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OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020 / ISSUE 160

ISSUE 160

EDUCATION EXECUTIVE

EDUCATION EXECUTIVE INTER-SCHOOL COLLABORATION How can collaborating with other schools benefit yours?

A STEEP LEARNING CURVE Kieren Done reflects on his new role as an SBM

Supporting business and f inancial excellence in schools and academies October/November 2020

TURNING A HEALTH AND SAFETY NIGHTMARE INTO A DREAM What to do when disaster strikes

THE SBM THROUGH THE AGES As education changes, so does the role of the SBM

Get match-ready for

LEARNING CURVES  COLLABORATION  VALUE ADDING

COVID budget challenges Budgets were already tight, but now they are even tighter

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Contents 06

Leadership by example {LEADING FROM THE FRONT}

NEWS Latest school business management news in brief

We all belong With the situation for SEND pupils – in terms of facilities and funding – in England’s schools increasingly under the microscope, NELL WALKER spoke to ALISON HELM, headteacher at North Beckton Primary School, about the much-needed upgrades she has been able to make to the school thanks, in part, to a progressive and supportive borough council

08 NEWS REPORT The realities of the ‘catch-up’ fund News and views {BIG ASK}

Inter-school collaboration Inter-school collaboration can be mutually beneficial and help all parties flourish – but how, exactly? We asked our readership about their exepriences

Maggie Duncan School business manager The Redeemer CE Primary School

10 12

We are a two form entry primary school that has helped many schools, locally, through school improvement groups and school-toschool funding through our teaching school status. In 2013 we were asked to help a small local rural primary school with leadership and teaching and learning and, in 2014, we entered into a collaboration agreement with the school to provide leadership and support. We provide the school with an executive headteacher and it is run, day-to-day, by two part-time assistant headteachers, one of whom is a very experienced SENCO. We also provide time from our family worker, ICT manager, higher level teaching assistant and cleaner. We have fully seconded a teaching assistant to the school for a child with a specific educational and health care plan. When we entered into the agreement the school had only 40 children and now, due to the relationship with our school, and the fantastic work their own staff have done to move the school forward, there are 62 on roll. The two schools have really benefitted from the pros of collaboration. They have made savings with group procurement, undertaken training together, gone on school trips together, taken part in workshops

together, cut down on administration by sharing policies and procedures and constantly share knowledge and expertise across the schools. This means the children are able to access a wider range of teaching and learning, take part in more life experiences and make relationships outside of their own cohort. The small business that operates the afterschool club at our school has also achieved higher numbers of attendance due to the other school sending children to the provision. It really is about teamwork. In these current, unprecedented, times, the collaboration has really shown its strength by allowing our school to become a hub for the children without the undue stress of an unknown venue with unknown adults in the same building. We have kept our staff as safe as possible by joining the two teams onto one rota, meaning staff members can still provide a childcare service for our children of keyworkers and vulnerable families, while only attending the school very minimally.

October/November 2020

BIG ASK: INTER-SCHOOL COLLABORATION How can collaborating with other schools benefit yours?

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14

22

{ARTICLE TITLE}

GET MATCH-READY FOR COVID BUDGET CHALLENGES Val Andrew and Tina Brown, of School Business Services, discuss the challenges facing SBLs

18 TURNING A HEALTH AND SAFETY NIGHTMARE INTO A DREAM What do you do when disaster strikes your school building?

24 VALUE ADDING FINANCIAL SUPPORT Paul Leigh, CFO of Focus-Trust, explains why financial thinking must be at the forefront

MANAGEMENT Management {SUPPORT SYSTEM}

The value of support in a time of crisis

20

Schools have to be in close contact with parents – in both directions – whenever the need arises. There are a hundred different scenarios which can come up that require urgent communication but, in this digital age, has your school adapted to ensure it’s embracing all of the ways that can make this communication easier? ROYDEN GOTHELF, of RightICT, explains why – and how – engagement needs to be improved

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Many of us have had our professional – not to mention personal – lives turned upside-down recently, which means we need support more than ever. We’re all in this together, after all. So how can we help one another in a time of crisis? LAURA WILLIAMS, of LJ Business Consultancy, explores

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t the time of writing, we are at the start of what appears to be a long period of disruption both professionally and personally. By the time this is published, I honestly don’t know what life will be like for us; what I do know is, that by the time you read this, regardless of where you are or what is happening around you, you will need support.

For much of our time we SBLs have our heads down and our sleeves up fighting the good fight – but it’s easy to get stranded on the battlefield and find ourselves lost and exhausted in the commotion. I’m writing this to remind you that, whether you’re at work or at home, or whether you’re in the midst of, or wearied from, the battle, there is help out there. Here are some resources to help you patch up your wounds, settle your mind and stay connected.

October/November 2020

IMPROVING DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT WITH PARENTS – HOW AND WHY Has your school adapted to make communication easier?

40 60 SECONDS WITH Conny Brandt, SBM at Peterhouse School, discusses duck-herding –among other things!

32 BETTER INTERNET, BETTER EDUCATION We speak with two schools which are benefiting from an internet boost

36 Edtech co-production: valuable partnership, or burdensome bother?

EDUCATION EXECUTIVE INTER-SCHOOL COLLABORATION How can collaborating with other schools benefit yours?

A STEEP LEARNING CURVE Kieren Done reflects on his new role as an SBM

Supporting business and f inancial excellence in schools and academies October/November 2020

TURNING A HEALTH AND SAFETY NIGHTMARE INTO A DREAM What do you do when disaster strikes

THE SBM THROUGH THE AGES As education changes, so does the role of the SBM

Get match-ready for

LEARNING CURVES  COLLABORATION  VALUE ADDING

THE VALUE OF SUPPORT IN A TIME OF CRISIS How can we help one another in times of difficulty?

October/November 2020

LIVE IT Close your eyes. Inhale. Count to five… now exhale. Time to take a few moments out for some light and interesting reading – a well-earned break from numbers and statistics

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020 / ISSUE 160

THE SBM THROUGH THE AGES The Working SBM ruminates on the ways in which education and the SBM role have changed

Improving digital engagement with parentshow and why

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LIVE IT

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ICT matters

October/November 2020

WE ALL BELONG Alison Helm, headteacher at North Beckton Primary School, discusses SEND provision

ICT MATTERS

EDUCATION EXECUTIVE

A STEEP LEARNING CURVE Kieren Done, SBM at St Ambrose College, reflects on his new role

14

FINANCE

ISSUE 160

LEADERSHIP BY EXAMPLE

NEWS & VIEWS

COVID budget challenges Budgets were already tight, but now they are even tighter

WWW.EDEXEC.CO.UK

On the cover Stretching an already tight budget Val Andrew and Tina Brown, of School Business Services, discuss the challenges now facing SBLs


Editor’s comment Congratulations! You have made it through the first half term of the 2020-21 academic year - and what a year it is turning out to be! It may have been one of the most challenging and different starts to a school year, but you have got through it, and have managed to keep everything running smoothly despite many bumps in the road presenting themselves along the way. Although there are many uncertainties at the moment - which are likely to be with us for a while longer - one thing that is certain is that, without you, your school wouldn’t have been able to navigate through these difficult times as well as it has. We all know that in challenging times it is best to work together and our BIG ASK this month looks at inter-school collaboration, and how teaming up with other schools could benefit yours. We then speak to Kieren Done, who has recently begun his role as an SBM, and take a look at how his expectations compare to the reality of the job. Alison Helm discusses how working with a progressive borough council has transformed SEND funding and facilities in her school and Mark Tilling tells us about the time he turned a health and safety nightmare around (it involves a roof flying off!) The working SBM gives us her view ‘from the engine room’ and delves into the past, present and future of the education landscape and how it might impact the role of an SBM. We then talk all things money, including why those dealing with finance must be at the forefront of all decision-making, and how to make your budget work when it is under increasing pressure, and Laura Williams steps up next to emphasises the value of support during times of crisis. In ICT MATTERS this month we look at how to improve digital engagement with parents, why improving your internet can improve pupils’ education and how a partnership with a vendor can be beneficial across the education sector. Finally, we wrap the issue up with our LIVE IT selection, which includes 60 seconds with Conny Brandt who tells us why the SBM community on Twitter inspires her. As always, we’d love to hear any suggestions you have for the magazine. If you’d like to get involved with EdExec, or if you’d like us to cover a certain topic, please do let us know. Contact eleanor@intelligentmedia.co.uk or tweet @edexec with ideas, opinions or success stories.

Education Executive is the first business management magazine written exclusively for school business managers and bursars, bringing you the latest issues affecting your role, from finance to premises, procurement to HR. EdExec delivers the lowdown on all the hottest topics in education management right here, every month.

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Graphic designer Amanda Lancaster alancasterdesign.com

Editorial

Editorial assistant and social media lead Ellie Potter eleanor@intelligentmedia.co.uk

Sales

info@intelligentmedia.co.uk

Publisher

Vicki Baloch vicki@intelligentmedia.co.uk

ED EXEC EDITORIAL TEAM We want to hear from you! Is your school doing something wonderful? Do you have an opinion or experience you’d like to share? A story suggestion? Or some advice you’d like to share with your peers? Get in touch – email eleanor@intelligentmedia.co.uk

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Education Executive is published by Intelligent Media Solutions Intelligent Media, 115 Mare Street, London, E8 4RU Tel 020 3794 8555 | Fax 020 3794 8554 Email info@intelligentmedia.co.uk Web www.intelligentmedia.co.uk


Contributors The education sector can be difficult to navigate at times, and those in school business management play a pivotal role in steering schools to success. Tasked with everything from finance and procurement, to HR and admin, you keep the education cogs turning. Education Executive addresses the most pressing matters faced by SBMs, offering meaningful insights and practical advice – essentially, all you need to run your school. Our contributors, drawn from the Education Executive team and sector innovators and experts, offer invaluable business insights from both the sidelines and front line.

