Making the difference as a School Business Manager (2023)

School Business Managers have an important role. This is increasingly important as school finances are stretched and Headteachers need extra support to manage their workload.

What do SBMs do and how can they help a school to achieve its goals?

Simon Roberts, Business and Finance Director at Olchfa School, Swansea was in conversation with Robin Hughes, Advisor at eTeach.

What was your career path to get to your current job?

I started as a Finance Officer in a faith school 18 years ago and quickly decided to upskill myself so that I would be better placed to take on a more senior business manager role. I studied for some school business management specific courses, put out my CV and was then invited to apply for a School Bursar role in a Private School in the Middle East. I was flown over, got the job and took my young family. I stayed a few years, got a lot of experience and then returned to settle the family back in South Wales. My first job back was in a converter Academy in Gloucester and then I got a School Business Manager role in a Local Authority maintained school in Swansea. After a few years there, I moved to where I am now.

You’ve been in a school business manager role under different job titles and in different types of school. What are your reflections about that?

It is an issue that there are so many different titles for what is often, fundamentally, the same job. School bursar, school business manager, finance director, resources manager. And yet a lot of what is done is the same when you look at what these people actually do.

When you’ve worked in all these contexts – private, academy, maintained schools – you realise that there is a lot that is the same. There are teachers, teaching assistants, admin colleagues. You are always looking to resource teaching and your curriculum, and maybe find ways to fund changes or improvements to your provision.

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But there is a different context for the School Business Manager in an academy or a maintained or a private school?

The biggest differences I noticed was the culture in each type of environment and also how you might go about your job. Your aims and vision, or your strategic goals, are similar, but the means by which you get there may be different because of your context. For instance, there are protocols and ways of doing things if you are an LA maintained school that just aren’t relevant or don’t exist if you are an Academy or an independent school. Procurement, for example.

It can sometimes be frustrating when you work in a fairly rigid system where there are many protocols, and capacity issues narrow your opportunity to be innovative. IT is a good example. You must work with the capacity of the system you have, and that may be dictated to you by the wider national, regional or local procurement arrangements that you are required to be part of. And that means sometimes you just can’t introduce the IT you’d like and that has a knock-on effect on the curriculum you can provide.

Currently, school leaders generally are saying that budgets are challenging. What does this mean for a school business manager?

In one important way, the school business manager’s main job stays the same, whatever the school’s budget. You look creatively at what you do, take account of the context you are working in, and you look for what can be done better, and what can be more efficient but still be at least just as effective or, even better, more effective. You’re always looking for ways to use the money better and achieve what the school is setting out to do. Austerity and constant pressure on staff means that efficiency and effectiveness are more important than ever before. School business management is a continuous cycle of ensuring that all areas underpin each other successfully, allowing the school as a whole to operate efficiently.

But challenging times in terms of funding must mean challenging times for school business managers?

If you look at the same set of numbers for too long, you can become convinced that there’s nothing new to be done to change them. Getting in a fresh pair of eyes can help unlock a situation and that can lead to new ideas that can improve matters.

If you are faced with a stagnant or declining income stream, you have to consider ways in which you can improve that. Apart from increasing pupil numbers, you might consider how your school estate can generate income. Lettings, can provide opportunities. You must also be sure that your pay structure is fair, well-managed and has a strategic purpose. Looking at TLRs or pupil/teacher ratios, for instance, could provide some efficiencies, as well as considering curriculum-led financial planning initiatives. Generating, saving or mis-managing even as little as 1 or ½ % can make a difference, and that difference accumulates over time.

A school business manager might have tough conversations. When budgets are tight or when the needs of the school are changing – or have changed – it is possible that you are faced with making tough choices. Tough choices usually lead to tough conversations. My experience in the private sector meant that I wasaway from home and actually living on a compound with many of the colleagues that I might have tough conversations with. Going through the experience does help put things in perspective and prepare you as you progress in your career.

