365 days - day 26

resilience /rɪˈzɪlɪəns/

noun noun: resilience; noun: resiliency; plural noun: resiliencies 1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. "the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions"

2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity. "nylon is excellent in wearability, abrasion resistance and resilience

Today the government published the results of the survey of school business professionals 2019* . It's a chonky old beast and will take a while to fully digest, but I managed a quick flick through the headlines. There's lots about the changing nature of the role, qulaifications and changing contexts, but there was one striking part that stood out to me above all others. When questioned, school business professionals reported that after financial skills, the 2nd biggest requirement of the role was resilience.

*excerpt shown below

Let's just stop for a minute and think about that.

Think about the job description and person specs for the majority of school business leadership roles. What do they list as requirements? Financial skills, yes absolutely, it's a key part of the role. Next probably contextual experience, then in descending order Strategic Oversight, Leadership of complex organisations, Decision making, Planning, Leading change, Leading support services, Human resources, Negotiating, Estates management and Procurement? Sound about right?

I've seen a fair few SLT job descriptions over the years and I don't remember ever seeing resilience listed in the top 5 or even 10 requisite skills. It might appear, but much lower down, in amongst the catch-alls of "adaptability" and "good sense of humour". But when the profession itself decides that resilience is 2nd only to financial acumen as its most required skill, that's a hugely important statement.

The way I read this is that, after half a decade of hell, the SBL profession is feeling pretty much battered. Scroll back up to the dictionary definition of resilience at the top of this page - "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties". If our SBLs are spending such a significant amount of their time and energy recovering, then something's very wrong indeed. Basically, SBLs are taking a kicking over and over again.

Now we don't know the origin of those kickings, that really would be an interesting piece of research, but it might be government legislation continually changing, it might be having to cope with ever decreasing funding, continually being the bad guy through the horrific restructures and cuts that SBLs have had to lead their schools. Some of it might be the nature of the job, and some might be a lack of support from line managers, colleagues or governing bodies. That might well be unintentional - it's hard to support a professional in whose role you yourself have little personal experience or even skill, or it might be a lack of awareness of exactly how much crap an SBL has to go through in the course of their role.

Whatever the cause, it's not OK and it needs to be addressed. The SBL community needs to find its collective voice and raise it, to ensure that its members are heard and supported by their schools, their trade unions, and their professional bodies.

There is clearly work to do here, so let's start the conversation by talking honestly about the pressures and challenges we face, by taking time to value ourselves and our peers, and to create effective networks that not only inform and report, but which also support, nurture and heal.

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