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The Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL) releases revised professional standards for the business profession

The Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL) has released revised professional standards for the business profession, which set out the core and specialist areas of competency required to operate at four levels of practice, from entry level to executive business leadership.

The standards have been revised through extensive collaboration with the sector – including NAHT, which formally endorses them – alongside other representative bodies and professional bodies including The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Additionally, the revised standards have been recognised by the Department for Education as the key reference document for evaluating professional competency.

The aim of the standards is to establish a clear blueprint for effective school and academy business leaders, and they celebrate existing best practice. The standards outline the six main disciplines of school business leadership, along with six principal behaviours required to be effective in the school business profession.

The six main areas are:

  • Procurement
  • HR
  • Estate Management
  • Finance
  • Marketing and Communication
  • Operational Leadership (which sits at the heart of the framework).


Who are the standards for?

The standards can be used by both school business professionals and those who employ them. Further guidance for employers on how best to utilise the standards is expected to be released later this year.

How can the standards be used?

The standards can be used to support the recruitment, performance management and ongoing development of school or trust business professionals.

They can be used in the following ways:

  • Self-Assessment: school or trust business professionals can use the framework for identifying areas of particular strength and areas for self-improvement or development.
  • Recruitment: the standards can be used to help identify the range of tasks and responsibilities associated with any business professional role; help identify the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to effectively perform in any given role and in a range of contexts; and/or help employers to develop appropriate job descriptions and person specifications.
  • Performance management: the standards can be used to form the foundation of performance expectations across the range of practitioner levels and discipline areas.
  • Developing strong teams: the standards can provide a framework to assess capability and develop high-performing teams, ready and able to respond to the complexities of school or trust operations across the range of defined discipline areas; they can also help to inform decisions on organisational design, structure and leadership/executive team configuration.
  • Training and continuing professional development (CPD): the standards can provide a contextualised reference point for those with relevant qualifications acquired outside of the education sector (e.g. accountancy or HR) and act as a conduit between experience and qualifications, and should help guide employers and school or trust business professionals to appropriate formal and accredited CPD activity.
First published 13 June 2023