Gaining a good leader

Effective leadership is a pre-requisite for a successful school; in successful schools head teachers and senior leaders understand the changing needs of their schools and their staff, continually communicate their ideals, vision and expectations, use robust monitoring and evaluation, balance support with challenge and plan ahead to sustain excellence. The most effective schools also share or distribute leadership and create opportunities to provide a wide range of teaching and support staff with meaningful and relevant opportunities to develop their skills and experience. They also seek out and develop leadership potential, looking for specific skills and attributes, so that they can ‘grow their own’ leaders from their current staff. Increasingly the most successful schools are also working in partnership with other schools to develop both their effectiveness and leadership capacity.  

Developing Leaders
Successful schools use a range of strategies to develop their leaders, including: embedding long term career development and planning within performance management systems, and enabling staff to shadow colleagues and take on part of their role. Such schools also create opportunities for staff to undertake temporary leadership roles, rotate roles and responsibilities, and support staff to work with other partners on a full-time or part-time basis. Schools should also support the professional development of staff through the use of research, higher level study and targeted skills development.  
The most effective strategies inevitably are those which are carefully tailored to meet the needs of both the school and the individual. Whilst many schools have well established strategies to develop their teaching staff, not all schools put the same investment into the professional development of all their school business manager or support staff to enable them to develop their leadership potential and contribute fully to school improvement.     
We would urge all schools to develop a CPD and leadership development strategy for all their staff. Although the age profile of school business management professional is changing, a significant proportion of the workforce is nearing retirement and succession planning and ‘growing your own’ are equally relevant for non-teaching staff.

Changes to School Business Management Qualifications
The School Business Management (SBM) programmes run by the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) have been instrumental in developing the skills and leadership potential of the profession, training over 11,500 since their introduction in 2002.  
In April 2014, NCTL announced a move away from a licensed approach for the delivery of SBM programmes. Content from the Certificate of School Business Management (CSBM), Diploma of School Business Management (DSBM) and Advanced Diploma of School Business Management (ADSBM) has been made freely available with the expectation that a number of training providers will run the programmes independently. NCTL will no longer manage the programmes and accreditation will be overseen by an awarding organisation, the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM). At the same time, the qualifications will now be known by their awarding body titles. CSBM will be known as the Level 4 Diploma in School Business Management, DSBM as the Level 5 Diploma in School Business Management and ADSBM as the Level 6 Diploma in School Business Management.
This change in approach does create an exciting opportunity for the profession to take ownership of its leadership development and the introduction of a wider range of training providers may bring about greater flexibility and choice in delivery of the programmes.

Equally however, a greater market can result in greater variation in quality and we would advise all school business management professionals to consider carefully their choice of provider to ensure that they receive the best training.  
Despite the changing role of NCTL, the government’s commitment to ensuring that the role of school business managers remains as a critical element of effective school leadership and school improvement has been signalled by the launch of the school business management national scholarship scheme. This scheme runs until 2016 to help school business management professionals to secure some funding towards the achievement of the three SBM qualifications.

Preparing leaders for the future
ILM recently carried out an investigation into what managers and leaders need to know, do and be if they are to be successful in five years’ time. They found that although the core competencies required of managers and leaders – communication, people management, organisation and planning – were largely unchanged, the context in which those core competencies will be deployed is changing significantly. There is a faster and more diverse communication environment, more complex relationships to maintain with staff, customers and stakeholders, an end to 9.00am to 5.00pm working parameters – for many managers there is no clearly defined end to the working day, rapidly changing job roles and increasing regulatory scrutiny and accountability.
Although the managers surveyed for this research were mostly working outside the education sector, the findings are equally relevant for school leaders. Many senior school business management professionals find themselves on call long after 5.00pm, are now working across groups of schools, are responsible for a wider range of school functions and larger, more dispersed teams, and alongside greater autonomy and responsibility, face greater scrutiny and public accountability.
As part of their research, ILM also asked managers to identify the functions they felt were done badly by peers and the functions that they had prioritised for their own professional development. Interestingly the top three functions identified as most often being done badly by their peers included clear communication, effective planning and dealing with conflict in the workplace. The top two functions that were prioritised for personal professional development mirrored this, and included clear communication and effective planning. Perhaps more surprisingly, dealing with conflict was not identified as a priority area for personal professional development, even though it was identified as one of the functions most often being done badly by peers. Clearly peer feedback can provide a useful addition to the self-identification of CPD needs.

In the context of the leadership and the workplace, communication is more than the accurate transfer of information: it is the means to create trust within diverse and complex working relationships. Managers and leaders who can build and sustain a relationship or ‘conversation’ with their staff, customers, suppliers and stakeholders will have an advantage in the workplace and all leaders in schools could usefully reflect on their skills in this area.
Professional development is clearly not a once only activity and even well-qualified school business management professionals need to regularly update their technical and core managerial and leadership competencies to respond to the new challenges they face. Equally important is the development of coping skills such as stress and time management to retain a work/life balance as roles evolve and responsibilities increase.
NASBM provides a wide range of training for school business management professionals at all stages of their career.

Further information