ELEANOR POTTER Editorial assistant Education Executive

ROYDEN GOTHELF Director RightICT

EMMA GRAY Finance director Cotswold Beacon Academy Trust

PAUL LEIGH CFO Focus-Trust

LAURA WILLIAMS Consultant LJ Business Consultancy

NEWS STORIES RESOURCES EXPERT BLOGS

EDUCATION EXECUTIVE


News and views {NEWS}

NEWS Number of children applying for free school meals rises

As reported by The Guardian, there has been a surge in the number of UK children registering for free school meals. According to food poverty campaigners, an estimated one million pupils have recently signed up for free school meals for the first time. Analysis by the Food Foundation think tank, released as part of footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to end child food poverty, has estimated that as many as 900,000 more children have sought free school meals - this is on top of the 1.4 million who were already claiming. As a result of these statistics, campaigners have urged ministers to prevent a growing food insecurity crisis for millions of children by widening eligibility for free lunches to all children up to the age of 16 whose families are claiming universal credit or other benefits. The Food Foundation analysis showed that, even when they were

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eligible for free school meals, many children were missing out on a hot lunch - the key meal of the day for children in poverty - due to COVID-19 restrictions in their school. Of more than 1,000 UK school-age children surveyed by the foundation in September, only 45% said their canteens were running as usual, and 8% reported their canteens were closed. One-in-10 said most pupils had been asked to bring a packed lunch, while 21% said canteens were only serving a small number of pupils.

Fast figures

900,000

more children have sought free school meals, on top of those already claiming, since lockdown began

Report shows LGBT pupils in Wales ‘need better support’ The Welsh schools inspectorate, Estyn, has urged schools to give better support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, according to BBC news. The findings of the report by Estyn – Celebrating diversity and promoting inclusion - found that LGBT pupils may suffer higher levels of bullying and isolation, which can affect their mental health. It makes recommendations such as tackling bullying and providing diversity training for staff. Finlay Bertram, 18, from Newport, said schools needed to do more for students. “There was no education on it - we hadn’t ever heard teachers say the word ‘gay’ before; people just didn’t know what LGBT meant,” he said. “It’s not just students that need educating, it’s teachers as well.” Constantly interrogated about his sexuality at school, he said some lessons were “just awful”. Eventually, Finlay said, it all got too much and he began self-harming, and also tried to take his own life. “It reached a level where it couldn’t get any worse; it was as bad as it could get,” he said. “There was no-one in school, not a teacher or anyone, that’s what was hard. There was no help or support.” Jon Wright of Estyn said: “It’s important that LGBT+ issues are addressed in the same way that ethnicity or religious belief issues are addressed. It needs to be part of the curriculum, not just a bolt-on, and young people need to see positive LGBT+ role models throughout their education.”


News and views {NEWS}

Nearly half of ‘catch-up’ fund remains unallocated

As reported by The Guardian, the £350m ‘massive catch-up operation’ pledged by Boris Johnson to help pupils affected by the coronavirus lockdown has run into difficulties, with 40% of its funding so far unallocated. An investigation by Schools Week has found that only £106m of the £350m fund will go towards the national tutoring programme (NTP) backed by Johnson, which aims to offer subsidised, one-to-one and smallgroup tuition for disadvantaged school pupils in England. But earlier this month only ‘hundreds’ of England’s more than 22,000 state schools had expressed an interest in signing-up to the programme, which launches in November. The investigation found that the DfE has underspent by £139m, and appears unlikely to find ways to spend it on tuition for the current school year as promised. According to a DfE spokesperson, the fate of the remainder will be decided by the government’s

spending review next month. Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Yet more sleight of hand from government. Again, they’ve overpromised but underdelivered.” In June, when the fund was launched as part of Johnson’s £1bn COVID catch-up scheme, £650m went directly to schools to help pupils aged up to 16. The remaining £350m was earmarked for a national tutoring programme during the 2020-21 school year. However, Schools Week found that just £211m of the £350m has been allocated, including £96m going to schools and colleges for students aged 16-19, with recipients able to spend it on their own staff and catch-up plans. Another £9m is reserved for early-years language intervention programmes. School leaders have been largely sceptical of the tuition programme, with most saying they would prefer to be given more funding to use on their own schemes.

News in News brief in brief „ Wales did well in making sure the poorest pupils had laptops during lockdown but, „ despite The Association this, home of School learning hours and in Wales College were Leaders amongst the lowest (ASCL) in the has UK, written a new to all study has found. Northern Education Ireland’s Policymain Institute analysis political concluded party that leaders support for children with reminding them additional of the learning needs ‘bleak was insufficient financial situation’ in all parts of the in UK. schools Disadvantaged in Northern pupils lost out most Ireland where and, there as the talks at were delays, and Stormont poor decisions, resume, with a the report said.view A rapid to re-establishing provision the of laptops and executive. internet routers The letter to from poorer pupils in ASCL Wales Northern is described Ireland as ‘commendable’, regional and officer, was due Robert to established local Wilson, structures, urges them the to take report said. Welsh action school quickly pupils to restore who did not have their the Assembly own internetin order that connected devices political weredecisions provided might with school laptops be taken andto 4G address mobilethe wi-fi under a £3m crisis. scheme. The letter concludes by saying that ASCL is „ A ban on residential keen to school engage trips further risks an ‘economic, with social local parties and to discuss cultural disaster’ how and thethe budget loss of crisis in 15,000 UK jobsschools unlesscan it isbe lifted addressed. by spring, ministers are being warned. A generation „ As reported of children by The risk missing outGuardian, on the, often maintained lifechanging, benefits schools of visits in England unless there are changes outperform to COVID-19 academies restrictions thatand have free left schools outdoor in education centres national dormant exams since taken at March. Some ofthe Britain’s end of Year poorest 6, and pupils – including pupils those in multi-academy from city communities – trusts are among do worse, those onwho stand to lose most. average, The figures school show. travelThe sector has beenDfE closed report since found March that and wants a change 64% of topupils continued at MATs advice preventing reached overnight the government’s educational visits. benchmark “It is a bitter standards pill to swallow, keeping in reading, our sites writing closed and while we see hotels, maths, boarding compared schools with and hostels delivering 66% nationally. the same Pupils’ overnight experiences, progress unabated,” in reading was said Jim Whittaker, belowthe thechair national of the average Association of Heads in 29%of ofOutdoors MATs, and Centres and a member above theofnational the trade average body UK Outdoors. in 20%.

October/November 2020

07


News and views {NEWS REPORT}

Ju s t 1 5 0 out of 1,000 promised mentors in schools before 2021 As reported by The Guardian, only 150 of the 1,000 academic mentors promised as part of the government’s £1bn education catchup plans will be in schools in England by the end of the year

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he remainder will be placed in two waves in January and February, in a programme due to end in July, prompting outrage from teaching unions who said the response was ‘completely inadequate’ to the scale of the challenge. The plan contained many promises when it was announced in June, including a national tutoring programme offering one-toone and small-group coaching by approved private providers. Headteachers have warned, however, that the £650m extra funding, amounting to £80 per pupil which will go direct to all state schools, will be wiped out by costs incurred as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Like the academic mentors, the private tuition strand of the £350m national tutoring programme – which offers subsidised tuition to

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October/November 2020

disadvantaged children - will not get fully under way until the new year. Headteachers said that, rather than waiting for a complex new system to be implemented, all the money should have gone to schools for immediate and more effective use. Russell Hobby, the chief executive of the teacher training organisation Teach First, which is recruiting and placing mentors in schools, confirmed that 150 would be in place in November after half-term; a further 400 would start in January and the rest in February. “We are on track at the moment. I think it’s probably not a bad thing that we wait a month or two to start this. Schools have got a lot on at the moment,” Hobby said. “The advantage of the mentors is that they are under the school’s control and direction. They are , and building on,

what the school is doing. This would have even greater impact if we can keep this going beyond the first year.” Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, described the 150 mentors as inadequate. “It should have been obvious to the government that the quickest, and most effective, way of supporting children and young people who have not been able to learn effectively at home during school closures was to give the money to schools. “Schools know their pupils. They know what’s needed. They would have used the extra money to put support in place now.” Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, is also sceptical. “It was always likely that the government’s decision to dedicate £350m to setting up from scratch a

If it is not fully up-and-running until some time in the new year, there won’t be very much time left to use it to support students sitting exams complex programme of tutors and mentors would be difficult to deliver in a timely manner, and so it is proving. “If it is not fully up-andrunning until some time in the new year, there won’t be very much time left to use it to support students sitting exams - and, the longer it takes to deliver, the risk is that it will become a largely pointless exercise.”


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News and views {BIG ASK}

Inter-school collaboration Inter-school collaboration can be mutually beneficial, and help all parties flourish – but how, exactly? We asked our readership about their exepriences

Maggie Duncan School business manager The Redeemer CE Primary School

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October/November 2020

We are a two form entry primary school that has helped many schools, locally, through school improvement groups and school-toschool funding through our teaching school status. In 2013 we were asked to help a small local rural primary school with leadership and teaching and learning and, in 2014, we entered into a collaboration agreement with the school to provide leadership and support. We provide the school with an executive headteacher and it is run, day-to-day, by two part-time assistant headteachers, one of whom is a very experienced SENCO. We also provide time from our family worker, ICT manager, higher level teaching assistant and cleaner. We have fully seconded a teaching assistant to the school for a child with a specific educational and health care plan. When we entered into the agreement the school had only 40 children and now, due to the relationship with our school, and the fantastic work their own staff have done to move the school forward, there are 62 on roll. The two schools have really benefitted from the pros of collaboration. They have made savings with group procurement, undertaken training together, gone on school trips together, taken part in workshops

together, cut down on administration by sharing policies and procedures and constantly share knowledge and expertise across the schools. This means the children are able to access a wider range of teaching and learning, take part in more life experiences and make relationships outside of their own cohort. The small business that operates the afterschool club at our school has also achieved higher numbers of attendance due to the other school sending children to the provision. It really is about teamwork. In these current, unprecedented, times, the collaboration has really shown its strength by allowing our school to become a hub for the children without the undue stress of an unknown venue with unknown adults in the same building. We have kept our staff as safe as possible by joining the two teams onto one rota, meaning staff members can still provide a childcare service for our children of keyworkers and vulnerable families, while only attending the school very minimally.


