Dealing with the isolation of the SBM/SBL role by Emma Gray

Dealing with the isolation of the SBM/SBL role by Emma Gray

For the School Business Manager, isolation can be a real issue.

I’m sorry that my opening sentence is such a downer but if you haven’t already experienced it yourself it is highly likely you will in the future. When it happens, you will need help.

Many SBMs have been through the feeling of being disconnected with the rest of their school staff. The SBM is not one of the Teaching Staff “gang” and is often, as manager, not treated as one of the Support Staff “team”. New SBMs can discover the barriers just as they are beginning to find their feet in school. Experienced SBMs may find themselves completely alone if something goes wrong or a relationship breaks down.

I know. I’ve been there

I’ve written before about what happened to me in a previous role as my ability to do my job spiralled into an out-of-control mess of isolation and stress. I felt like I was at the bottom of a well with no way out and no one able to help me. The fact that I did manage to recover and still work as an SBM today is something I am very proud of. But I should never have been in that place. It is why I write about SBM wellbeing and it is one of the reasons I am so keen on collaboration and peer support. I want there to be someone available to reach down and hoist you out of that well!

We just can’t do this job on our own

At first, you may think you can do it all. You’re suitably qualified, experienced and personable. Maybe you haven’t had a problem in your career so far, why now? If you think like this it is going to come as a big shock. Believe me when I say that you need to spend time to put measures in place now. So when (not if) those pressures do come around, you have a support structure in place to help you cope.

What will help you?

  1. Sometimes it is just the day to day challenges that can wear you down. Get involved in the networking that is now available. Your local SBM group or association will give you a regular meeting opportunity. #SBLTwitter means you can laugh, cry and offload with other SBMs every day if you need to. If you are part of a Trust or other collaborative structure, get to know the other SBMs. The key to this one is to be proactive. Put yourself out there and build friendships, even if it is with people you may never meet.
  2. Be part of the team. Make an effort to be part of what is going on in your school. Go to staff meetings. Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in the staff room. Help organise and go to social events. Arrange meetings. The aim is to avoid pigeon-holing yourself into one group. The SBM is there for everyone.
  3. Get out and about during the day. This is such an important one. You need to be visible in the school, not locked away in your office. Be involved in what is going on. You could sign up to do a duty, sew drama costumes or even run a school trip. Show that you want to be a part of the school community.
  4. Identify a SBM mentor. An experienced SBM that you keep in regular contact with on a one-to-one basis means that there will be someone to talk to if things go wrong or you have a problem you don’t know how to solve.
  5. The worst possible relationship breakdown for the SBM is going to be with the Headteacher. Things can change for all sorts of reasons, we are all only human. It will be nothing personal but it does happen. Build a strong relationship with another senior member of staff (as well as the one you are building with your Head). Should the worst happen, they will have an understanding of the situation, may be able to support you if things get formal and will give you someone to talk to in your school.

It’s not all doom and gloom

We love our job so it can’t be all bad!

Of course it’s not.

Working in a school is vibrant, energising and rewarding. Being part of a team that positively impacts the lives of children and young people is the best feeling ever. Making sure you are an active part of that team is part of the role of the School Business Manager. If you don’t neglect it, you will find yourself with support when you need it.