Business leadership: Show business matters

01 June 2016

Leader logoThe evolution of school business leaders is well documented but anomalies remain when it comes to pay, a situation that’s inequitable, uncertain and lacking consistency of approach, says Val Andrew.

As the government’s policy on academisation continues to forge ahead, the need for experienced business management professionals with a range of commercial qualifications and expertise to meet the demands of the sector will only increase.

Government publications now openly acknowledge that the system increasingly relies on these school leaders whose role is pivotal in driving the efficiency agenda. Over the past decade, this group has been one of ASCL’s fastest growing categories of membership. Given the importance of their role – not only within the context of robust educational leadership but also in leading on fiscal efficiency and effectiveness – it is a matter of concern within ASCL that the uncertainty around pay levels will lead to skilled professionals leaving education and will deter others from considering employment in the sector.

We are aware of the difficulties encountered by members working in local authority (LA) maintained schools where the rigid application of single-status job evaluation has pigeon-holed many into role profiles that are anachronistic, resulting in significant reductions in salary. We have supported many members through appeals processes with their authority and have been frustrated at the levels of intransigence.

More recently, some LAs are implementing a series of budget reduction measures that will further erode the terms and conditions of these and other school staff.

In 2014, ASCL conducted a pay survey for business managers that revealed that academisation has not been a panacea for resolving these issues because they appear to be rooted in a lack of understanding about the process of evaluation and assessment.

Despite regular appeals from ASCL, this group of school leaders has been consistently denied access to the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) that contains clear guidance on setting leadership pay. As roles and responsibilities have increased, the National Joint Council (NJC) pay scales have not provided the degree of ‘stretch’ required to afford the parity that some practitioners require with their other leadership colleagues.

ASCL’s commitment to this cause is unswerving and we have taken a number of steps:

  • In February 2015, we published a guidance paper that sets out a process for conducting assessments of pay for school business leaders and school business managers. The guidance was circulated widely to all LAs and academy chains with an appeal for this to be adopted as a more consistent process for evaluating business management pay.

  • ASCL was part of the National Association of School Business Management (NASBM) working group responsible for the development of a set of new professional standards that can be used to assess performance levels and inform decisions on pay.

  • At our Annual Conference in March the Secretary of State, Nicky Morgan, was questioned directly about the issue. To follow this up, a formal letter was written to her by ASCL Interim General Secretary Malcolm Trobe requesting a meeting to discuss the issues and seek a solution. We have also appealed for the government to endorse our guidance paper as a useful tool to underpin decisions on pay for these school leaders.

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ role and the growing diversity across the sector would render a national pay framework very difficult to interpret.

The ideal scenario would be one that sets out a standardised process for evaluating pay to support the decision-making process in all schools/academies along the lines of our guidance document.

Val Andrew is ASCL Business Leadership Specialist