3 terms down, 3 to go!

I finally made it through to the last day of term 3. In other words I’ve successfully made it halfway through my first academic year in my role as Business Director.

Having been an SBM since 2015 but only in primary schools, I am on a very steep learning curve. Aside from being unfamiliar with working in the secondary phase I have joined a PFI school and that has its own nuances too.

I count myself very lucky that in Term 1 I had a month long handover period with my predecessor. That meant I always had someone on hand to ask questions of and nothing seemed too daft to ask. During Term 1 I had the October census to deal with. I had gone into it thinking ” I know all about censuses, nothing to worry about”. That was before I realised the complexities of the sixth form census. An afternoon learning about sixth form funding certainly helped but I would not have made it through without the brilliant admin team I inherited when I arrived. They knew exactly what they were doing and were happy to guide me in the bits that were new to me. Lucky me!

As well as the census I also presented to governors for the the first time. In the lead up to it I was extremely nervous but I took on board the advice of my predecessor and kept my reports succinct. I was pleased to find that finance committee are a lovely bunch and didn’t make me feel nervous on the night at all. I don’t think I will ever stop feeling anxious in the lead up to governor meetings but I think I’ve definitely gained some confidence in that area.

The highlight of term 2 was a Health & Safety audit carried out by the local authority. My first instinct was to try and push the audit back (but that didn’t work). With two weeks notice I set about gathering the required documents and looking at the actions from the previous audit. Having had the experience of being a Primary SBM with no permanent Premises Manager for over 6 months, I feel quite comfortable with managing H&S in schools. The thing I didn’t understand was the split of responsibilities in relation to statutory maintenance when there is an external Facilities Management company in the mix. Just another peculiarity of working in a PFI school. I’ve learned to treat audits as learning opportunities and this really was one. I made it through the process unscathed and with (many) action points to follow up on. However, I’m glad this took place early on, a very useful experience indeed.

Term 3 was the first term without a finance meeting and I felt I had a little bit of breathing space. One of my focal points for this term was HR. Up until joining this school I had done all parts of the role myself. The big difference in a secondary school is having teams to carry out the operational aspects of the role on a daily basis. That said, I found it really useful to get involved in some of the HR casework aspects. It has given me a clearer picture of the staff profile.

As steep as the learning curve has been I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t put too much pressure on myself. I acknowledge that although I have experience as an SBM there are differences between the two phases and what I don’t know I will take the time to learn. There will be no beating myself up for the gaps in my knowledge. Instead, I will make plans to gain the knowledge I need. Already, I have sought an experienced Secondary SBM as a mentor. I have purchased a few more books from the #SBMReadingList and am setting aside time to read them.

I accept that my first year on the job will be a year of firsts. I have several notebooks at the ready to document the first year and a calendar to diarise what happens when.

The icing on the cake is that the completion of 3 terms (1.5 terms in old money) means that I have also completed my probation period. I can breathe easy in the knowledge that I’m now a permanent member of staff and all that’s left to do is settle down and work out how to be an efficient and effective Business Director.

So now I have the rest of the year to look forward to but not before getting through the dreaded budget setting. Thank goodness I have my new purchase to hand – “School Budget Mastery” by Julia Cordiner & Nikola Flint. I’ll certainly be making good use of it in the next term!

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