Call us: 0300 30 30 333
Home Menu

ISBL’s professional standards: helping your teams to grow following a crisis or challenge

bethan cullen.png
Bethan Cullen, operations director, ISBL

Can you spot the strengths and skill set of your operational workforce? If so, are you harnessing this talent to achieve your strategic aims? And are you investing in this significant resource in the most effective way? Bethan Cullen explains how ISBL’s professional standards can help schools to review, learn and grow from the difficult situations they face. 

Developing the wider workforce in your school

At the Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL), we believe it is essential for school leaders to undertake a regular skills audit across their organisation. A skills audit allows you to establish the areas of expertise of your senior leadership and the wider workforce. By uncovering your workforce’s skill set, you can distribute roles and responsibilities to those with specialist knowledge and know-how. Plus, any skill gap can be identified and remedied either with appropriate training and development or through future recruitment. 

It is essential that every organisation knows the value of its staff. No more so than in a time of crisis management when those who normally undertake a task may not be present and someone else has to pick it up. It is the people that are a school's largest resource, greatest investment and most important unique asset – internal talent and capability are key to our ultimate success. 

There’s no better time than after a significant change or challenge to explore and reflect on the opportunities and risks you faced and how well your school managed them. 

Could the organisation’s response to the crisis been better managed and delivered with a broader knowledge of the core responsibilities and management of the whole school? Has there been a focus on certain parts of the workforce, such as teaching and learning, that’s meant other areas, such as operational activities, have had less investment?

ISBL’s professional standards will help you to do the following: 

  • Review the business leadership and management activities in your setting, who it is that’s responsible and the resilience available across these colleagues
  • Consider specific objectives for the next stage of the school’s improvement journey
  • Identify areas of development where the school’s/trust’s operations require improvement. 

Are there areas in your school workforce that you may not have fully reviewed and considered before? And could one of those areas be the school staff who don’t deliver teaching and learning, but are, nonetheless, essential to the success of your organisation? 

ISBL recognised that the sector had evolved significantly following the introduction of academy reform. In 2015, it set out a clear blueprint for school business leadership and management in its ‘school business professional standards’. These standards were developed through sector-wide engagement, with input and endorsement from more than 1,100 school business practitioners and key educational stakeholders, including NAHT. 

The professional standards recognise that there are many new versions of school business leadership: some practitioners operating as generalists, many as specialists and several at senior executive level. 

ISBL recommends that you use the professional standards in your school to do the following: 

  • Assess and identify school business knowledge and skill levels across your organisation
  • Support recruitment
  • Assist induction
  • Support appraisals
  • Help to shape continuing professional development and school business career pathways. 

Every member of the school workforce must be appraised and provided with development opportunities as part of their annual review. No organisation can develop without the appropriate investment, and people are your biggest asset. 

Alongside the standards, ISBL developed guidance for head teachers and governors to support them in utilising the standards in their settings. Access your free copy today:

For further support on how to use the professional standards to benefit your organisation, contact ISBL either by email ( or phone (024 76 231 221).

About the author

Bethan Cullen, operations director, ISBL

Bethan has worked for the Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL) since 2010 and helped to transition the organisation from NASBM in November 2017. She has worked across several roles to build ISBL as a nationally recognised professional body for the school business profession. 

Prior to this, she held senior roles in marketing and operations in the commercial sector across B2B and B2C channels in varied sectors, including automotive for Vauxhall, retail for PowerHouse and rewards for Smart Trade.

Bethan’s passion for the education sector was sparked by her mother, a head teacher in Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, who shared insights on the development of schools’ autonomy and accountability. Bethan continues to engage directly with the sector through her governance role as a chair of governors and has undertaken this role since 2011. 

First published 28 April 2020