News and views {BIG ASK}

Alison Moon Trust business manager Veritas Multi Academy Trust

As an ISBL fellow, I quickly developed a network of SBLs on Twitter. This has offered a game-changing level of support where people share experiences and woes on a daily basis. More recently I have begun to collaborate in a new way; I was keen to develop a business manager offshoot from the ‘Kent MAT Alliance’ CEO group. This has complemented the virtual collaboration available and moved my practice to another level. What was evident from the start was that all attending were equally in need of a support network. The role requires you to be an expert in so many different areas, and we found that we had different strengths; for the first time, we had a sounding board. One of the most innovative ways of collaborating has been working through a programme of peer reviews. An initial trial was set up, with three of the trusts, to develop peer reviews. Three areas were identified to be

One of the most innovative ways of collaborating has been working through a programme of peer review included - school improvement, governance and risk and finance and resource management. The CEOs would carry out self-reviews with key personnel relevant to the area, RAG rating various aspects. They would then meet with the other trusts (along with the other personnel) to discuss the detail of the reviews, gain a flavour of how things are done in the other trust and a re-evaluation would then take place where necessary. This was a process where we were required to really look inwardly, and be honest about our practice. This was highly valued by all and a process that we intend to continue. I would certainly recommend collaborating with others. We are always learning. During this uncertain time the group has supported each other with a forum for questioning, seeking guidance and sharing advice and support, and working our way through learning how to conduct virtual meetings and how to set up new free school meals voucher distribution systems, among many other things – all whilst adhering to audit and compliance protocols.

Brian Herbert Business manager Ferrars Junior School

Collaboration has been a key word in education for the past few years, but how good are we at it? I’m fortunate to have some really good schools that are local to me so it gives us a great opportunity to work together. Catering I talk about this all the time! Getting together with three or four other schools, and employing your own catering manager, opens up endless opportunities and gives you so much flexibility with your food. We now have 37 food-based curriculum activities that are delivered by the CM. Moderation We have two teachers trained in moderating other schools, and we have a reciprocal arrangement. Area partnerships Eleven local schools are in a group; some are maintained and some are academies. We make decisions together and all the headteachers are in constant communication using Whatsapp. Half-termly meetings are well-attended, and a range of decisions are made as a group. Challenge inspections These are useful if you have some experienced leaders within a group. Our headteachers is a trained OFSTED inspector and will happily spend a couple of days at another school, challenging what they do, and asking the right sort of questions. These are just a few examples of what our school does, but I also collaborate through an email group with 20 other local SBMs which works really well, sharing information or giving an opinion. There are many ‘collaborations on social media, too, with colleagues from across the country sharing good practice or just staying in touch. The world really is a small place, and there is a myriad of help, knowledge and advice out there. It’s not for everyone, but the knowledge that you can gain just by talking to someone is great – which, in turn, makes your own school a better and more knowledgeable one.

October/November 2020

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News and views {GREY MATTER}

GREY MATTER

A steep learning curve Looking back at when you began your SBM journey, what did you think of the role? How did you expect it to evolve? Has it followed the path you believed it would? KIEREN DONE, SBM at St Ambrose College, is new to the role. Here, he reflects on his own expectations, as well as the realities, of SBM life

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ecoming a school business manager is not for the faint of heart. It is a unique role, requiring a unique skill set, working in a unique environment – but we wouldn’t still be here if it was any different. I began life as a teacher – yes, I worked on ‘the other side’; I loved the job when it went well but, longterm, I knew it wasn’t for me. I went to work in the regulation sector and then moved into the NHS as a senior business manager for a large NHS trust. It was great managing a huge budget and a large number of staff, but I really missed working in education so I decided to move to a local authority secondary school. I thought that being a business manager in a school would be the same as being a business manager in the NHS – how naïve I was! In the NHS,

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I drew on corporate specialist teams for support; the finance team, the HR team, estates, ICT, information governance, strategy, communications you name it, everything was covered by a central team. I was surprised, therefore, to find that all those corporate functions would now undertaken by one person - me! It was a steep learning curve. Luckily, my amazing headteacher was quite forwardthinking and she knew how vital the SBM role was. We shared an office and the two of us worked side-by-side to make sure the school ran smoothly – but this goes to an issue at the heart of the SBM role; is it realistic to expect one person to have direct responsibility for such wide-ranging, and sometimes conflicting, specialisms? How can that person be supported if no-one else in the school truly understands those specialisms?

My current school is a secondary academy. My job title is the same but the things I do day-to-day are so different. This is another key issue – how do we achieve broad appeal, and attract people into the profession, if there are inconsistencies in what the job actually is? The ISBL professional standards will help, but the inconsistencies cut to the core – some SBMs are SLT, some do not attend SLT; some SBMs are paid

How do we achieve broad appeal, and attract people into the profession, if there are inconsistencies in what the job actually is?

appropriately, some aren’t. The best thing about being a SBM is feeling like I make a difference. I successfully applied for grants which gave students some unique opportunities; I helped them through difficult times and I saw them grow over the course of a year (in return, they saw me speak nervously as I delivered an assembly). I feel that I can impact young people’s lives, whilst also undertaking an exciting business role. Not many people can say that. My long-term ambition is to be CFO of a MAT. I’m studying for an accountancy qualification and getting some really good CPD. I chose to be an SBM and I want to be a CFO. Perhaps that is key for the profession – making sure that people choose to join it, are developed, ambitious and successful.


News and views {SPONSORED}

ISBL appeal to government The last six months have polarised opinion on the best way for our education system to respond to challenges presented by this global pandemic which is, perhaps, the biggest national crisis in many of our lifetimes Stephen Morales, CEO, Institute of School Business Leadership www. isbl.org.uk

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t a national policy level, livelihoods and lives are held in tension. The rhetoric/mantra has shifted from ‘saving the NHS’ to protecting education and the economy. If education is one of two fundamental priorities, then surely proper investment in ensuring sufficient capacity must be the imperative. There has been much discussion about the growing attainment gap, and the urgency in recovering any lost education ground across the entire system. However, an

unreasonable expectation is being placed on school leaders to close the gap in very short order; to be expected to respond to unreasonable scrutiny and accountability on the pace of any recovery could prove counterproductive. Headteachers, school business leaders and teachers have worked relentlessly and with very little rest for the last six months. Many senior leaders in schools have no contractual entitlement to any annual leave, and have worked with only occasional days off since March. The education workforce is exhausted and anxious about the uncertainty, and continually wrestling with new measures as the virus continues its firm grip on society. School leaders should not be expected to make

The education workforce is exhausted and anxious about the uncertainty clinical, public health or other decisions based on epidemiological knowledge; advice must be definitive. We have consulted extensively with our members, and other stakeholder groups, and have received a frequent and consistent set of messages. Here at the Institute of School Business Leadership we are appealing to the government to consider the following principles as we continue the national effort to tackle the harsh reality of a virus that we are likely to have to live with for many more months - absolutely recognising the importance of setting reasonable expectations that will ensure children in our country have vital access to education. 1. Reduce accountability expectations – both administrative and pedagogical – to an absolute minimum. 2. C  onsider carefully the pros and cons of introducing inspections too soon. 3. M  inimise further data collection and returns. 4. C  onsider carefully the pros

and cons of reintroducing a testing and examinations regime, particularly up to year 11. 5. G  ive school leaders the space to manage recovery at a pace that is appropriate for their context. 6. N  ot only fund, but also support, schools in helping the most vulnerable children through road-tested and well-researched, sector-led interventions, including easy and sustainable access to remote learning. 7. R  ecognise that additional funding will be required in order for schools to meet the ongoing adjustments and challenges related to COVID-19. 8. E  nsure absolute clarity in relation to accountability for any infections, and their management thereafter in school settings. 9. E  nsure access to an effective testing facility for all schools – for both staff and pupils.

October/November 2020

13


Leadership by example {LEADING FROM THE FRONT}

We all belong With the situation for SEND pupils – in terms of facilities and funding – in England’s schools increasingly under the microscope, NELL WALKER spoke to ALISON HELM, headteacher at North Beckton Primary School, about the much-needed upgrades she has been able to make to the school thanks, in part, to a progressive and supportive borough council

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October/November 2020


Leadership by example {LEADING FROM FRONT}

M

aking major changes at a school – be they to do with people, geography or infrastructure – is never easy, but nothing important ever is. Currently, provision for pupils with special education needs

and disabilities (SEND) are about as important as it gets in terms of priorities for schools. The funding shortfall for these pupils keeps growing, and they are the ones who suffer as their families fight the good fight. Last October three families launched a landmark legal challenge over funding of

pupils with SEND, and lost their case, while experts continue to comment that support for SEND children is ‘in crisis’. Meanwhile, ombudsman Michael King stated that the number of complaints from parents relating to special educational issues rose by 45% between 2017 and 2019. Many schools are attempting to improve their facilities for these pupils, and make the environment more inclusive, as a result of growing need; while some are slowed down by lack of funding, some are, thankfully, able to forge ahead and inspire. North Beckton Primary School in Newham is currently undertaking a large-scale renovation which sees it investing heavily in its profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) pupils, working closely with the borough to create both inclusive curriculum and facilities that will benefit everybody – no matter their ability level. The new unit being built will house one large classroom and multiple feeder classrooms; this set-up will include a sensory room, supported by Variety, the Children’s Charity, and areas for physiotherapy, counselling, storage spaces and music therapy, all of which will be fully wheelchair accessible, kitted out with hoists and plenty of toilets and changing stations. On speaking to Alison Helm, the headteacher at North Beckton, she is quite frank about what originally prompted the desire to make this renovation. “The school received two ‘requires improvement’ Ofsted inspections, and one of the things that came out of these

was the vision for PMLD children,” she explains. “It was clear that the building was insufficient to meet the needs of these pupils; it was outdated, not fit-for-purpose and there was a lack of changing facilities. The building was 25 years old and not designed for modern needs, and it meant that these children’s personal targets weren’t being met.” These details were brought into stark relief in the Ofsted reports, including the fact that children – and staff – were losing a lot of time due to slow transfers between buildings. During this time of reflection Alison kick-started the conversation around how to ensure that North Beckton had the best facilities possible for 21st century learning.

