Exploring the role of the school business manager

The NASBM National Conference took place at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole on 18-19 November 2015, for two days of insight into the world of school business management.

The NASBM National Conference is the only two-day event solely dedicated to the school business management professional, where all content is tailored specifically to the audience, including national networking opportunities, high quality keynote speakers, interactive workshops, policy direction and practical tools to take back to your school.

Since 2005, it is estimated that the number of school business managers (SBM), as well as bursars, finance directors and finance officers has tripled in state-maintained schools. In fact, prior to the 2015 conference, the National Association of School Business Managers (NASBM) launched a report on the importance of such a role. Entitled ‘The Age of the School Business Manager’, the report describes the growing reliance of schools on SBMs in light of financial demands.

SBMs are now being integrated into senior leadership roles, an obvious pointer to the increasing value attached to the position. A result of this has seen the job move from completely in the corner of the office to far more front facing. Contact with parents, governors and stakeholders reflects the maturing understanding of the role.

New professional standards
The National Association of School Business Management (NASBM) believes that all roles within school business management, from Administrative Officer to Finance and Operations Director, should be supported by a set of professional standards.

Therefore, new professional standards for school business managers were launched at the event by Stephen Morales and Lord Lindsay, which will inform future CPD progression and career plans and will be used by schools to assess operational capacity. The new standards also act to formalise the value of the SBM in today’s schools.

The standards, which are not mandatory, set out the ‘core and specialist areas of competence’ required to be successful in the school business management professional role. Containing a series of values, ethics and behaviours as well as six individual disciplines, NASBM claims that the standards will define school business management. The disciplines are procurement, HR, infrastructure, finance, marketing, and leading support services.

The behaviours include decision-making, negotiating, collaboration, resilience and being ‘a challenger’.

These standards can be used to inform the performance management of school business management professionals.

However, due to the variety of SBM roles in each setting, the standards do not establish a baseline of expected performance. They therefore should not be used as a checklist or as a baseline, and any shortcoming with respect to the standards is not a basis for questioning competence or initiating capability.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “These standards go to show how far the SBM professional role has changed in the last five years, with SBMs working as senior leaders accountable for school business management, leaving heads free to focus on teaching and learning.

“The standards clearly set out the immense and valuable role played by SBMs in managing areas such as finance, human resources, premises management, procurement and IT.”

Sam Gyimah, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Childcare and Education, shared his hopes that the standards ‘will inspire more talented people into the school business management profession’ and ‘enable more schools to benefit from their talents.’

Conference Workshops
The 2015 workshop themes included: Financial Management; Procurement & Estate Management; Legal and HR; Policy and Leadership; Governance and Assurance; and Data Management, ICT and Marketing.

Workshops on Wednesday 18 included: ‘How to make cost savings and make your budget go further’ by the TES Foundation; ‘Exploiting the opportunity for change within the Finance Function, when creating or growing a Multi Academy Trust’ by Will Jordan of PS Financials; and ’Simplifying procurement - a master class in procuring and practical everyday top tips’ by ESPO.

On the second day, Thursday 19, workshops included: ‘Managing honest conversations with employees’, delivered by Schools’ Choice; ‘Making school meals count’ by the Children’s Food Trust; and ‘Operational Effectiveness’, by Chris Hallmark of OEE Consulting. Speakers at the event included Peter Lauener, chief executive of the EFA, Howard Jackson, Steve Cunningham, Frank Green, former national schools commissioner, and Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools. Speaking at the Conference, Peter Lauener urged head teachers and school business managers to ‘bring both agendas together so they are both serving the mission of improving educational standards’. He said: “Standards are a key part of meeting the challenges that you all face in the next few years. Head teachers need to lead these financial and organisational challenges just as much as they need to lead the challenge of raising education standards in schools.”

One attendee at November’s conference said: “This was my first NASBM Conference and I was so very impressed with the exceptional quality of the speakers, including those exhibitors who presented workshop sessions.

The presentations by Danny Crates & Steve Cunningham were also truly motivational and inspiring.

“Also all of the exhibitors were relevant to our roles as SBM’s. I’ve already shared with my Headteacher this morning that this is one of the best and most effective conferences that I have attended. Amazing and very useful experience – thank you!”

Exhibitor experience
The 2015 Conference was one of the biggest yet, with more delegates, new first time visitors and a wide range of new suppliers – creating a infectious buzz at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole. Exhibitors at the Conference included Amadeus; Langley Waterproofing Systems; BlueSky; PS Financials, who discussed ‘Exploiting the opportunity for change within the Finance Function, when creating or growing a Multi Academy Trust’; Civica with their Resource Financials; Capita SIMS; Bodet; and the Association of School and College Leaders.

The 2016 Conference will take place on 8-9 November 2016.

Further Information

Supplier Focus


Education is our heritage, for five decades we’ve been providing better value to 30,000 schools. By working with a variety of leading UK suppliers to provide you with a large range of good quality products and services, from art supplies, curriculum products, furniture and EdTech products, to supporting you in setting up compliant contracts for things like electricity, utilities, and cleaning. We can provide you with everything you could possibly need, making it easier for you.