An interview with a SBM: COVID and the future of school education
SBMs have had a tough year. Their job hasn’t stopped, and they’ve had to quickly understand and implement essential health and safety policies surrounding COVID-19. School budgets were already tight but have been stretched even further after necessary equipment purchases to help teachers, school staff, and pupils stay as safe as possible while in school.
We spoke with an acting SBM in a Wirral Secondary School to get a first-hand account of how COVID has affected pupils, staff and workload. And how the future looks as we emerge from lockdown.
How did the pandemic affect your SBM role?
The pandemic has affected the role in many ways. It’s changed how we communicate due to social distancing and the additional health and safety measures we’ve had to put in place.
Were there any aspects of your role you weren’t prepared for when the pandemic hit?
When the pandemic hit, the school managed well with the social distancing coming into effect; however, as you can imagine, we were not fully equipped to begin working from home!
We had to set up more laptops for members of staff quickly and get them synced with the computer system. It’s also been challenging to work from home when you require access to paperwork that needs to be stored securely. You can’t always take everything home with you, which means you have no choice but to go into the school; this becomes particularly difficult when you have members of staff who are shielding.
What are the major challenges you’ve faced in your role over the last year?
I would say the biggest SBM challenges have been getting the site set up with PPE, waste disposal services, and setting ourselves up as a test site.
Also, just generally setting out COVID action plans for the school with the senior leadership team to reduce contact with members of staff and pupil groups at the level specified and changed by the government. All of these things take time and even more so with the communication limitations.
We’ve had to spend money differently so that the pupils are still receiving a quality education and additionally track any spending on COVID-related purchases. These are items that are often required to be put in place in a very short space of time and can be costly.
Additionally, I would consider working in an environment that requires social distancing a significant challenge. It becomes more difficult when meetings are no longer face-to-face, and you can’t pop into an office to ask a quick question. You lose the social aspect of the office, which can affect employee wellbeing and mental health.
What challenges do you see ahead for your school in 2021?
Once all pupils return to school, we face the challenge of reintroducing those pupils and some staff back into school.
The continuation of on-site mass testing, at least weekly, for teachers and pupils (and all students who are currently home learning) will also be a big challenge. But most challenging, I think, is the additional workload it has produced and will continue to produce for all staff members within schools.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d have for new school business managers?
Don’t try to do everything by yourself; there is always advice and help available.
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