My SBM Life by Susan Prickett

What’s your job title and the name of your school?

Hartest CE Primary

How long have you been an SBM?

Four years

What was your path to SBM?

Background in management accountancy; lots of involvement in my children’s school’s PTA groups, including treasurer and chair; part of the initial start-up group for my daughter’s pre-school; office manager in the pre-school and here we are!

How would you describe the role of an SBM?

Multi-faceted and varied.  Every school has different requirements and in a smaller school you need to wear many hats and keep all the balls in the air to help the school run smoothly.  

What are the 5 top key elements of your role?

Safeguarding, finance, attendance, marketing & procurement.

What characteristics do you believe make for a Smart SBM?

Ability to be flexible and trying to keep on top of changes that will help you save time and money.  Listen to how other schools work, try not to become stuck in the way it’s always been done. 

Why do schools need an SBM?

To make the most effective use of the funding that we have been given and to try and generate more income, or find a more cost effective way of working.  That, and who else will change the toner in the photocopier?

Have you ever reached the bottom of your to-do list?

**Manically laughs** Is this even really a question?!  Rarely…although my to do list is electronic, so is constantly updated and moving…which makes me feel slightly better!!

What’s your top tip for saving time at work?

Shut the door, say no, or if you can’t bring yourself to say no, tell them to come back another time.  It’s too easy to get distracted by other people’s problems.

What’s your top tip for saving your school money?

Keep updating your staffing spreadsheet and thinking about other ways in which to deploy your staff.

What’s your biggest pain point when it comes to procurement?

Making sure the quotes you get are like for like across all requirements.

Most SBMs we meet say that networking is a key to the role – what’s the most valuable thing you’ve learnt from one of your SBM peers?

To have confidence in my own ability.  When I was new to the position and learning the finance side of things, my colleague had to say out loud to me… ”You can do this, my work here is done.”

Tell us about an hour of your day today

Arrived at school to the staff car park gate being stuck, brought in the supplies for Breakfast Club, unlocked the school, dealt with staff cover, quick flick through urgent emails, welcomed visiting teachers, then to front of house for parents.

What’s the last thing, professionally, that surprised you?

There isn’t a day goes by I’m not surprised by something either in the workplace or on Twitter.  I’m often surprised by #edutwitter debates that appear to cause such heated discussion and how involved people get on such a public platform.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a SBM?

When a long planned project comes together, on time, in budget and you can see the impact it has on the children.

SBM, SBP or SBL – where do you stand on the title?

Personally, I’m SBM, however we are all professionals, and a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. 

How do you see the role of SBM within the SLT?

I can’t imagine how an SBM could be effective if not part of the SLT.  It’s vital to know the school development plan, the strengths of the school and areas of improvement, so you can plan the budget accordingly.  Most SBMs have such good overall knowledge of the workings of the school, staff and families that the SLT would miss out not having their input.

How important do you think the headteacher / SBM relationship is?

Very important.  Both roles are busy and varied and finding the time to plan and work together is often difficult.  A good relationship makes the most of that time together.

What do you think is the key to a good headteacher / SBM relationship?

Knowing how each other takes their tea and when to bring out the secret stash of good biscuits.

What advice would you give to someone new coming into an SBM role?

Ask questions and write the answer down. Have a notebook just for all your questions, procedures, way to turn the heating on, where the extra paper is and who empties the compost bin. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you are new in post and to bear with you.  You don’t have to know everything on day one!

How do you handle a bad day at the office?

Remember that tomorrow is another day.  Shake away the stresses and strains of one day and be positive that the next day will be different. Failing that, a huge carb packed dinner, a glass of wine and an early night (although SBM twitter would have you believe we exist on gin).

What do you do to de-stress after a long day at school?

Walk outdoors, talk to family, have a long bath and a glass of wine…or two…see above re gin.

If you have one, tell us about your blog / book?

Alas, no blog or book, but friends and family often say I should write the school anecdotes down as they are priceless!