A FULLYINCLUSIVE SPACE The space that’s being renovated was basically unused, despite being right at the heart of the school. North Beckton currently has 10 PMLD attending, but soon it will be able to cater for up to 16. Of course, all these facilities will also be accessible to the other pupils across the school – full inclusion is vitally important, after all – and Alison foresees this major change impacting pupils long-term. “Our school ethos is ‘We all belong’; this message is at the heart of the school and everything it does,” she explains. “While this renovation is about improving the outcomes of pupils with SEND, it’s also about supporting other children in understanding the needs of people within their community, and celebrating that these children are at the heart of our learning

October/November 2020

15


Leadership by example {LEADING FROM THE FRONT}

This facility not only gives them everything they need, but also opens up opportunities for the borough at large community in a wider sense. Obviously, there will be improved outcomes for pupils with SEND in terms of the teaching facilities and stimulating learning environment, but we have this vision of an inclusive model.” Alison’s proposed model centres on being a leading, inclusive school in PMLD provision, which she’s keen to share across Newham, as well as other schools across the UK educating SEND pupils. She aims to create partnerships with other schools that have similar needs, and wants to encourage their staff to come in and see, first-hand, the difference they can make. Clearly – and rightly so – Alison is extremely optimistic about the impact this renovation will have.

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October/November 2020

PUTTING THE PLAN INTO ACTION Newham is a diverse borough, in every sense, and is making a particularly strong drive towards SEND inclusion with its own inclusive model. Newham has, historically, aimed to give particular care to its special needs pupils – so, when Alison approached the borough council with her plan for North Beckton, accompanied by a determination to provide the best possible education and support to PLMD pupils, the council was in complete agreement and fully supportive. “These are the most vulnerable children in our local authority,” Alison explains, “and, therefore, they need the highest quality provision available to them.

This was part of our discussion with Newham; we pointed out that our pupils were stuck in a portakabin, and this was unacceptable, whereas this facility not only gives them everything they need, but also opens up opportunities for the borough at large.” Most important for Alison isn’t providing the facilities pupils need, or allowing them a broader education – it’s enabling them to ‘dream big’. “I think what’s really important is this idea of raising aspirations for children and their parents, and celebrating the successes of these children,” she says. The ongoing improvement in outcomes for children in mainstream education is a widely-accepted part of everyday life but, culturally, we don’t always apply this to our SEND or PMLD pupils. Quite simply, this is wrong. “These children might be looked at in a certain way, and underestimated,” Alison admits. “We have certain impressions of what they’re capable of but, actually, through the work we’ve been doing, these children are capable of amazing things. Pupils who couldn’t walk can now do so, for example, and children who were once very reluctant to board a bus now look forward to school trips. I think it’s important to celebrate the achievements of these pupils in a public way – it’s wonderful to challenge people’s assumptions.”

A GLIMPSE AT THE FUTURE While the renovation of North Beckton is, in itself, very impressive, it’s the maintenance of the unit

that will prove the biggest challenge – one which Alison is ready for. She has only glowing reviews of her school’s staff, and the support of the wider borough certainly helps when it comes to the longterm running of this part of the school. “We give our staff autism training, which is accredited by the Autism Society, and we share lots of SEND expertise amongst teachers and specialist support staff alike,” Alison explains. “It’s important that it’s not just the teachers, as there are a lot of support staff involved who work very closely with the children, so they have to have the right level of support, too.” Importantly, this training will be topped up, and regularly improved upon, and Alison is proud to add that the staff coming in to work within the new unit – both pre-existing and new – are excited about the work they’re going to be able to do. “They’re raring to go – we just want it built now!” she says. “That goes for the pupils, too. We’re confident that the space we are creating for PMLD students will be exceptional, so we can’t wait to unveil it.”

Stats and facts Age range: 3-11 Pupils attending (total): 560 Pupils attending (PMLD): 10 (with room for 16) Pupils eligible for Pupil Premium: 25% Reading scores: Average Writing scores: Above average Maths scores: Well above average


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Leadership by example {CASE STUDY}

Turning a health and safety nightmare into a dream When the worst happens to your school building, what do you do? What policies do you have in place? What if – for example – the roof flies off following a inspection that gave you the all-clear? That’s what happened at High Tunstall College – but headteacher MARK TILLING wasn’t prepared to give in to despair

N

o school business manager would contest the fact that top-quality facilities are vitally important for teaching and learning. Most

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October/November 2020

importantly, a school must be a safe place; under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have duties of care to employees, to pupils, and to contractors’ staff. This piece of legislation also includes the duty of care which contractors

have to their own employees, school staff, pupils and other contractors. Additionally, governing bodies have a legal duty of care to staff and pupils – in other words, the safety of everybody on school premises

is paramount. So, what happens when something suddenly goes wrong, and it’s an expensive fix? Mark Tilling, headteacher at High Tunstall College of Science in Hartlepool, found out the hard way; just days


Leadership by example {CASE STUDY}

after a condition survey was carried out by the DfE - which rated the building as A1 - the roof collapsed. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but the damage was devastating and Mark knew that it was only a matter of time before something else went wrong; the building was very old, and the A1 rating was actually upsetting to the school, because they knew it wasn’t up to standard. This was back in 2014. Mark was left feeling like he didn’t have a voice to complain about the damage, or the DfE’s rating, so he took extreme measures – he lobbied parliament for a new school making the destruction of the roof the best thing that could have happened to the school. “We had tried to secure funding through the conditioning the local authority provides, but it was never going to be enough,” Mark explains. “And, in 2010, when Building Schools for the Future was cancelled, we lost the new school building and facilities planned at that time. That was devastating.” Unsure where to turn, Mark approached the then MP for Hartlepool, Iain Wright, and the former assistant director of education at Hartlepool Borough Council, Dean Jackson, for help. Iain helped the Mark secure a meeting with the thenminister of state for schools, David Laws. Things were looking up, all of a sudden.

SUNSHINE THROUGH THE CLOUDS “Iain talked us through the parliamentary processes, and helped us understand

We ensured that safety was at the heart of what we did. This has given us a new lease of life the timescales we had,” says Mark. “Overall, he made us feel comfortable in a very unfamiliar situation.” The meeting with David Laws, and his advisors, enabled Mark and his team to state their case for 30 minutes, stressing that the building was not fit-for-purpose and providing photographic evidence of this. David, though interested and sympathetic, couldn’t promise them anything at that stage, but Mark had hope; High Tunstall College was an important part of the Hartlepool community, but it hadn’t been cared for and younger people simply didn’t have the facilities they needed. It was, however, six months before they heard anything more, but it was good news – the school had been placed on the Priority Schools Building Programme. In the shortterm, this meant soldiering on with what they had, and patching up along the way – and preparing themselves for the worst, just in case. The upside was that the team was able to examine the short, medium and long-term issues the school faced, and ensure it had plans in place to make the environment the best it could be. “We ensured that safety was at the heart of what we did,” says Mark. Finally, the funding was

allocated. Initially, High Tunstall College received £17.1m from the programme but, thanks to the college’s intake rising from 240 to 270, an additional £1.3m was added from the Local Authorities Basic Need Funding. Contracts were drafted, and the design of a brand new school began, with help from the DfE RSBP North East project team. “They really helped us to understand the process and, at all times, resolved issues that arose and made sure we kept to our deadlines,” says Mark. “This hard work has now resulted in High Tunstall having facilities to be proud of.”

A NEW DAWN In November 2019 the new school opened its doors to pupils. Mark describes this as “one of the proudest moments of my career”, and he remains in awe of the building. “It has given us a new lease of life. We extended the October half term by three days and, during that time, staff worked tirelessly to get everything transferred from the old school to the new. “The buzz was unbelievable. When we opened the doors for the first

time, we staggered start times to allow the children to have a look around and get to grips with their new classrooms.” The three-storey building includes new science rooms, a demonstration laboratory, creative design rooms, design technology and food technology classrooms and a food demonstration room. It also benefits from a brand new learning resource centre, where students can learn independently. There is a new, four-court sports hall, a theatre and dance studio, open-plan cafeteria and all classrooms feature interactive technology. “It’s a long way away from where we were back in 2014,” says Mark. “My advice to other headteachers would be that schools have to continue to press for what they want and need. By presenting our case, we were very wellpositioned, but you must use the democratic processes. Relationships are key in processes like this. “We’ve always been proud of the High Tunstall name, and now we have a facility that is befitting that name. Everyone is going to achieve better in the long-run.”

Make a plan The DfE website states that schools should have an emergency plan in place, including details on what happens if severe weather hits and/or significant damage is done to the school. This plan should cover procedures for incidents that occur both during and outside school hours, and preparation should involve risk assessment, planning, training, exercises and reviewing and keeping staff and governors in the loop every step of the way. Many local councils offer emergency training and the official incident alert team can be contacted at incident.alert@education.gov.uk

October/November 2020

19


Leadership by example {WORKING SBM}

THE SBM THROUGH THE AGES In this month’s View From the Engine Room, the WORKING SBM ruminates on the ways in which education has changed, politically, and the ways that it may change in the near future. What will happen to the role of SBM? And, more broadly, to the school landscape we know now?