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A typical average sized secondary school in Wales will have 1,200 pupils, £5million turnover, 70 teaching staff and 120 adults employed in total. Maybe 80-90% of the budget is allocated to staffing costs, which follows nationally agreed pay deals. The opportunities for strategic business management appear to be small. What do you think about that?

The opportunity may appear small at first glance but take a closer look – with the right skills and a willingness to be creative. It usually reveals a different story.

A few years ago, I was business manager at a school and the catering being provided by the local authority was very poor. Our FSM pupils and others weren’t taking their lunch. I visited schools that had taken their catering in-house, away from their local authority. The service to their pupils was far better. Very few were leaving the school grounds to go get something else from the corner shop and that meant high uptake from pupils and a profit was being generated. That profit was being reinvested in the school. I took the proposal to Governors. I showed them figures. I also showed them a picture of what was being served at lunchtime - what was being served to those pupils in other schools and what was being served to ours. One looked good, the other didn’t. Both were being charged at the same price. Governors approved the proposal.

The interesting thing was, when we advertised for a catering manager, the applicants were incredible. Experienced people, including chefs from top restaurants. These people could see the benefit of working in a school, the term times, no weekend working and so on.

Kids were then eating a hot, nutritious meal, they weren’t jumping over the fence at lunchtime, they were in school and ready to learn in the afternoon. Attendance and behaviour improved. And the income stream came good, as expected, in year three after the transition happened and the start-up costs that came with that were taken into account. Lots of benefits, and not just in finance.

I had already taken other services in-house, such as cleaning, music peripatetic and ground maintenance, which was where savings could be made, whilst improving the quality of provision.

Your journey has taken in a range of schools with different contexts and your career progression has been from a functional role to taking on more strategic responsibility. What has helped you do that?

Upskilling yourself and investing in your own professional development in specific aspects of school business management can be very important if you are moving into strategic financial management from, say, having had a more functional or administrative role – especially if that role has been in the same school for several years.

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Early in my career, I was lucky enough to have a Headteacher as a crucial ally, who agreed that there would be a benefit in me taking a course to upskill myself. Some who were already SBMs were doing it, but not many who, like me, were aspiring to the role. My course fees were paid for by the school. As we look at developments now with reforms, diversification, funding pressures and increased workload in many areas of education underway, it would be great to see the growing recognition of the value of SBM role being backed up with professional development and have that development resourced in some way. That knowledge and the skill could be invaluable to supporting effective practice in schools by making that practice efficient as well as effective.

Upskilling is one thing. What about networking with peers?

Networking can help you get a fresh perspective on matters. You may have been staring at the detail of these matters for a long time and become a bit stale in your thinking about them.

Institute of School Business Leaders (ISBL) are always a great source of support. I regularly attend ISBL National Conferences and find them to always be of real benefit. However, out of approx. 400 delegates in the most recent one in Birmingham, there were only two SBMs from Wales in attendance I think, including me. That surprised me, as there are many more ISBL members than that. There’s a Welsh regional event soon and it will be interesting to see how many attend, as it could be an indication of the perception of the importance of the role in Wales currently.

#SBLTwitter – is becoming a really good place to network, where SBMs share ideas and best practice, as well as just reassuring each other some times that we are all battling the same problems.

Any final thoughts?

If you are new to the job or are starting the job in a new school, it is a good idea to take your time to look at the numbers and the school structure, and establish an understanding of the people around you. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver! Change can take time.

Are you looking for a change? Search our available jobs in finance here.

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About the author

Making the difference as a School Business Manager (1)

Robin has been a school governor for over ten years and is bilingual, Welsh and English. Before becoming a consultant and working with a number of private and public sector educational organisations, Robin had stakeholder management roles in an examination board and was the Wales Secretary for ASCL, a body that represents over 16,000 senior school leaders.

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What does a Business Manager for a school do? ›

The duties of the Business Manager of Student Organizations are: To help prepare and to approve organization budgets. To approve all vouchers for expenditures. Each student treasurer must also approve each voucher for that organization.

