A new report from school leaders’ union NAHT finds that school business leaders (SBLs) are less satisfied in their roles than twelve months ago and fewer would recommend the profession to others.
In “School Business Leadership in Crisis?”, NAHT identifies the urgent challenges that must be tackled to create the conditions for school business leaders to thrive, so that their schools and pupils can flourish too.
The findings paint a stark picture – one where many SBLs are enduring burnout, and few ready-made replacements are eager to take their places.
It also shows how SBLs have again proved themselves to be a vital asset to school when dealing with the unique pressures imposed by the pandemic. The impact of the pandemic on school business leaders has been profound, with many reporting that the last 12 months has taken its toll on either their family life or personal life or both, highlighting the importance of ensuring that any support available for school leaders, must include school business leaders.
A survey of 369 current school business leaders found that:
- Over half of respondents (58%) are less satisfied in their role than they were this time last year.
- This dissatisfaction is spilling over into their views on school leadership as a career choice, with the number of school business leaders who would recommend school leadership falling by 10% between 2020 and 2021, from 48% to 43%.
- Working hours and workload are the primary explanations given for this dissatisfaction.
- When asked to choose a single word to describe their experiences of being a leader over the last year, the top three choices were exhausting, challenging and stressful.
- Almost four fifths (79%) reported that keeping pace with the government guidance has had the greatest impact on their workload over the last 12 months.
- Three quarters (75%) of respondents disagreed that their salary fairly reflects the roles and responsibilities they undertake.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, said, “Once again, school business leaders have proved to be the backbone of many schools, with often complex roles, dealing with Covid countermeasures, implementing health and safety regulations, and stretching already tight school budgets. School business leaders are under more pressure than ever before, which is impacting on their well-being.
“The education sector is potentially facing a huge loss in skill and knowledge when our current school business leaders leave or retire, and the government has yet to secure a strong pipeline for these crucial roles. An effective and holistic strategy for the SBL profession is required, one which focuses not just on recruitment but retention as well.
“NAHT has long called for a national pay scale for school business leaders, recognising their central leadership role and delivering parity and equity. The government must not delay in properly recognising school business leaders and ensuring that the critical role they play is correctly recognised and valued.”
Rachel Younger, Chair, NAHT SBL Council, said, “All children and young people in our country deserve the best that we can give them, and in order to do this, our schools need leaders who are in a position to give their best.
“Reports from our SBL members about being exhausted, overworked and underpaid – and that many of them are seriously considering leaving the profession soon because of this – need to be taken seriously. NAHT are asking the DfE to work with us to halt this downward spiral and ensure that school business leadership is the truly attractive profession that it should and could be.”
The report calls for a comprehensive and holistic strategy from government to ensure that qualified school business leaders are there in sufficient numbers for now and in the longer term.
This strategy should:
• include initiatives to tackle the workload of school business leaders, integrated with those offered for the leadership profession as a whole
• resolve the issues around the disparity in pay many school business leaders face by ensuring that school business leaders are able to be paid at an equivalent level to other comparable leadership roles.
To support this NAHT is calling for a thorough review of the leadership pay structure, which should include aligning the pay of school business leaders alongside a revised School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD)
• raise the professional status of school business leaders within the sector and schools. This should include working with the sector to develop materials and guidance on how schools can embed and maximise the impact of school business leaders within their staffing structure
• provide greater support to help mitigate some of the systemic barriers to flexible working opportunities for all roles, including school business leaders.
First published 12 January 2022