A

few years ago I happened across a copy of Janet Finch’s book, Education as Social Policy, and snapped up the treasure. It is a ragged old hardback from a Bedford library that had been consistently out on loan from the day it was published in 1984. It’s

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October/November 2020

an absorbing read, full of interesting notations, notes in the margins and copious pencil underlining. I sometimes feel it is wasted sitting on my bookshelf alongside more recent school business manager handbooks and strategic leadership training guides. Finch’s book demonstrates the fact that education as an

‘industry’ hasn’t stood still since the introduction of the 1944 Education Act when the imminent end of the second world war prompted a social reconstruction, with education being one of the main pillars of the welfare state alongside National Insurance and the National Health Service. So many of the book’s conclusions of 36 years

ago are relevant today, in that education is still full of paradoxes, complexities and contradictions. The assertion still holds true that, even with ongoing reform - which was as consistent in pace then as it is today - the delivery of state education struggles to balance benefits to the individual with the benefits to society as a whole.


Leasdership by example {WORKING SBM}

Education – then...

...and now

1944 – Education Act, notion of ‘equality of opportunity’ through the provision of secondary education for all

2010 – Education Act - a school must not discriminate in relation to its admissions arrangements

1972 – School leaving age raised to 16

2015 – School leaving age raised to 18

1976 – ‘The Great Debate’ on education begins leading to increase in centralised control

1997 – Tony Blair’s three highest priorities in government are ‘education, education, education’.

1979 – Conservative government elected with a majority of 43 seats

2019 – Conservative government elected with a majority of 80 seats.

2019 – Conservative government elected with a majority of 80 seats.

2020’s – New Education Reform Act? New formula funding? Increased competition?

BACK TO THE FUTURE Winston Churchill once said, “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you can see.” Successive British governments have tried to promote equal opportunities in a sector that resolutely remains multi-tiered. Can this Conservative government, with its massive majority and mandate, finally devise a way to make education equitable in funding, delivery and resources? I’ve always been fascinated by the past and feel fortunate to live in a nation with a longrecorded history in which we can see tangible evidence of lives led from hundreds of years ago. My current school was established in 1887 and, in a previous post, I was as part of a school which was started in 1660. The buildings used then are still in use and I’m filled with wonder at the changes our schools have seen, the children they have educated, and the staff who have given their all. Of course, I’m most interested in the SBM role. Even in 1660, the school would have needed someone to collect the fees, purchase the chalk and get a specialist to fix the roof. They won’t have been known as an SBM, and they would likely have been doing something else alongside the SBM role, but we

Will the school go the way of the church, and cease to be the centre of our communities? would still be able to recognise them today. School business managers, in their many guises, have been quietly supporting the operations of schools since they first opened. This is the main reason why, during all the change we are experiencing today, I’m not concerned for the role of the SBM. Schools will always need an SBM. They may not be called that (and it has to be said, it is a relatively new name for the position) and they might be doing it alongside another specialism, but the SBM will be there, leading operations as they have always done.

A GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE I often wonder what my role might look like in another 36 years. Fast forward to 2056 – yikes! I shall be 89 years old! – and schools will be highly technical, probably virtual learning spaces. Paper will be a thing of the past. Teachers will be dramatically reduced in number and technicians

will be prevalent. My hope is that children will still need to come into a school for the social interaction skills and physical education, but who knows whether their friends will be virtual too? Will the school go the way of the church, and cease to be the centre of our communities? How are individuals going to be educated for the benefit of society, as well as themselves, in the future? In a technical world, will the ‘playing field’ actually become more level, with the same access to education whatever your background? The thing about being interested in history is that it inevitably means you are also interested in the future. Working in a school means we live tangibly with the future every day in the eyes of eager young people who mostly can’t wait to be ‘big’ and start their

own lives. It is easy to become jaded with the constant cycle of change and ‘new’ ideas that often don’t seem so new to us. I think it is important to remember that everything is new to the current cohort of children and parents who only want the best and most financially efficient education we can afford to give them. I don’t think the role of the SBM is in danger. I believe it will continue to evolve and react to the requirements of the education policy of the time. We’re good at change. We need to get better at anticipating change and preparing ourselves with training, experience and adaptability. We need to encourage futures thinking and discourage the notion that we can keep things as they are. We need to work together, demonstrate our competency, and use our collective voice to shape the future of education. After all, nothing stands still in our industry – least of all our customer! WorkingSBM has worked as an SBM for over 14 years – ‘supporting constant change and running the engine room!’ An active member of the SBM community, you can find her on Twitter @workingsbm or you can read her excellent blog at https://workingsbm. wordpress.com

Education as social policy? Consider how important certain features of our education system are to a non-discriminatory social policy. School transport, free school meals and mainstream AEN support have always been seen as marginal to the core role of education, but they are clearly crucial to ensuring opportunity for all children, whatever their demographic or location. Can a ‘one-size-fits-all’ funding formula result in an equitable education system that delivers on benefits to society as a whole, or do we now need something that looks at local context and individual needs?

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FINANCE {COVID CHALLENGES}

Get match-ready for

COVID budget challenges Schools’ budgets were challenging enough before COVID came along. VAL ANDREW and TINA BROWN, of School Business Services, discuss the challenges now facing school business leaders

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chools have had to quickly adapt their operating models in recent months, delivering learning in radically different ways both on and off site. The introduction, this term, of new timetables, class and year group ‘bubbles’ and new site and staffing arrangements represents what is probably the biggest change to school life in decades.

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For finance directors and school business managers – juggling home working and family demands with their commitment to adapt and do the best for the children at their schools – the new spending requirements were difficult to predict, but now form one of their main priorities. Much time, currently, is being spent on managing the raft of extra spending needs to ensure that their schools

operate as safely as possible. These considerable additional requirements include new materials, PPE, staffing, site arrangements and cleaning measures to ensure the safety of everyone in the school environment.

PLANNING FOR FINANCIAL FLEXIBILITY The possibility of local lockdowns, class and year

groups returning to home learning for temporary periods and staff becoming sick, or needing to shield, means that there could be new spending requirements throughout this academic year. Although the government has announced new funding for areas like catch-up tuition, SBMs will have to make adjustments in their planning, reassessing their priorities to ensure the funds are


FINANCE {COVID CHALLENGES}

there to deal with unforeseen eventualities.

COVID BUDGET CHALLENGES SBMs are already well-versed in reviewing expenditure levels to inform future spending, assessing likely income levels for the next financial year, assessing priorities in the school development plan and seeking out where greater efficiencies

might be achieved. They now need to add to this list ‘Planning for the ongoing impact of COVID’. Areas for specific attention include: ● S  peed of responsiveness - as new guidance can be issued with little warning and require fast action for example, the ability to respond quickly to local lockdowns. The processes for responding to local lockdowns, and associated costs, should be written into budget projections for at least the next 12 months until there is more certainty about the potential for a vaccine. ● S  taffing costs arising from different levels of sickness absence, shielding, flexible workers, class and year bubbles and class reorganisation, all of which can be modelled to predict the impact. ● T  imetabling and attendance - many schools are rescheduling their timetables to accommodate social distancing guidelines and to ensure the learning environment is as safe and workable as possible. This will, inevitably, lead to parttime attendance in some schools and levels of parental confidence in the system could see more fluctuations in attendance levels. Unusual attendance patterns will need to be reflected in the autumn census data that drives funding for the next financial year. ● T  he cost of providing technology systems to support home-based learning, and home-based working, in the event of a further lockdown. ● C  atch-up support for pupils through one-to-one

The power of peer-to-peer support, and the sharing of ideas and best practice, has never been so important

and small group tuition, accessing the full funding promised, and making best use of it on eligible activities.  ellbeing and mental W health initiatives provided by external specialists may be an additional need for schools as pupils come out of several months without normal schooling.  ncertainty about U forthcoming reimbursements from the DfE/ESFA for COVID-related costs incurred to date, and into the foreseeable future. Registering for the latest DfE/ ESFA updates on gov.uk will ensure that you get the these as soon as they are issued.  hanging health and safety C situations, risk assessment processes and changes to normal routines in school, requiring additional equipment, training and even staff. This is one of the areas where schools could look at opportunities to share the cost through collaborative procurement.

NAVIGATING A NEW ERA Running budget planning scenarios is one of the best ways to do this because it means the SBM is wellprepared, and knows what the impact of different staff and site changes would be, and whether or how these can be paid for. What is more, the ability to benchmark costs and spending with other schools will be crucial.

Budget software nowadays takes much of the time and effort from this kind of scenario planning. It can help SBMs predict and prioritise spending on areas such as staff cover - which could increase due to illness - to inform financial decision-making. Budgeting systems should include something called ‘analysis tagging’ which is an approach that makes it possible to track COVIDrelated income and spend without disrupting your coding structure. SBMs shouldn’t forget the support and advice that will be freely available within local or regional professional networks and school support providers, where there are opportunities to share good practice and planning ideas. The power of peer-to-peer support, and the sharing of ideas and best practice, has never been so important. The SBM role is one of the most isolated in any school – so a network of supporting professionals is a lifeline for many. Finally, keeping on top of your professional development will also extend your knowledge and understanding, and help to ensure you keep your technical skills fit-forpurpose. And don’t forget the power of taking part in the coaching or mentoring of other SBMs – this can be a valuable support for isolated SBMs, and an empowering way of supporting your own professional development.

