write a short account of how you applied process-mapping techniques in your professional practice, what you learned through doing this and what the outcomes were.

Summary of unit 3
In this unit, we have researched the broader context of the school business manager's role and looked at the development of this new profession over time.

We have also explored a number of different analytical tools and techniques that can be used to analyse the school setting and investigate how different systems and processes in the school operate in practice.

The assessment requirements for Unit 3 of this module ask you to summarise your researches into the development of the SBM profession and then report on the way in which you have used some of the analytical tools covered in this unit to analyse different aspects of your school.

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