Being a school bursar isn't just about money - it's a serious management role

'You have to be a bit of a juggler'

If Linda Jackson spots a child who's been sent to the head's office at the primary school where she is bursar, she usually hears the first version of the misdemeanour from the over-anxious child.

"The pleasure I get every day is the contact with the children," says Jackson. "They do not view me as an authority figure and many a time I find myself hearing some confession and saying, 'So you said that to the teacher? Well why don't you try this instead next time?'"

Jackson's enthusiasm for her job at the 218-pupil Middleton Parish Church School, Rochdale is almost tangible. She never knows when she walks into the building what the day will bring. On top of managing the budget of £700,000 (with help from administrators) she is involved in the daily running of the school, management of its assets, marketing, health and safety and employer relations. She joins the senior management team of the school for the first time in September 2008.

However, she can also find herself counselling parents, being an agony aunt to teachers and sorting out children who have forgotten their school lunch.

"The bursar's job is to take on all those aspects of the work of the school that are not to do with teaching and learning," she says. "You have to be a bit of a juggler because there are so many balls to keep in the air. The more support I can give to the head the more they can devote to teaching and learning."

Her first job in a school was as a dinner lady to fit around her own children. She'd spent six years in banking after leaving school with five A-levels intending to be a painter and determined not to be a teacher.

The past few years has seen an evolution in the school bursar role, which itself has grown out of the school secretary job that many people think of as being the person in charge of collecting the dinner money. Now, to reflect the bursars' greater responsibilities since the advent of delegated budgets, many schools call their bursars "school business managers" (SBMs) and give them a place on the senior management team.

A qualification structure now exists for SBMs, with a certificate and a diploma leading to the UK's first degree in school business management at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), for the National College for School Leadership. Jackson was among the first cohort to gain a BA Hons this summer.

Jackie Byrne, 42, does the equivalent job at Stretford Grammar School. She has worked her way up through the ranks having started in a school as a receptionist, and is hoping to complete her degree in school business management in 2009.

After leaving school without A-levels, she still pinches herself occasionally when she finds herself dealing with ICT, personnel, setting three and five-year audits, site management and cleaning contracts and disciplinary matters.

"You have to work independently," she emphasizes. "Sometimes mine is a lonely place to be."

Being resourceful is a quality she believes is essential for anyone wanting a career as a SBM in an increasingly business-minded school sector. Recently she shaved £17,000 off the school cleaning bill by outsourcing the contract and almost £10,000 on catering by bringing it in house.

Joy Coulbeck, the senior lecturer at MMU who launched the school business management degree, is convinced school business management is a growth area because schools increasingly see themselves as businesses. She sees a time soon where schools will have dual headships – one educational and one business.

Among the qualities vital for the job, Coulbeck lists versatility, ability to manage, leadership and flexibility, plus possibly a sense of humour. "The role is pivotal," she says. "The best school business managers allow head teachers to be the best heads they can without being diverted by administration."

The low-down

Experience in accounting, banking, human resources or finance is useful. Try an administrative post in a school to get a feel for it.

Qualifications in school business management are increasingly required in job advertisements. A graded set of qualifications – certificate and diploma – is offered through the National College of School Leadership. A degree and more recently a Masters are offered only at Manchester Metropolitan University. To get on a course you need to have a job in a school business environment. See www.ioe.mmu.ac.uk.

Look at the National college for School Leadership's website ( www.ncsl.org.uk) – for information about jobs and training programmes.

Salaries begin at £16,000 to £25,000 depending on the size of the school. Experienced SBMs are paid usually paid £30,000 to £50,000.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Sport
Harry Kane
premier leagueLive minute-by-minute coverage
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Commercial Property Surveyor

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading firms of Cha...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Central London, Bank

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A keen Graduate Structural Engineer with...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Data & Delivery Guru

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Data & Delivery Guru is required to...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin