My SBM Life by Helen Burge

What’s your job title and the name of your school?

Academy Business Leader, St Anne’s Church Academy.

How long have you been an SBM?

Since March 2013.

What was your path to SBM?

Post starting a family I started as a School Business Manager’s Assistant in a private school. My second school, where my boys attended, I was a clerk to governors which developed into more hours in the office, then became School Administrator. Moved to my third school as School Administrator, then Bursar, then SBM. Now in my fourth school, SBM, then Academy Business Leader when we converted and joined a MAT in April 2018.

How would you describe the role of an SBM?

Plate spinning, ball juggling, fast paced, multi-functional, lush! Recently someone on #SBLTwitter describes us as school equivalent of Amazon’s “Ask Alexa”, someone else describes us as the “Google” facility of a school. I completely identify with those descriptions.

What are the 5 top key elements of your role?

People, finance, premises management, H&S and operation of the school & nursery.

What characteristics do you believe make for a Smart SBM?

Good resilience and emotional intelligence are always helpful. Being someone who collaborates easily with others is also important, whether that’s inside your own school with your own SLT or governors, or within a network of SBMs. To be smart is to know when to ask others for help or advice.

Why do schools need an SBM?

Schools need SBMs, so the non-teaching and learning operations of running a school can be run efficiently and effectively to ensure improved outcomes from teaching and learning.

Have you ever reached the bottom of your to-do list?

No, does anyone?!

What’s your top tip for saving time at work?

I love the phrase “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”, which means doing something pointless or insignificant that will soon be overtaken by events, or that contributes nothing.  In my head this means stop the faffing, be aware of when you are faffing and stop and do something more constructive. 

What’s your top tip for saving your school money?

Use the advice that is out there – from a fellow SBM, a framework or schools buying hub – to inform your decision. 

What’s your biggest pain point when it comes to procurement?

The time involved. 

Most SBMs we meet say that networking is a key to the role – what’s the most valuable thing that you’ve learnt from one of your SBM peers?

If you are studying for a qualification you should ask for study days from your school. I wish I had done that when I was completing my ADSBM a couple of years ago. Working and studying, and having a family is really hard.

Tell us about an hour of your day today.

Dropping children at another school, then preparing a teacher advert together with the headteacher ready for publication, continuing work on our three-year budget plan.

What’s the last thing, professionally, that surprised you?

That Hilary Goldsmith was leaving #SBLTwitter. What a character and what an insight into SBL life she has hilariously and thought provokingly provided us. Good luck Hilary with your new role!

What is the most rewarding aspect of being an SBM?

All of it, it’s a real privilege to work in a school. I do love hearing the children’s enthusiasm for learning.

SBM, SBP or SBL – where do you stand on the title?

Any! But my email signature says Academy Business Leader. SBP covers a larger group of roles which I like.

How do you see the role of SBM within the SLT?

A vital cog in school leadership, can speed up decisions and I find I sometimes as non-teacher (innocently) ask the questions which maybe teachers wouldn’t ask.

How important do you think the headteacher / SBM relationship is?

Really important!

What do you think is the key to a good headteacher / SBM relationship?

Key to a successful HT/SBL working relationship is based on trust, admiration and appreciation of diverse skills and the importance of a shared vision. We don’t try to do each other’s jobs, in fact we enable each other to do our own jobs better. 

What advice would you give to someone new coming into an SBM role?

Network on #SBLTwitter and with your local regional SBM group ASAP! Build a positive relationship with your headteacher.

How do you handle a bad day at the office?

Giant chocolate buttons during the school day. Really bad day = G&T in the evening!

What do you do to de-stress after a long day at school?

Go for a long walk on the beach. Check in with my #SBLTwitter buddies, they always make me laugh with anecdotes of their days and of course the GIFs we share with each other.