I don’t usually comment on anything political, I’m mindful that even though these blogs are my opinions, I’ve still got a MAT I want to protect, enhance and carry on working within! So this is unusual for me but I’ve felt I cannot read all the twitter comments about School Resource Management Advisers (SRMAs) without chipping in. I am one. There you go I’ve admitted it. I’m a School Resource Management Adviser – cue all the booing and hissing from some. I was in the initial wave when the initiative was first announced and now I take my deployments from The Cotswold Beacon Academy Trust (CBAT), led by the marvellous @workingsbm2017. In the last year, I’ve carried out three deployments, two via the DfE and one via CBAT. I could probably do one a week, the demand for this support is so high. However, I’ve got the demanding day job already and the irony that if I took my eye off the ball within my schools, in order to help another school is not lost on me.
The generalised facts as I see it, from my very limited experienced of being an SRMA, by the time I was involved with the schools the financial situation was undesirable to say the least. The schools had been waiting some considerable time for the deployment. The leadership of the school had experienced significant changes and all had temporary principals or heads in place. They all had experienced significant changes in funding due to changes in numbers on roll. The SBMs were new to school business leadership and had financial software systems which didn’t fully meet the needs of the school. The SBMs didn’t collaborate with others either locally, nationally or via social media.
The generalised feelings I have about all three schools – it feels like the business leadership of the school is out of alignment with the pedagogy and or governance of the school. The leadership triangle was obtuse. It was as if the main “players” within the school were trying to continue playing their game of “snooker”, using the historical existing rules and practice, without acknowledging that the baize was scuffed or completely missing in places, choosing to ignore that this was negatively impacting on the accurate delivery of their shots on target; that their cues were smaller or damaged and that there were more balls on the table to pocket, with a new complex ordering system, which would incur costly penalties if incorrectly carried out. Pockets would mysteriously appear and disappear on the table without notice and often during a shot. The players didn’t devise new rules and regulations to cope with these strange changes and obscurities in their beloved game of snooker. Remember the SBM is still a relatively new player in this game and in some schools hasn’t been given full access to the complete game, instead they have taken on the role of commentator. Commentating out of sight of the players, not able to influence the game but desperately trying to raise the issues they’ve spotted to anyone who would listen. Snooker players though can’t hear the commentators during the game, the commentary is only available to those who choose to tune in and find out what is going on. The SRMA role is a bit like shining a light on the SBM commentator, opening the door to the commentary box – checking their microphone works fully, suggesting the players try using earpieces to hear the commentary and give the SBM full access to the table so that together the leadership triangle can help understand and create the new rules and regulations required for the new game of snooker demanded of them. The SRMA enhances the SBM commentary with metrics, ideas, information, guidance by being a sounding board and challenger. As an SRMA, I’ve suggested to all three SBMS I’ve been deployed to work with that they join their local SBM regional group, they get on #SBLTwitter, they check out ISBL and they find support for the long term, as I’m a short term rub of chalk on the end of one of their cue sticks!
An SBM Specialist Leader of Education (SLE) is a great solution for schools facing any business leadership issue and would have in the vast majority of cases prevented the need of an SRMA to have been deployed at all, but I know a number of excellent SBMs who have been appointed as SLEs and have NEVER been utilised. Never. If they had been utilised, would the SRMA role even have been required? I know my personality type would much prefer to be an SLE going into schools being supportive over a period of time; building up a positive working relationship and helping the school leadership triangle bring about a positive change in their delivery of education within their own unique setting. Instead I’m an SRMA, I approach the deployment with a sick feeling in my stomach as to what I’m going to discover, how I’m going to be received. I’m mindful of the impact of the deployment on people, their relationships with others, their working week, their career, their livelihood. I’m also mindful that children are in primary school for 7 years, secondary school for 5 years and that they get one shot at their primary and secondary education, so it really needs to be fantastic. I’m playing my small part in trying to make this happen despite the macro environmental factors masquerading as fouls influencing the game of snooker that is their education. When the rules and regulations of the SRMA game change, and they will, I hope I can change with them and continue to support those who need it.
Academy Business Leader – St Anne’s Church Academy
and Deputy COO (Primary) – The Priory Learning Trust