What is the role of a school business official? ›

The role of the school business official in decision-making is to keep student learning as the primary focus and to provide superintendents and boards of education with accurate information within the scope and context of school policies, practices and objectives.

What do you need to be a Business Manager? ›

To become a business manager, it is essential to possess a four-year bachelor's degree in administration, accounting, finance or marketing. If you have a special certification, such as a CPA license, then this can also be beneficial if you apply for a position as a business manager.

What is a school manager? ›

An education manager oversees the educational programs in a school or training center. As an education manager, your duties include managing curriculum development and staff implementation of that curriculum.

How can I be a good business manager at school? ›

Key skills and interests
  1. experience in financial management and budgets.
  2. a high level of written and oral communication.
  3. good presentation skills.
  4. good teamwork and leadership skills.
  5. financial planning and decision making skills.
  6. good organisation and time management skills.

How do you manage a successful school business? ›

Plan Thoroughly: Time, finance and resource management are essential for the smooth & efficient running of a school. Delegate your responsibilities and prioritize what is important. Invest in good school management software. Try to automate the tasks as much as possible.

What is school business communication? ›

JA Business Communications, part of the JA High School Experience courses, is a one-semester, teacher-led course in which high school students focus on communication skills necessary to succeed in business, including communicating up, down, and across organizations; talking about job performance; and writing in a ...

What are the duties and responsibilities of a school director? ›

Overseeing Academic Transitions across the School. To coordinate over Academic strategy, policy and practice in the School. Commitment to Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people by ensuring that all staff, and those connected to the School, share this commitment and responsibility.

What business structure does a school have? ›

The organizational structure of a school often involves members of the administration, licensed and unlicensed support staff and teachers. The administration often includes a principal who is responsible for the entire school and one or more assistant principals.

What makes a good business manager? ›

A good leader sets a positive example and knows how to use their strengths to help their team achieve goals. Successful managers get to know their employees and find ways to support them so they produce their best work. It's important to consistently communicate clear goals, expectations and feedback to your team.

What are the 4 types of business management? ›

What Are the Different Types of Managers? The four most common types of managers are top-level managers, middle managers, first-line managers, and team leaders. These roles vary not only in their day-to-day responsibilities, but also in their broader function in the organization and the types of employees they manage.

What are the three major skills needed to run a business? ›

Essential business skills
  • Financial management. Being able to effectively manage your finances is critical. ...
  • Marketing, sales and customer service. ...
  • Communication and negotiation. ...
  • Leadership. ...
  • Project management and planning. ...
  • Delegation and time management. ...
  • Problem solving. ...
  • Networking.

What is school management in simple words? ›

the branch of pedagogy that studies the means and methods of administering schools. is regarded as the process of integrating the appropriate human and material resources that are made available and made effective for achieving the purposes of a programme of an educational institution.

What are the objectives of school management? ›


To carry out educational futures. To manage social change. To profit by experience. To carry out modernization.

What are the factors that would make one be a good school manager? ›

The Makings of a Successful School Leader
  • They Understand the Importance of Building Community. ...
  • They Empower Teachers and Cultivate Leadership Skills. ...
  • They Utilize Data and Resources. ...
  • They Have a Vision and a Plan. ...
  • They Create Collaborative, Inclusive Learning Environments. ...
  • They Are Passionate About Their Work.

What do school business managers earn? ›

The average School business manager salary in London is £32,768. This is 0.5% less than the average national salary for School business manager jobs. The average London School business manager salary is 24% less than the average salary across London.

