Due to the nature of the role, and the depth and breadth of responsibility that comes with being a school business leader, access to quality CPD is a must. The main issue with SBL CPD, however, is that it often solely targets the attainment of qualifications or knowledge acquisition.
This is important, but CPD to support the application of such knowledge in context, along with the personal development of critical skills, is too often neglected.
SBLs are solo operators, similar to headteachers. They may lead a number of teams and work alongside the SLT, but few in the school will have firsthand knowledge of what their role demands or the capacity required to deliver, which can lead to SBLs feeling isolated.
Giving SBLs opportunities to engage in coaching or mentoring will enable them to explore their strengths, priorities and challenges, while receiving advice and guidance from an experienced fellow professional. Working with a coach or mentor can provide SBLs with a much-needed practical and personal support system, which can in turn directly enhance their performance, capacity and impact.
Headteachers might be concerned at the cost, time and capacity required, but coaching arrangements of this type tend to be time limited, goal-focused and flexibly undertaken. Here, then, is my advice for headteachers who want to support their SBL in engaging with coaching or mentoring:
1. Set aside time
Schedule a meeting with your SBL where the sole topic will be their professional development. Block out the time needed in your calendar and ensure the meeting isn’t cut short or interrupted.
2. Discuss your SBL’s development
Ask your SBL whether they feel coaching would be of benefit to their development, and how you might be able to accommodate this. Your SBL may have previously considered coaching as a CPD activity but felt unable to broach the topic, or might not have previously considered it but be open to exploring it further.
3. Point them in the right direction
Signpost the SBL to a place where they can source a coach or mentor – perhaps through an informal arrangement via the local SBL regional network, or through discussions with SBLs in other schools. There are a number of independent and experienced SBPs out there who can provide bespoke coaching services.
4. Arrange a follow-up
To avoid both of you being bounced into making a commitment or decision, schedule another meeting once you’ve had an opportunity to reflect on what was previously discussed. This will also allow time for research into any options you’ve agreed to explore and potentially support.
Laura Williams is a former MAT chief operations officer and school business manager, and the founder of LJ Business Consultancy.