There’s never been a better time get into business
If you don’t have a background in education, you may not have ever imagined yourself as a key member of a senior leadership team at a busy school. But school business managers and school business directors, who often are recruited direct from industry, are becoming just that.
What do business managers do?
The role is a diverse and developing one. The responsibilities of a business manager cover all areas from HR to marketing, from finance to facilities.
The roles are often in demand by schools. A study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers found that qualified school business managers and directors “help run schools effectively and efficiently by improving financial, operational and strategic management,” and recommended increasing their presence of across the school system.
A good business manager will allow head teachers to concentrate on what they do best – leading learning at the school and focusing on the students. Schools are particularly interested in candidates with transferable skills.
Here at Hays, the recruitment expert, we have placed hundreds of candidates into school business manager roles from all types of sectors, including banking, insurance and retail.
Case study: From banking to primary school education: Andy Meehan - School Business Manager
Andy Meehan is a school business manager who came to education direct from a business role. Andy has worked at the Lister Primary School in Bradford for three years, after a thirteen year career at the Yorkshire Bank, where he was most recently a business manager.
“I looked after customers from different backgrounds, including schools, so I had met some school business managers and I thought it would be a great job – so when an opportunity came up, I applied,” says Andy. “I wanted a role that would suit my expertise, and be varied, and I had cross-transferable skills from working in the commercial sector.”
Andy says that opportunities for school business managers are increasing “rapidly” in Bradford. “It’s a growing sector,” he notes.
As well as overseeing finance, HR and managing staff, Andy says his role at the school, which has 500 pupils, is all-encompassing, meaning he must keep abreast of every aspect of development at the school.
“Really, anything you can take off the desk of a teacher, you’ll do,” he says. “In this day and age, schools are now becoming akin to complex businesses. Head teachers and deputy heads are in school to teach children and have an impact on young people, so a business manager takes on anything they can to do to help them accomplish that goal.”
The variety of the role is a big draw, Andy says. “You certainly think there’s going to be a typical work day, but the minute you walk into the school, everything changes. I don’t have a schedule as such, but I can be doing anything from finance work, such as analysing the budget, to looking at big projects we’ve got coming up, and working out what we need to do to make them happen, including physical resources as well as financial ones.”
Current projects Andy is working on include a complete refurbishment of the school’s kitchen, a large scheme that also involves the transfer of staff from the local authority to the school, and a redesign and refurbishment of the school’s library.
Important skills for business managers, says Andy, include communication, negotiation, relationship management, organisation and leadership.
“Life in a school is clearly very different to working in the private sector, but there are so many skills you can utilise, and you can learn skills that are specific to the school on the job. If someone is interested in making the move into education, I would advise them to go and visit a school and see the things they are doing."
“It’s a very rewarding job, because you can see that the outcomes of the work you do will have an impact on the children. I really enjoy it,” he says. “It’s been a great move.”