How can I grow my school business? ›

7 Actions To Take in the New Year to Grow Your Private School
  1. Reconsider Your Marketing Execution.
  2. Refine Your School Tour.
  3. Analyze Your Application Process.
  4. Evaluate Your Reenrollment Prospects.
  5. Zero in on Reporting.
  6. Mobilize Your Word of Mouth Team.
  7. Improve Parent Communication.
Jan 2, 2018

How do you thrive in business school? ›

Here are ten tips to succeed and survive in business school:
  1. Choose Your Specialization.
  2. Learn Time Management.
  3. Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others.
  4. Reach Out To People And Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help.
  5. Avoid Seeking Perfection.
  6. Take Risks.
  7. Learn Classroom Etiquette.
  8. Get an Inside View.
Nov 17, 2022

Why is communication important in school management? ›

For example, communication is essential for: understanding roles and assignments; planning and carrying out learning activities; coordinating approaches with students; providing information to teachers on student progress and behaviours; and building a positive relationship with students, teachers and other staff.

What is a school business professional? ›

School Business Professionals (SBPs) perform a role which is unique to schools, administering and managing the financial, site and support services within the school context. They provide essential support to school leadership teams, implementing their financial and business decisions.

Why is it called Said Business School? ›

Saïd Business School (named after Wafic Saïd, who donated £20m to fund a building to house the school) was established in 1996 and has rapidly established itself as a leading full-range school offering undergraduate, MBA and doctoral programmes.

What are 5 primary responsibilities of a Director? ›

As a director you must:
  • Act within powers. ...
  • Promote the success of the company. ...
  • Exercise independent judgment. ...
  • Exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence. ...
  • Avoid conflicts of interest (a conflict situation) ...
  • Not accept benefits from third parties.

What is the importance of school leadership? ›

School leaders establish great teaching practices

They can harness the talents and motivations of teachers, students, and parents; develop inclusive and inspiring learning cultures for the whole school; and provide intensive, individualised, and sustainable teacher training.

What are three main roles of a Director? ›

Determining the company's strategic objectives and policies. Monitoring progress towards achieving the objectives and policies. Appointing senior management. Accounting for the company's activities to relevant parties, eg shareholders.

How can I make my school business profitable? ›

Making Profits in a School Business
  1. Factors that Help in Making School Business Profitable.
  2. Fees. The most important factor that determines the profitability of the business is fees. ...
  3. Cost of Running the Business. ...
  4. Reputation and Brand of the School. ...
  5. Good HR Policy. ...
  6. Effective Ways to Save Costs the Right Way.
Nov 21, 2019

What are 4 basic business structures? ›

There are four common business structures to choose from:
  • sole trader;
  • partnership;
  • company; or.
  • trust.

What are some school business ideas? ›

Here are some of the best startup ideas for students we've sourced.
  • Tutoring. Are you proficient in a specific subject or do you have a unique skill? ...
  • App Development. ...
  • Freelance Writing. ...
  • Podcasting. ...
  • Tech Support. ...
  • Digital Textbook. ...
  • Edtech. ...
  • Meal Delivery Service.
Jan 9, 2023

What are 3 important roles that successful managers do in a business? ›

Managers' roles fall into three basic categories: informational roles, interpersonal roles, and decisional roles.

What are the five best qualities for a manager to have? ›

Top 10 Qualities of a Good Manager
  • Leadership Skills. In order to be an effective manager, you need to be able to lead your employees in an efficient manner. ...
  • Professional Experience. ...
  • Good Communication Skills. ...
  • Knowledge. ...
  • Organization. ...
  • Time Management Skills. ...
  • Delegation. ...
  • Confidence.

What personality makes the best manager? ›

5 Personality Traits Of a Great Manager
  • Transparency and good communication. Find out how much you're spending on monthly biz app subscriptions. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • The ability to delegate well. ...
  • Honesty and trust. ...
  • Technical skills.
Aug 24, 2022

What are the four C's of management? ›

The 4 C's of a world-class change manager—commitment, connections, communication and creativity—may represent innate personality traits, trained capabilities, or most likely a combination of the two.

What are the 5 pillars of business process management? ›

The BPM lifecycle consists of five different stages including design, model, execute, monitor, and optimize. During each stage, specific activities are carried out in order to achieve the most efficient way to conduct business operations.

