There’s surely not a professional in the country, in any sector, who can’t benefit from receiving support and guidance from another practitioner at some point in their career.
Being a professional entails recognising that you don’t always have all the answers, and are constantly working to develop and grow your knowledge and experience.
One method of achieving this is by engaging and networking with peers in the same profession, and school business leaders are no exception. In actual fact, many parts of the country play host to local school business professionals’ groups, some of which have been operating for more than 20 years. That may come as a surprise to some, who until recently will likely have received most of their advice and support from their LA.
These local network groups will typically be run by experienced practitioners, and often it’s only a lack of awareness and inability to identify them that stops SBLs benefiting from what they have to offer.
The DfE’s Schools Commercial Team is currently working on several projects aimed at supporting SBL networks, as per the aim set out in the January 2017 Schools’ Buying Strategy to “Provide all SBMs with a first line of support to ask questions and share knowledge at a local level.”
These include a networks directory that lists over 50 networks across the country with accompanying contact details. Leaders of any networks that aren’t presently listed can complete a registration form and have their group included in the next update. The DfE has also produced guidance on how to set up an SBL network of your own, based on the experience and insights of others who have done so successfully.
By joining and participating in a local group, SBLs will be able to benefit from peer-to-peer support, collaborative procurement arrangements and CPD opportunities. They can also receive better insight into local issues and what strategies might help to alleviate their impact, coaching and mentoring support and access to a forum for constructive debate around pressing challenges, such as schools funding and SEN provision.
If you’re an SBL but not yet part of a local group, I’d urge you to join one. It will bring you into contact with other professionals facing the same challenges, enabling you to mutually support one another, pool resources, share good practice and support the growth of knowledge across the sector.
The Institute of School Business Leadership encourages SBPs to join both their local group and national professional body. If local groups share information with ISBL, it allows us to include regional perspectives in our discussions with government officials.
Bethan Cullen is commercial director at the Institute of School Business Leadership