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Finance {FINANCE FIRST}

VALUE ADDING FINANCIAL SUPPORT

Is the finance function in your school considered to be vitally important - or is it a seen as just a ‘bolt-on’, process-driven afterthought? PAUL LEIGH, CFO at Focus-Trust, explores this very topic – and why those dealing with finance must be at the forefront of all decision-making

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here is little doubt that school budgets continue to be tight, and that the role the finance function in supporting school improvement is more important than ever; as such, highquality financial support should be on the agenda of school leaders. The role of the finance team has long since moved on from its traditional, back-office ‘bean-counting’ roots and now encompasses more

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Finance {FINANCE FIRST}

of a ‘business partnering’ approach where the team works alongside school leaders, shoulderto-shoulder, supporting them in making the best decisions possible in the interest of pupils. Many schools have grasped the opportunities to improve the efficiency of accounting operations by integrating financial systems, using electronic workflow, consolidating the number of suppliers and transactions and using modern reporting tools - and now, many are taking this a step further by transforming the decision-making support aspect of the financial support role.

HOW FINANCIAL SUPPORT FITS IN In this new world financial support can no longer be seen a ‘bolt-on’ function to the rest of the school, otherwise it risks becoming disconnected from the decision-making that drives school costs and income. Instead, the best finance functions act as a fully-integrated ‘business partner’ getting involved in key decisions at an early stage; after all, there is usually a financial implication to each decision! So, to provide a real value-adding service to school leaders, the finance team should really be involved in the decision-making process, and not just seen as processors of transactions resulting from these decisions. I am not suggesting that finance is involved in every decision; just the key ones and whatever works for each school in its own context. Let’s take a simplified look at the decision making process in the chart above. In relation to this, which stage of the process do you think is best for financial support to become involved? My view is the earlier the better and, ideally, at the ‘idea’ stage. Each stage shapes the next stage and, thus, if finance involvement is allowed to help at each stage, the more likely it will be that the final decision is better-informed. In particular, finance support can bring an extra layer of early challenge, an understanding of implications of decisions (such as costs, benefits, cash flow, profitability and funding sources). Finance staff can also use their wide understanding of different aspects of the school operations, and their analytical skills, to help develop each stage in the decision-making process, so the end result is a more workable, practical and affordable solution. This type of business partnering support can add real value and build upon strong support foundations and, of course, all financial transactions, such as paying invoices or collecting cash, still have to be well-controlled and processed in a timely and accurate manner.

Decision-making

IDEA

OPTIONS: FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS COST/BENEFIT ANALYSIS EDUCATION IMPACT

DECISION

ORDER/ CONTRACT

TRANSACTION PROCESSING & RECORDING

THINKING AHEAD There are also added benefits to getting involved in the decision-making process early as this can lead to conversations about resource allocation and how the school’s income is spent or allocated. It is important to avoid budgets merely becoming based on ‘last year’s plus’ and, thus, denying any opportunity to re-think priorities and re-allocate the available resources to ensure optimum educational impact. Financial plans should be integrated with educational development plans, staffing plans, IT plans and building plans - and must never become disconnected from these. When thinking about activities and impact, it is helpful to think about the link from the money used to fund an activity through to the final educational impact; this is not easy, and remains challenging, but the better the line of sight from money to impact, the better-informed decisions will be. Finally, getting involved in the early stages of decisionmaking helps build those important relationships in school and increases the visibility of the finance function, and value it can bring.

It is helpful to think about the link from the money used to fund an activity through to the final educational impact

About the author Paul Leigh is a chartered accountant and is the chief financial officer at Focus-Trust. He is qualified in public practice and has worked in education for a number of years. He is passionate about how the finance role can support school leaders in delivering higher levels of educational impact.

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Management {SUPPORT SYSTEM}

The value of support in a time of crisis Many of us have had our professional – not to mention personal – lives turned upside-down recently, which means we need support more than ever. We’re all in this together, after all. So how can we help one another in a time of crisis? LAURA WILLIAMS, of LJ Business Consultancy, explores

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y the time this is published, I honestly don’t know what life will be like for us; what I do know is, that by the time you read this, regardless of where you are or what is happening around you, you will need support. For much of our time we SBLs have our heads down and our sleeves up fighting the

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good fight – but it’s easy to get stranded on the battlefield and find ourselves lost and exhausted in the commotion. I’m writing this to remind you that, whether you’re at work or at home, or whether you’re in the midst of, or wearied from, the battle, there is help out there. Here are some resources to help you patch up your wounds, settle your mind and stay connected.


Management {SUPPORT SYSTEM}

SOCIAL MEDIA Reach out to colleagues on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. Wherever you are, and however you’re feeling, there will be others out there who know exactly what you are going through. Seek support for yourself - and also give it to others who need it. More than ever, we need to not only connect, but to also keep in touch with each other. We don’t have to talk ‘work’ all the time – but talking, communicating and sharing is key to our wellbeing and maintaining some semblance of ‘normal’.

EMAIL If social media makes you uncomfortable, and you don’t like the idea of sharing so openly, communicate via email - it’s a great way to keep in touch with people, as well as being more personal. Look at email as the modern method of ‘writing a letter’ rather than the formal, quickfire or salesy communications we’re used to.

PICK UP THE ‘PHONE/VIDEO CALL This might seem obvious, but many of us are used to firing off a text, or WhatsApp message, or waiting until we see someone in person to catch up. If this is isn’t an option right now, then we need to make a conscious effort to get in touch with each other. Whilst you might not ring everyone in your network, there are probably a few people that you know you can call or FaceTime with if you’re struggling to solve a problem, looking for inspiration or a safe space to vent!

START A BLOG Writing is a great way to organise your thoughts as well as share your experiences. Not only will it be of benefit to you, but it can also be of benefit to others. Generating discussion, encouraging reflection and enabling connections are just some of the ways that blogging can help people. If you don’t feel confident enough to write something yourself, then read what others are writing and jump into the conversation!

MAKE A PLAN Whatever is going on around you right now, although it feels permanent, it’s not. Sure, things will shift and, on the other side of this, things might look a whole lot different than they did before. But there will be a point when we will go back into our offices, with

We have a network around us – and, right now, we need this more than ever less uncertainty, put our heads down, roll up our sleeves and fight the good fight as hard, if not harder, than we ever have before. Think about how you can best prepare yourself for that – not just practically or professionally, but mentally and personally as well. By making a plan, we create focus and goals that keep us moving forward.

Advice at-aglance

ONLINE CPD If for whatever reason you can’t work, and you’re going stir-crazy, then think about using this time to do some CPD. There are lots of online providers and networks running courses, seminars, webinars and workshops on lots of different topics at relatively low cost (some even for free). By using this time to develop your skills and knowledge you will also gain a sense of purpose and achievement - and, when things do start moving, you’ll be ahead of the game and ready for anything!

READ This is one of my favourite things to do when I feel stressed or anxious. Whether it’s a classic you love to re-read, a bestseller you can’t wait to get stuck into or a non-fiction title designed to stimulate the brain, curl up with a hot drink and lose yourself in another world, or perspective on the world. Here are my personal non-fiction recommendations: ● D  aring to Lead – Brene Brown ● E  verything is Figureoutable – Marie Forleo ● Atomic Habits – James Clear ● C  onsiglieri – Richard Hytner ● T  he Alter Ego Effect – Todd Herman Things are changing so fast; there is a lot that we still don’t understand and to say we are in uncharted territory is an understatement. However, one thing I do know is that we can find strength in others. We have a network around us, and resources that we can access to help us connect, share and learn – and, right now, we need this more than ever. So reach out, pick up the phone, send an email, read a book, make a plan and learn something new. Be strong, be safe and stay connected.

„ Share your feelings/ experiences via social media or a blog. „ Call your friends and colleagues – human connection is vital. „ Improve your own CPD through reading, or starting an online course. „ Don’t keep your head in the sand – look up, ask for help and support others.

About the author With over 10 years of leadership experience in the education sector, Laura is an executive coach and trainer working with SBLs, headteachers and CEOs. A former COO, CFO and business manager with CIPD and specialist CIPFA qualifications, she is an expert in all things business - operations, HR, finance and governance. She enjoys eating chocolate, watching questionable TV shows and making lists.

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LEADERSHIP BY EXAMPLE How one headteacher turned the most deprived school into an outstanding-rated dream come true

Coming up in our next issue:

OUT IN JANUARY Read previous issues online at edexec.co.uk

CREATING A PROFESSIONAL LEARNING CULTURE Can your school boast a professional learning culture? Would you know how to

IN CELEBRATION OF QUIET Why quiet leadership is not the oxymoron it seems

HR AND SBLS – A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN? Where did your SBL journey begin and where does human resources fit into the story?

THE CHALLENGES OF IT PROCUREMENT Why procuring IT doesn’t have to be a ‘race to the bottom’

60 SECONDS WITH...

GREY MATTER

THE BIG ASK

A glimpse into the life of our SBL of the month

Where SBLs share their hard-earned knowledge

We ask the big questions… you share your answers

A VIEW FROM THE ENGINE ROOM More wisdom from the Working SBM


THE LATEST UPDATES AND DEVELOPMENTS IN SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY

SHAR WITH E ME IT M YOUR ANAG ER

Improving digital engagement In this digital age, has your school adapted to ensure it’s embracing all of the ways that can make this communication easier?

BETTER INTERNET, BETTER EDUCATION

TECHNO GEEK

Making sure you have the right internet

Is edtech co-production a valuable

package should be your first priority

partnership, or burdensome bother?


ICT matters {BETTER COMMUNICATION}

Improving digital engagement with parentshow and why Schools have to be in close contact with parents – in both directions – whenever the need arises. There are a hundred different scenarios which can come up that require urgent communication but, in this digital age, has your school adapted to ensure it’s embracing all of the ways that can make this communication easier? ROYDEN GOTHELF, of RightICT, explains why – and how – engagement needs to be improved

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ICT matters {BETTER COMMUNICATION}

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here has always been a need for schools to keep the parents informed; for example, on the child’s progress, on practical matters like uniform, term dates, open evenings, school outings, how to apply for the next key stage school or curriculum options, and so on. There has always been a need for parents to inform the school if a child is absent, why they are late, why they may want to leave early. Some schools have newsletters to keep parents informed on a regular basis, to communicate with home, and all schools have a website to keep parents and the wider community informed. With the website comes email, to make it easier for schools and parents to correspond. Some school websites have electronic payment portals to make it easier for parents and schools to manage payments. There are applications (or apps) that can be used by pupils to see what homework the teacher has set, and some of these apps can also be used to notify parents that their child has homework and when it is due; there is also an abundance of curriculum materials on the internet. This feature is entitled ‘Improving digital engagement with parents how and why’; the key part of this title is ‘why?’ Why do you need to improve on what is already being done? Consider the wider context of digital transformation, a topical term applied to a radical change to our lives and, certainly, applicable to the invention of

For many schools, engagement with parents is mainly doing what has always been done – but digitally and faster something that didn’t exist 15 years ago, like the smartphone. The term is also applied to a technology-enabled change that makes what we are already doing more efficient. Are schools being more efficient? Are they being radically different in the ways they communicate with parents?

CONSIDER SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT TRANSFORMATION IS IN SCHOOL: ● T  he

internet opened up access, for both teachers and pupils, to resources in teaching and school administration management. Paper post has been mostly replaced with email, for faster communication. ● D  atabases enable teachers to analyse progress data, receive data drops and carry out data analysis. ● E  lectronic banking removes cash and opens up the use of electronic payment. I would suggest that, for many schools, engagement with parents is mainly doing what has always been done – but digitally and faster. But transformation is happening; for pupils and teachers the data being collected and analysed about how the individual pupil learns is starting to provide far better insights to individual learning. This can be communicated to parents and can create opportunities for sharing insights - probably in the context of pupils’ ‘school reports’.

For school business managers and school leaders, the question to ask is not ‘How can I improve digital engagement?’ but more of ‘Why do I want or need to?’

PRACTICAL CHECK LIST: 1. W  hat is it that the school wants/needs to share?  hat is it that parents are 2. W asking for?  hat are the inefficient, 3. W or costly, areas of administration related to school/parent interaction that can be improved?  re there GDPR implications 4. A - for example, having permission to use contact details to send things out?  hat is the total cost of 5. W using an app (not just the cost of the app itself)?

Take home points

„ Think about what your school needs/ wants to share with parents. „ Consider the implications, including costs and security. „ Do your research! „ Embrace digital transformation, or you’ll get left behind.

WHAT IS EVERYONE ELSE DOING ? I have not researched the market for this feature but, given the difference between the 32,000 schools in the UK, and the published sales numbers of the leading education-specific apps, the indication is that, beyond website and email, the uptake is not that high. There is a big difference between sharing something because it’s easy to do so and sharing something that is important, and which parents want to know about it. So, focus on the needs, innovate, and then expect to see an improvement.

About the author Royden Gothelf owns RightICT, providing consultancy and training on education technology, working with senior leaders in schools, academy trusts and local authorities. Royden is a business mentor for EDUCATE.UK advising edtech start-ups, is a chartered IT professional and chair of a successful academy trust in London.

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ICT matters {CASE STUDY}

Better internet, better education

When considering how to upgrade the IT in your school, what’s more important – the hardware and software itself, or the internet? Making sure you have the right internet package should be the first priority, because it’s what underpins all of your other IT processes. We spoke with two schools which are benefiting from an internet boost, about why they needed it and how it’s improved their schools

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ICT matters {CASE STUDY}

I

t can be extremely challenging to keep up with the IT needs of your school or MAT. Edtech has evolved at a pace unseen before the last five years or so, and back-office requirements keep changing as processes become outdated and school business leadership needs broaden. However, one simple element which underpins all of this is internet connection; while this is straightforward compared with many other elements of IT, it’s important to know when this needs an upgrade. According to an AT&T Business article, Next-generation education networks: How much bandwidth is enough?, schools have been seeing their bandwidth usage skyrocket over the last few years, due to the pace of change. The Consortium for School Networking’s 2016 Annual E-rate and Infrastructure Survey showed that 27% of school IT leaders predicted a significant growth in their bandwidth needs over the coming 18 months, and that this would be driven by the number of students with multiple devices. It also projected that, by 2019, 65% of school districts – more than triple the number in 2016 – expected their students would use two or more devices at school. Suffice it to say, this prediction came true – but some schools still haven’t prepared for it, due to lack of knowledge or resources. Several thousand schools have recently benefited from a huge boost to their internet as part of LGfL’s Pledge 2020 project across its 3000-strong consortium

of UK member schools; the minimum connection speed for a primary school will now be 100 MBPS and, for secondary schools, it will be 500 MBPS. We spoke to two schools about why they needed to upgrade, the challenges they were facing and how the change has affected them.

Without help, this transformation would have happened at a much slower pace

When or how did your school identify the need for better connectivity? James Clark, headteacher, Exning Primary School, Newmarket We identified the need for an improved broadband offering over four years ago. After purchasing a set of 15 iPads we realised that, although we’d updated our hardware and systems within school, we were only receiving a maximum of five MBPS instead of the package described by our local authority (LA) as 11 MBPS. In order to work towards our longterm plan of a minimum of one device per two children, we had to look for solutions outside of our LA in order to solve our connectivity issues – this was where our journey began. Phil Hedger, CEO, LEO Academy Trust, Surrey For a number of years we have been very aware that, internationally, use of bandwidth is rising year-on-year. In schools across our trust there has been increased use of HD content, video streaming and virtual reality experiences, which was putting a strain on our existing resources, and leading to a poor experience for pupils and staff. Since September 2019 we have been delivering a Chromebook 1:1 programme across Key Stage 2 – and, with more than 600

Fast facts

65%

The number of school districts in 2016 which

expected their students would use two or more devices at school by 2019

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ICT matters {CASE STUDY}

Our students are at the forefront...increased use of HD content, video streaming and virtual reality experiences was putting a strain on our existing resources pupils utilising connectivity, our existing network was increasingly coming under strain. This was a critical point in identifying better connectivity as a prerequisite for a further roll-out of another 1300 1:1 Chromebook devices across the trust in September 2020.

Transformation Award in the annual LGfL Digital Excellence Awards. GSuite has significantly increased our productivity, and efficiency will continue to improve as our staff become more familiar with the many facets of the service. Phil: The new and improved service allows for increased automation across our schools, and fewer of the time consuming processes are completed manually. As a result, we are able to increase the time teachers spend on tasks which are directly aligned with pupil outcomes and to reduce staff workload overall.

How do you expect this upgrade in internet quality and security to impact pupils in the long term? James: The long-term impact of the upgrade in internet quality and security means we have the tools to continue improving our curriculum, ensuring that our technology offering is relevant This upgrade, ultimately, saves schools money – in order to fully prepare children for both the next how do you aim to invest further in your school, stage of education and their lives in an increasingly IT-wise, as a result of these savings? digitised society. James: Following consecutive improvements, we Phil: Access to high-quality broadband, and secure are investing our significant savings in keeping internet connectivity, bring wider opportunities our hardware up-to-date – we have purchased to our pupils – having supercharged connectivity 45 Chromebook laptops and two more class sets across all our of iPads. These devices are now fully-embedded schools helps us make use of cloud computing, within our school and, as a recent Ofsted 4K streaming and virtual reality. We have moved inspection team noted, ICT enhances the learning entirely into the cloud, saving money, reducing across our curriculum. We will also continue to staff workload and developing a more innovative invest in our virtual reality hardware and software approach to teaching and learning. The 200% in order to fully-develop this very exciting new boost in bandwidth now places our schools at the addition to our learning toolkit. forefront of digital connectivity in the UK - and Phil: In 2019/20 we have in the world. Most importantly, saved almost £100,000 by our children are kept protected Is your internet moving our day to day from dangers on the internet. fit-for-purpose? working practices into Our focus on online safety ensures the cloud. Without help, that our learners have a sound  oes it support D this transformation would understanding of the benefits multiple devices? have happened at a much of high-speed connectivity and  oes it support D slower pace; we are now also their responsibility to use the streamlined financial reinvesting all of the money internet respectfully and safely. and management we have saved back into processes? the classroom. We offer an How do you expect these  oes it meet the D unrivalled CPD programme changes to impact the staff and package guidelines of support for staff and, by back-office processes? laid out by your September 2020, we will James: Our move to the GSuite local authority? have 2,000 children across platform last year has had a really  ill it allow your W our trust working on their positive impact on the work-life school or MAT to grow? own 1:1 Chromebook devices balance of our teaching and support both at home and school. staff – we even won the 2019 Cloud

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Supporting administration and improving the learning experience

As schools, colleges and universities attempt the tricky balancing act of cutting costs while improving service levels, more and more are discovering the benefits of deploying Fujitsu scanners in the classroom and administrative offices. Enhance collaboration, productivity and GDPR compliance. Fujitsu offers a wide range of scanners, including sheetfed, flatbed and overhead models. Different models are suited to different applications, but all perform the same essential function, the conversion of printed and handwritten information into digital images that can be shared, stored and distributed digitally. Visit http://emea.fujitsu.com/scanners-in-education to find out more

ScanSnap iX100 ■Battery powered scanner for

scanning in the classroom, office or at home ■Wirelessly scan to a cloud account, smart device,notebook or email address ■Scan small documents such as permission slips or notifications simultaneously ■Choice of paper paths for flexible operation

ScanSnap iX1500 ■Scan everyday documents such

as forms & permission slips up to A4 & even A3 ■Scan colour, double sided & mixed batches of documents ■Simple in its operation, connection via USB to PC or Mac ■Intuitive & automated scanning & seamless distribution to a host of destinations such as email ■Bundled with OCR software for creation of searchable & editable files

ScanSnap SV600 ■Overhead contactless scanning

fi-65F

■Designed for easy & quick of loose documents up to A3, scanning of small documents bound material & pupil produced up to A6 ■Scan items such as a passport, material such as craft items ■Simple one button approach, ID card, driving license or small compatible with both PC & Mac slip ■Continuous scanning possible ■Scan in colour or black & white, with page turning detection & can be optionally powered by timed scanning USB ■Automated image enhancement ■Small footprint for installation ■Bundled with OCR software for in any environment creation of searchable & editable files

Please scan here for a YouTube hosted video featuring teachers talking about using scanners and the benefits of them in the classroom and for admin


ICT matters {TECHNO GEEK}

Techno Geek AL KINGSLEY, who has been a school governor for 15 years and is a MAT chair, explains why partnering with a vendor to develop technology solutions for your school can pay off enormously

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alking to educators about co-production – vendors and schools working together to develop new technologies – leads to a range of reactions from enthusiasm and excitement to outright eye-rolling. I think I understand why. Done right, co-production benefits the school as much as the supplier, giving preferential, perfectly-tailored and costeffective access to state-of-the-art technologies. Done wrong, it can be resource-draining. In my position as leading both a MAT and a vendor, NetSupport, I see both sides of the coin. For schools considering a co-production partnership, there are two key questions to ask.

in the education community really matters. Do they understand and have experience within education – putting time and effort into understanding educational needs - or are they on the periphery, simply selling in? That means asking probing questions about their background, external roles, what impact, evidence and research do they have to support their approach? Don’t be drawn in by the latest buzzwords. You need to be confident that they are as grounded in education as they are in technology, and have evidence of the success and impact of their solutions.

