Is the future of business leadership bright or bleak? This was just one of the questions posed to a panel of relevant stakeholders at the recent ASCL Business Management Conference. The conference has become a regular feature on the ASCL calendar, and is recognised as the ‘go to’ event for leadership professionals responsible for managing the ‘business’ aspects of our educational institutions. The ’Question Time’ styled panel discussion was a new feature on the programme for 2014 and provided the opportunity for delegates to pose questions around the main theme for this session ‘What is the role of business management within sustainable leadership now and in the future?’
Leading the panel was Sir John Dunford OBE, who talked about the importance of the role as schools evolve and respond to the changes in structure and the increasing levels of accountability across all contexts both academic and financial. Headteacher, Jonathan Fawcett highlighted the “deeper understanding of all school issues” as one of the key characteristics of the profession, and Andrew Whitaker, also a head but from a business management not a teaching background, talked openly about the particular challenges he faced on his journey to headship. The consensus was that professionals with the relevant skills which meet the ever changing needs of our schools in today’s climate had a very vital role to play in ensuring that there was ‘balance’ within a leadership team.
This theme of ‘greater cohesion’ within the leadership team was continued in Sam Ellis’ presentation later in the day which examined the specific challenges in strategic financial management and budget decision making in his session on ’The solution focused team’.
Keynote addresses to the conference from both ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman and Inspirational Speaker Sir John Jones, highlighted the crucial role that business leaders play within the context of school and college leadership, adding business innovation, new perspectives and additional creativity to the academic focus of their leadership colleagues. Sir John reflected that the evolution of this role “has started a revolution within school leadership”.
The answer to the above exam question is clearly that there is an ever-increasing role to play for those with responsibility for ‘the business’.
We are seeing a change emerging in the terminology used to describe this role, which is increasingly referred to as ‘business leadership’ – a distinct move away from ‘business management’. This is a very positive switch, which represents the recognition that this role is one that is fully integrated within the wider context of school and college leadership.
However, as practitioners we need to ensure our skills and qualifications remain ‘fit for purpose’ to meet the changing needs and growing challenges of the role as it evolves in the future.
The National College has recently relinquished its control over the traditional suite of business management programmes, which have underpinned the development of many practitioners for the last 12 years, and this was a disappointing decision. This national framework of CPD has supported many of us and is widely acknowledged as the default qualification base for recruitment within the profession. It was therefore reassuring to hear that the existing group of established providers will continue to offer these accredited programmes, and now have the opportunity to review the materials and update them to reflect the ongoing changes and challenges practitioners face.
ASCL’s annual conference for business leaders provides another opportunity for CPD to complement professional qualifications, and access to networking with other colleagues (both on the day and the evening prior to the conference) which is an important support mechanism for all school leaders. The date for 2015 is already confirmed as Thursday 4 June 2015 at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole Hotel, so - if your role includes ‘minding the business’ make sure this is in your diary.
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