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    ISBL School Business Professional Workforce Survey Report 2020

    Armstrong, Paul, Creaby, Fiona ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3986-2639 and Wood, Liz (2020) ISBL School Business Professional Workforce Survey Report 2020. Research Report. ISBL.

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    Abstract

    The ISBL school business professional workforce survey 2019 has provided evidence in support of our hypotheses and has also revealed important new information about the SBL workforce. It will perhaps come as no surprise that the profession remains a predominantly female community. In relation to the broader society conversations around gender imbalance in senior leadership and the gender pay gap across the general workforce, the survey offers favourable findings in terms of the proportion of women in senior roles. However, there are nuances that suggest we may need to look more closely at imbalances in areas of strategic participation and pay, which we will pick up later. In terms of ethnic diversity, there is significant imbalance. As a profession, we need to develop a much broader appeal to the diverse communities we serve, and our professional community should better reflect the make-up of our schools. We have an ageing workforce profile, and as a sector we must begin to think strategically about succession planning. We need to make the profession more attractive to undergraduates and young people contemplating apprenticeships. Existing practitioners and education leaders more generally need to begin to identify talent in their own institutions, local networks and indeed HEIs, ensuring the development and communication of clear career pathways. Involvement in CPD activity and workload are intrinsically linked. In an environment where budgets are tight, LA services have been reduced but high-stakes accountability has increased, there remains limited capacity, demand and appetite to invest in professional development. The research suggests that structural reforms have had a significant impact on the school workforce deployed to the business leadership function. We therefore need to find a better way to ensure that school business professionals are given the time and space to develop as managers and leaders and to ensure that the demands being placed on them are reasonable, proportionate and sustainable. It appears that there remain significant and unreasonable differences between contracted hours and actual hours worked. However, those who are carving out the time to invest in their own development are progressing their careers at pace. The findings suggest an important relationship between those who have negotiated the time and funding to engage in ongoing CPD and the positive career advancement they have enjoyed as a result. The full potential of our professional community could perhaps be more quickly realised if we could assist practitioners to move further and more quickly up the qualification ladder. Participation at a strategic level is mixed. Some practitioners enjoy a significant role and many enjoy partial inclusion in senior leadership discussions; however, a significant number are still not included and therefore operate without the insights an SLT role could afford them and likewise they could afford the SLT. Pay disparity overall continues to be a concern raised amongst practitioners across the sector, and again the findings suggest these concerns are legitimate. Seniority is not always accompanied by commensurate pay. The lower end of ranges afforded to school business professionals is of particular concern where salary levels in some cases are lower than the national average wage (Office of National Statistics, 2019) and so may more closely resemble those of a junior administrator than a business manager or leader. There also appears to be evidence of some gender pay disparity, but this needs further investigation given that most respondents were female.

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