On 2nd September, Gavin Williamson headed up an announcement that the government are intending to implement a minimum teacher starting salary of £30,000. Fantastic, if it actually comes to pass, that's a really clear message to the teaching profession that the government is keen to support the growth of the profession, and therefore, presumably high quality education.
£30,000 is a healthy wage In fact, it's a very good wage for a 21/22 year old. It's at the top end of graduate starting salaries, according to GraduateJobs.com. I'm sure that no one begrudges teachers, existing and future, a decent wage that reflects their skills and the pressure and responsibilities of the role.
The next obvious question is, if £30k (a 26% increase on the current M1 salary point) is the bottom of the scale, what will the rest of the teachers pay scales look like? Therer may be a proportionate 26% increase across all scales, including Upper and Leadership, taking the cost of an Assistant Head on, say, L9 up to about £60k and a Deputy on L24 close to £89k. Of course the scales may be heavily bottom-weighted, but there will still be a necessity to raise all points to accommodate a upward shift at entry level.
So, where does that leave the School Business Leader? The role of the SBL encompasses a vast array of disciplines and skills. It holds responsibility for the financial management of the school, the leadership of many school support services; HR, compliance, GDPR, Health & Safety, budget management, reporting to Governors, IT networking, Estates and Facilities management, income generation, statutory returns, marketing, catering, communications and administration.
The role exists to provide specific and skilled expertise to Headteachers, CEOs and Governing Bodies, and sits alongside Deputy and Assistant Heads in terms of school-wide responsibility and seniority. Many SBLs are now operating at Trust level. But, as any SBL will tell you, whilst the responsibility levels are comparable, if not higher for business leaders, the monetary reward is often anything but.
The NAHT 2018 survey of School Business Managers reported an average salary of £40,000 across the profession, and rightly noted a significant disparity between SBL roles and their teaching SLT colleagues. However, I believe that this survey was skewed, by only reporting on the full-time equivalent salaries for the SBLs who responded. In actuality, many SBLs, particularly in the primary sector, are paid on term-time only contracts, meaning they only actually get paid for 39 weeks out of the full 52. This is despite having year-round responsibility for all of the same areas, and often working a full years' equivalent hours in unpaid overtime.
If you factor that in, and assume contractual pay of 0.8 of a full time role, that £40,000 average salary looks a lot more like £32,000. And that's only for those working 35+ hours a week. Many SBLs are paid for less hours per week, taking that pay down further still. So if nothing changes, come 2022, we will find ourselves in a position where a member of SLT is paid at a rate equivalent to a 2nd or 3rd year teacher, with many SBLs being paid at below NQT rates.
We often hear Headteachers talk of how valued their SBL is, and the essential role they fulfil. In the current climate of funding cuts, restructures, external financial review and an increasing focus on financial governance, the SBL role is more essential than ever. So why on earth are SBLs not being paid accordingly?
It could be because the typical SBL, as the person whose job it is to say 'no', finds it incredibly hard to ask for anything for themselves, when they know the impact of rising costs. That's quite likely. It could because their role isn't valued by Headteachers in the way they publicly state. I doubt that though. Or it could be that no one is fighting for them?
There are a number of organisations and trade unions that have SBL membership and who state that they represent the profession. However, in all the furore and fighting surrounding education in recent years, I haven't heard much more than a whimper on the subject of pay, conditions and wellbeing of the School Business Professional. But perhaps I've missed it, there's been a lot going on.
I hope that now the apparent re-valuing of the teaching profession has taken place, that an appropriate salary review will be extended to all school leaders, to include those with equivalent, if not teaching expertise. I hope that the announcement that Ofsted inspections will now include a financial effectiveness grading will focus that review to ensure that those charged with that area of school accountability will be valued, retained and rewarded for highly skilled and essential strategic they do.
School Business Leaders don't teach, but they do shape the very fabric and future of our schools, and they protect and secure very heart of our education system. We really do need to value them.