Fair shares - business leadership

02 April 2015

Leader logoASCL has drawn up new guidance encouraging schools and local authorities (LAs) to pay school business leaders and school business managers at a rate that reflects their role in school leadership, as Val Andrew explains.

A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work! This has been the motto of many workers worldwide for more than a hundred years, and has never been more relevant than for school business leaders and school business managers.

It was the headline theme from our survey of business managers and leaders on pay last year, which revealed that a worrying 52 per cent of respondents felt that they were not in receipt of a fair level of pay.

As this was the first survey of its kind conducted by ASCL we had no comparative data, so have been unable to track specific trends.

What the survey did provide was a much more accurate picture of the national situation and how the structural changes to educational organisations through academisation and the free schools initiatives have affected the roles and responsibilities of these leadership practitioners.

It’s clear that there has been a significant increase in strategic responsibility, not just within academies but also in some maintained schools, particularly where local authority services and support have been compromised by academisation.

It is encouraging that 48 per cent responded positively about their pay, which could be attributed to the greater freedoms that have come with academies, as well as a growing acknowledgement of the importance of business management roles as part of school leadership.

But using the survey data and taking into account the pattern of ASCL’s member support cases since 2010, it seems that there are still barriers to achieving the right pay levels for staff. These inhibitors vary but they include:

  • intransigence in the implementation of Single Status in some local authority areas

  • general lack of understanding about the process of evaluating specific posts

  • cultural resistance to recognising the value of integrating qualified professionals without a teaching background into an educational leadership team

The 2014 survey data was also used as part of a wider review to explore the potential for developing a bespoke pay framework, one that could be used to lobby government for a change in policy. Our analysis took into account median pay levels in other public and private sectors to identify where there may be parity.

It highlighted a need to mirror some of the principles set out in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), which are used to determine the pay levels for headteachers and other members of the leadership team, and a need for the traditional indicator of school size to act as a baseline factor for an 8 group framework.

At this point, the dilemma was obvious: would a government that is systematically working to unpick all existing pay frameworks give favourable consideration to this piece of research as a basis for lobbying for change? The time isn’t right.

Lobbying for changes

At the meeting in January, ASCL Council reaffirmed its commitment to lobbying for changes on behalf of members. The association has, for many years, led the campaign for more equitable pay for school business leaders and school business managers. It has consistently appealed to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) for recognition for these school leaders and it is a source of constant disappointment that the STRB continues to deny access on the basis that business leaders sit ‘outside their remit’.

As part of our commitment to this cause, an updated position statement was agreed and a new guidance paper was approved that, it is hoped, will encourage more consistency in the way that roles are assessed by people making the decisions on pay.

The guidance signposts information to be taken into account and provides links to other documents and sources to support the evaluation process. It also draws parallels with some of the principles included in the STPCD, where the specific leadership context and challenge associated with an individual role should also be factored in and reflected in pay judgements awarded.

A letter has now been sent to all local authorities, providing them with a copy of the new guidance and urging them to use the information to conduct a full review of the role profiles in their job evaluation schemes to ensure that they reflect accurately the changes to roles and responsibilities.

Elements of the new guidance also link with the principles underpinning many of the job evaluation schemes and that add weight to the assessment process. It is hoped that alignment with existing schemes may encourage people to use our guidance as a basis for conducting pay reviews.

Winning the hearts and minds of the few remaining sceptics is possible. The link between business leadership and whole school improvement is clear and increasingly recognised, but it is not just about saving headteachers time and driving efficiencies. Having the wider business perspective adds balance to pedagogical leadership and supports the drive to raise attainment.

Val Andrew is ASCL Business Leadership Specialist.

ASCL Conference for Business Leaders
Keeping your Balance
4 June 2015, Birmingham