What are the three C's that a business plan answer? ›

These three C's include: (1) having a concept of what your business is all about; (2) identifying who your customer or client will be; and (3) figuring out how the cash flow in your business will actually work.

What is the most important business skill? ›

Decision-Making Skills

All professionals need strong decision-making skills to navigate complex workplace challenges. For those specifically working in business or management, the need for such skills is even greater.

How can I improve my business skills? ›

How to improve business skills
  1. Research. Take some time to read up on the most valuable business skills needed in your industry. ...
  2. Find a mentor. Having a mentor who has extensive business experience can provide you with the guidance you may need to develop professionally. ...
  3. Take a business skills course or class.
Sep 27, 2021

What are the five functions of school management? ›

Management operates through five basic functions: planning, organizing, coordinating, commanding, and controlling.

What are the basic principles of school management? ›

Such concepts include: management, educational management, planning, organising, staffing, directing, controlling, coordinating, evaluating, and budgeting as they all apply to the school system.

What are the basic characteristics of school management? ›

Given below are some of the features that a good school management software should have:
  • Student Information. ...
  • Teacher Information. ...
  • Attendance Management. ...
  • Online Assignments and Assessments. ...
  • Report Card Generation. ...
  • Fee Management System. ...
  • Admission Management. ...
  • Transport Management.
May 19, 2022

Why is effective school management important? ›

It can reflect on the learners' achievements, stakeholders' participation, enrolment rate, quality of teaching, and the school's overall performance. In other words, the effective management of the school is a prerequisite in achieving quality education in any given situation, pandemic or not.

What does a School Business Support Officer do? ›

You will be responsible for managing financial resources, human resources, marketing, communication as well as leading the administration team. The post holder would not be a member of the senior leadership team.

What does a chief business officer do for a school district? ›

Under the direct supervision of the Superintendent, the Chief Business Officer is responsible for the organi- zation and administration of the financial and business affairs of the District, such as payroll, purchasing, budget, investment and risk manage- ment, bond management/emerg- ency preparedness, and school safe- ...

What does a school business assistant do? ›

Dealing with the day-to-day administrative responsibilities of the school such as answering the phone, duties relating to pupil attendance, managing emails or post, and using photocopying equipment. Utilising IT systems to write letters, emails, reports and newsletters.

How can I be a good business support officer? ›

Organised approach to work: methodical, accurate and attention to detail. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills Able to maintain confidentiality when dealing with sensitive information. We listen to everyone and value the personal experiences of people in our communities and of each other.

What does a business support role do? ›

1. To provide effective and efficient business support administrator services for the Corporate Property and Commercial Assets service. 2. To support the development, management and delivery of the Council's Capital Strategy Asset Management and Business Plan.

What is the role of a business support administrator? ›

To provide advice and guidance to customers, business partners and others on business processes and operational service issues and produce reporting information for internal and external stakeholders.

What is the difference between COO and CBO? ›

A major difference between these roles is that a CBO focuses on a company's financial aspects, while a COO oversees its daily operations. Consequently, CBOs may require strong financial and accounting skills. In comparison, a COO may need organizational skills and an understanding of a company's processes.

What is the difference between CCO and CBO? ›

What is a chief commercial officer? A chief commercial officer (CCO), also called the chief business officer (CBO), is an executive who focuses on commercial strategy, including product development, marketing, sales and customer service.

Is CBO chief business officer? ›

As a chief business officer (CBO), your responsibilities include coordinating with the CEO, finance committee, and other leaders of a company or university to precisely allocate resources to meet strategic and financial goals.

What is high school business management? ›

In the Business Management pathway, students learn entrepreneurship and business fundamentals, goal-setting, resource allocation, organizational structure and management techniques, economics, financial data, risk management, information technology, and supply chain management.

What makes a good business assistant? ›

Initiative and drive – the best admin assistants aren't just reactive, responding to needs as they come in. They look for ways to create efficiencies, streamline operations and implement new programs to the benefit of themselves, their execs and the business as a whole. IT literacy – this is essential to an admin role.


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