As academies take on more responsibilities in-house, the lengthy job description of a school business manager keeps getting longer. Yet many people in this role do not have specialist training for every aspect of the job and must learn as they go. That’s where the value of partnerships and collaboration comes in.
Many FundEd readers say they learn a lot from listening to the experiences (both good and bad) of other business professionals, as well as through the support and advice provided by networking and social media groups. Another increasingly popular source of help and insight is podcasts.
Some, such as Tim Warneford’s Developing The Trust: Joining The Dots series, are aimed specifically at school leaders and business professionals, providing fresh inspiration and ideas, as well as contextual information to plug any knowledge gaps. Warneford is a school funding consultant and his podcast discussions with leaders of professional services supplying the academy sector look at how to support schools in operational improvement, and maximise savings and investment to achieve Good Estate Management for Schools (GEMS).
‘The idea is to share experience and build communication channels so that academies are better prepared for what lies ahead and able to work in a more holistic and collaborative way with providers,’ he says. ‘For example, due diligence, when a trust considers taking on another school, needs to be far more comprehensive. Better coordination with solicitors, accountants, surveyors and funding consultants would help identify risks in advance of any merger, rather than later, when potential leverage opportunities have been lost.’
The podcasts also ask industry and education experts about how schools can secure funding, attract inward investment and maximise existing resources. This might cover legal advice on expanding a trust or the complexities of land disposal, as well as accountancy and banking input to optimise budgets.
In one podcast, Tim interviews James Robson, chairman of energy broker and ISBL Partner Powerful Allies, about the risks of energy procurement in an unregulated schools’ market. The podcast highlights the raw deals schools are getting and the fact that academies have little recourse if things go wrong. Robson suggests that schools should adopt a more sceptical approach and challenge brokers who contact them, as well as ensuring the contract they end up with matches their needs.
Tim also interviews Janice Finnimore, SBM for Eggar’s School in Alton, Hampshire, about the lessons learnt from being an early converter to academy status. They discuss the benefits of networking and developing a close-knit supportive community of SBPs. They also explore the way MATs are beginning to function as mini-local authorities, with the accompanying benefits of scale.