A Multi-perspective Study of School Business Management in England

Student thesis: Phd


The pace and intensity of educational reform over the past quarter of a century has seen wholesale changes to the nature and organisation of schooling and mounting demands placed on school leaders (Chapman and Gunter, 2009) with increasingly burdensome workloads blamed for problems relating to the recruitment and retention of headteachers (Whitaker, 2003). Since 2002, and largely in response to these concerns, successive governments have invested in national programmes to strengthen the potential of a previously fragmented section of the school workforce whose skills and knowledge are particularly well-placed to improve capacity and reduce the workload of headteachers in the areas of administration and finance: the School Business Manager (SBM). A decade on there is thought to be approximately 13,000 SBM posts across the country (Summerson, 2009) forming an integral part of the school workforce. So how has the role developed in that time? What influence are SBMs having in the schools in which they operate? What kind of work does the SBM role encompass in a modern day educational setting? This thesis focuses on the emergence of SBMs in English schools, specifically drawing upon the composition of the role; the areas of school in which they are impacting and; the facilitators and barriers to the development of successful models of school business management. The research strategy employs a multi-perspective, case study design to explore the sphere of activity of the SBM in a range of schools of different types and phases. A mixed-methods approach was adopted to collect documentary, survey and interview evidence from a number of sources and school stakeholders. The findings identify significant diversity in terms of the responsibilities undertaken by SBMs, the areas of educational provision the role can incorporate and the type of impact they are able to make within, between and beyond schools. The evidence also highlights the varying degrees of leadership and management being exercised by SBMs in different settings while underlining the cultural and contextual factors that can facilitate and inhibit the success of school business management models. What emerges is a role that can be of meaningful, tangible and sustainable benefit to schools but one that is still to be fully accepted, appreciated and understood in some quarters of the school system. To conclude, a heuristic of different approaches to school business management is presented to provide a speculative consideration of some of the key characteristics of school business management models across different school types. This working model is put forward as a means of stimulating further reflection on the implications of the findings.
Date of Award1 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorChristopher Chapman (Supervisor) & Charlotte Woods (Supervisor)


  • Management
  • Leadership
  • Organisational Culture
  • School Business Management

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