School Business Affairs January 2021 SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS | JANUARY 2021 39 The Greatest Challenges T he role of school business leader has always been a challenging one, and most of us have relished work- ing out the problems it presents; however, the recent pandemic has taken that role to a new level. A couple of years ago I ran a poll on Twitter to learn about the previous experi- ence of SBLs. The overwhelming majority came from a finance background. Normally that would put them in the best position to carry out the job, but since the start of 2020 the big focus has been on premises manage- ment and health and safety. Since we began dealing with COVID-19 in schools, the SBL has taken on an integral role in interpreting changes in guidance and implementing them with little notice. This has presented a huge challenge, as it’s not part of the role that SBLs typically would carry out on a regular basis. Even as someone who really likes the health and safety aspect of the role, I have found it all very overwhelming. It’s a sober- ing thought to have the responsibility for creating a system of controls to make sure your school can operate safely, and it was heartening to see so many SBLs shar- ing resources and ideas. Our community stepped up and supported each other. Another challenge during the pandemic has been how to support pupils at home. The two biggest aspects of this were sup- porting those pupils who would normally be entitled to free school meals as well as those who didn’t have the technology at home to be able to carry out home learning. The PTA at my school did some amazing fundraising and helped to buy 30 laptops for us to allo- cate to some of our pupils. Positive Post-COVID Practices We found that we had to be flexible in our response to COVID-19 and sometimes that has resulted in positive changes that we have decided to embed into our permanent pro- cesses. The top three changes are: 1. Electronic authorisation as a part of our payment processes. Prior to COVID-19, the school’s financial management policy required physical signatures for payment, which was inconvenient or impossible for finance teams working remotely dur- ing the pandemic. As a result of most staff working remotely, the policy has now been updated and we have a more streamlined way of working. Electronic authorisation is a keeper! 2. The use of Microsoft Teams as a remote learning platform has been implemented with such speed that it’s hard to remem- ber a time when we didn’t use it. We have moved away from times where a child being away from class meant they had lots of catching up to do. Now that our teachers are well-versed in the use of Teams, lessons are taught live and online simultaneously. It’s a wonder- ful step forward and one we’d hope to continue. 3. The change that has made me the most excited is the chance to go cashless. Although we’ve long required pupils to FROM THE FIELD As we head into 2021, it’s worth reflecting on some of our greatest challenges of 2020 and what we can expect for the future. Reflecting on the Challenges Ahead By Cheryl Campbell FIZKES/STOCK.ADOBE.COM