Spinning Plates

Brian Herbert

I have been the SBM of a Primary School in Bedfordshire for the past 8 years. I am also on SLT and get involved in every aspect of school life. In my time, I have set up a school-owned company to deliver our lunches and started a business delivering good quality used books to schools.

Our SBM lives are governed by the never ending ‘list’ which we never seem to get to the bottom of!  Adding things on a daily basis, crossing some off - if we manage to complete a task - with others always being pushed down by the seemingly ‘more important’ things to do. Some of these are quick and can be done with little effort, but most of the tasks spend a lifetime on the list, never actually being the lucky one that gets completed!

People to call, head teachers to please, staff to manage, emails to clear, contractors to chase, parents to placate, sick to deal with, minibus to service, passwords to reset, fish to feed (yep, that’s actually a job to do in my school!). Groundhog Day it’s not, with different challenges thrown our way each day.

There are times when these spinning plates seem to be bouncing off our head, nothing going right and a thousand deadlines to meet. These are times when most SBM’s have seriously considered walking away, that it’s an impossible job and we can’t achieve anything. But consider this:

How many roles within education have to navigate their way around 20+ different databases, or take on huge responsibilities such as GDPR, Finance, HR and Health and Safety, as well as the wellbeing of the staff that we employ and manage and the children in our care.  Keeping all of these plates spinning is a massive challenge for all of us, but that’s what we do. It’s what we are good at and is a clever skill to have. Sometimes we miss a few plates and they fall over, but that’s life in our world and is just as inevitable as the sun rising in the morning. We really are the ‘go to’ person in the organisation, the one that glues it all together and takes multi-tasking to a new level.

One piece of advice I always give is to not get stressed by it all, to work on small chunks at a time and not to work to other people’s deadlines, let them work to yours. Apart from your financial responsibilities and anything that the head teacher sends your way, everything else can wait and nothing is life threatening (apart from the peanut list!).

So next time you wonder whether this is the life for you, or your confidence takes a battering, just remember how much knowledge you do actually have and how good you really are. And if you weren’t there anymore, who would feed the fish!?