1. WHAT ARE THE VENDOR’S REAL INTENTIONS?

Before engaging in any edtech project, schools need to ask; does this align with our digital strategy? If your school hasn’t defined its digital strategy, then be very wary of committing to any edtech project until you have! At its simplest, a digital strategy is a plan of what you

In education, co-production is fundamental to making sure suppliers deliver what teachers actually need, rather than what they think teachers need. Whether the vendor is entrenched

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2. DOES THE PROJECT ALIGN WITH OUR SCHOOL’S DIGITAL STRATEGY?

want to achieve, and why. With this in hand you can then assess whether co-production will pay off. There’s little point agreeing to put effort into testing an application which doesn’t result in impact where you need it.

3. WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT, AND HOW CLOSELY TO ENGAGE? Every co-production project will be different. It could involve working with an existing supplier on current solutions, testing new or refined features. Teachers will already be using the product, know its strengths and weaknesses and may already have clear ideas for improvement and evolution. Alternatively, it could be beta testing a product, putting a solution through its paces prior to release, providing early access to discounted, or free, versions of new technology. It might involve starting at the drawing board and helping shape a new solution to meet a current need. However, testing or collaborating on specification can create extra work for teachers, who will need

to be trained, and commitment to reporting and providing feedback. This is why it’s so important to reflect on your digital strategy. Will the time and effort required get us closer to our goal? If it aligns, make sure you understand, and agree with, the level of support and training teachers will be given, the mechanisms to enable fast, streamlined feedback and the added extras you’ll access as part of the scheme.

4. DON’T BE GUINEA PIGS, BE PARTNERS Let’s be clear: co-production is about shaping and polishing solutions so they are the best they can be - that means suppliers must be transparent about why the technology exists and any issues they are seeking to solve. With this in mind, coproduction is not about putting ill-designed, half-finished products in the classroom, using students as human guinea pigs! No supplier should expect a school to risk student attainment, or teacher wellbeing, in this way – if they are, walk away.


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Live it

LIVE IT Time to take a few moments out for some light and interesting reading – a well-earned break from numbers and statistics!

The bigger bang: most powerful explosion ever seen detected by astronomers The Independent has reported that scientists have detected the biggest explosion the universe has ever seen. The blast was detected in a galaxy 390 million light years away, and the explosion originated from a super-massive black hole and left a crater big enough to hold 15 milky ways - making it five times bigger than the previous record-holder.

“We’ve seen outbursts in the centres of galaxies before but this one is really, really massive,” said Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, of the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research. Scientists say they do not know why it was so big, but the blast is believed to be over by now - having taken place hundreds of millions of years ago.

Real life ratatouille: how rats are evolving to mirror humans Sky News has reported that rats in New York have undergone parallel shifts in their genetic makeup in response to city life. The study, lead by Columbia University population geneticist Arbel Harpak, analysed 29 brown rats in New York and found that rats are now prone to similar health threats to humans, such as pollution and eating sugary foods. They compared the New York rats with rats from Heilongjiang, northeast China, where the species originated. Through the comparison they found that several dozen of the rats’ genes had shown major DNA changes. The researchers say the city-dwelling rats are now so closely linked with their human counterparts that it is possible that similar

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October/November 2020

The pawpose behind dogs’ cold noses revealed by scientists As reported by Sky News, scientists in Sweden and Hungary believe they have solved the mystery around why dog’s noses are so cold. The researchers found that dogs’ chilly sniffers are due to the nose being an ultra-sensitive heat detector, and not anything to do with body temperature regulation as previously thought. Their study, published in the Scientific Reports journal, states that when the temperature was 30°C, a dog’s nose was 5°C cooler. It also showed that a dog’s nose can detect very faint heat sources, such as those of small animals, from 1.5m away. So the next time your dog nuzzles you with their frosty snout, you’ll know why it is so cold!


Live it

Treat yourself SELF-LOVE CLUB BY PEER SUPPORT SPACE 6 November Self-Love Club groups are centered around issues of self-acceptance, unpacking unhealthy beauty standards, exploring how these issues can affect our relationships with food, striving towards acceptance of self and challenging constructs that have limited the ability to love ourselves.

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EVERY KID CAN COOK BY HEALTHY LITTLE COOKS 19 November Help your kids get a taste of what it’s like to be a #BossKidsCook! During the monthly cooking classes, your child(ren) will learn how to cook healthy recipes independently, learn fun nutrition facts and re-make their favourite recipes a little healthier.

Brad Pitt is swapping Hollywood blockbusters for a celeb home improvement show As reported by the Mirror, Brad Pitt has signed up to appear on Celebrity IOU, a home improvement show hosted by Property Brothers stars Jonathan and Drew Scott. In the show the Oscar winner will gift a home renovation to someone who has had a big impact on his life. The show will premier in May on HGTV in the US and will feature other famous faces

like Michael Bublé and Rebel Wilson. Jonathan said, “It’s amazing to see someone who is extremely successful be grounded enough to always remember the people who helped them get there.” Drew added, “Being a part of this show really hits home for us. This is what we love to do, transforming people’s lives through their homes.”

Well, knock me down with a feather!

LETTUCE EAT A BIT OF THAT: NASA says space-grown lettuce is ‘delicious’ As reported by the Independent, NASA astronauts have said that the first ever space-grown lettuce is safe to eat and is actually quite nice. The lettuce was grown during an experiment which involved crops being sealed in ceramic soil and grown under red LED lighting for 33 to 56 days. Gio Massa, who led the lettuce-growing project, said, “I think plants are going to be very important for the crew diet in the future and if we ever want to be Earth-independent. If you store packaged food for a long duration the quality, flavour and nutritional quality decrease and the vitamins degrade,” she said. “We can’t guarantee that they’re going to get enough nutrition right now.” As a result of the findings researchers have sent kale and cabbage seeds to the international space station to see if they will produce similar results.

October/November 2020

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Live it {60 SECONDS}

60 seconds with We speak to CONNY BRANDT, school business manager at Peterhouse School, about duck-herding and the SBM community on Twitter who inspire her What led to your current role?

Conny Brandt School business manager, Peterhouse School

I used to be the office manager at my school. Our headteacher was completely overwhelmed with her workload and we noticed that there were certain tasks that I was actually better suited to deal with, so my role was developed into that of the school business manager. I undertook the level 4 CSBM course and realised that the role was a lot bigger than either myself or the headteacher had anticipated! I love the challenge and the development opportunities that the SBM role has brought.

Tell me something unusual or interesting about yourself. I used to volunteer at scientific research projects during the holidays – I have studied mammals in Oxfordshire, basking sharks in Scotland, whales in Canada, brown hyenas in South Africa - and I helped excavate a medieval castle in Tuscany!

Describe your favourite aspect of working as a school business professional so far? Two things really – one is seeing something in school that is working well, whether it’s an effective procedure or a valuable resource, and knowing that I made it happen. I love being able to make a difference. The other one is the variety of the role; it never gets boring and you never run out of things to learn.

What’s been your greatest professional achievement to date? I started a project on staff wellbeing in 2016 which led to the school achieving the Schools Wellbeing Award in November 2018. As well as the formal recognition, it was great to see the positive impact the project had on the school.

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October/November 2020

How do you ensure that you continue to grow, personally and professionally? My role within the school has changed and developed a lot, and continues to do so. As my impact on the school grows, senior leaders within school, and within the umbrella organisation which runs the school, entrust me with more responsibilities. These, in turn, lead to new CPD opportunities and I attend conferences and training sessions whenever I can fit them in. I attend regular HR and finance forum meetings with our special schools network association and I spend a lot of time on Twitter!

Where do you take inspiration from, both work and life-wise? This may sound like a bit of cliché, but my dad was a big inspiration to me; his thoughts on taking responsibility still guide me in my day-to-day work. I am also lucky to work for an inspiring headteacher and hope to become as good a leader one day! I also admire many of my SBM Twitter contacts – their achievements, dedication and inventiveness illustrates what is possible in our role.

What three words would you use to describe your role? Varied, challenging, evolving.

If there was one thing about your job you could change, what would it be? I’d like to fit more hours into the day! Or, alternatively, have a bigger team of staff to spread out the workload. Neither one is about to happen though!

Funniest SBM moment you’d care to share? Probably when I got asked to herd a family of ducks out of the playground! 


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Manchester- 12th May 2021 London- 20th May 2021

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Education executive Magazine: October-November issue  

school business and financial management for schools and academies

Education executive Magazine: October-November issue  

school business and financial management for schools and academies

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