School Bursar/Business Manager

The Job and What's Involved

School bursars/business managers work as part of the senior management team in a school and assist headteachers in meeting the educational aims of their schools. They are responsible for ensuring that support services are provided in the most effective and efficient way in the support of learning.

National standards for bursars outline what school bursars need to be able to do in the job and what they should know. They define seven key areas of bursarship, which are:

- Financial resource management
- Management of information systems and ICT
- Administration management
- Planning and managing change
- Human resource management
- Health and safety management
- Facility and property management.

The actual tasks that school bursars/business managers do will vary from school to school, but will usually include the following activities:

  • Implementing a strategic financial plan and advising the headteacher and governors on investment and financial policy.
  • Securing, planning, checking and reporting on the school's budget and cash flow.
  • Using financial information to identify how to lower costs and improve services.
  • Ensuring that ICT provision is planned and managed effectively to meet high standards in learning achievement.
  • Reviewing and managing administrative systems ensuring processes and communications are effective.
  • Establishing and maintaining policies and procedures to cover human resources (HR) issues such as employment law, employee relations, learning and development.
  • Recruiting, training, developing and managing support staff.
  • Ensuring that health and safety policies and procedures are established and maintained to meet legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Supervising planning and construction processes to ensure they meet contractual obligations.
  • Following sound practices in estate management and ground maintenance.
  • Ensuring ancillary services, such as catering and cleaning, are monitored and managed effectively.

In addition, school bursars/business managers attend meetings, write reports and may have responsibility for other areas such as marketing or developing a school admissions and appeals policy.

School bursars are usually contracted to work 37 hours a week throughout the year, but often work much longer hours during the school terms.

They often start work before the school opens and may need to work some evenings and weekends to attend governors' meetings or parents' evenings.

Some school bursars, usually in the maintained primary sector, may work term time only or part-time hours. Part-time jobs are less common in the independent sector.

School bursars need to take their holiday at times that suit the school, as they may need to supervise building work during school holidays.

Schools can at times be noisy places. Bursars mainly work from an office in the school, often in front of a computer screen, but also move around the buildings and grounds to manage facilities and support staff.

Starting salaries can range from £23,000 to £40,000 a year. Some schools, particularly in the independent sector, offer additional benefits such as accommodation, a car or private health insurance.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

School bursars/business managers work in primary and secondary schools in both the maintained and independent sectors.

The number of opportunities is increasing. There are approximately 8,000 bursars in the maintained sector and 1,270 in independent schools. Entry is competitive, as there are more applicants than vacancies for the majority of posts advertised.

Vacancies are advertised in the education sections of national newspapers, such as The Guardian on Tuesdays, The Times Educational Supplement and local newspapers. They can also be found on the websites of the National Bursars Association, the Independent Schools' Bursars Association (ISBA) and on the official vacancy service website for local government. Vacancies may also be advertised in job bulletins produced by local councils or on their websites.

Education and Training

There are no specific academic requirements for school bursars/business managers, although applicants will be expected to have a reasonable level of financial and management experience, and many have a degree and/or professional qualification.

Useful qualifications include:

- A degree in a business/finance-related subject
- An accountancy qualification
- NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Administration and Finance
- NVQ/SVQ Level 4 in Management

Entry requirements for degree courses are at least two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications.

There are also postgraduate level courses in education business management.

Most bursars also have significant experience in one of the following areas of work:

  • Management and finance, including accountancy, banking, general business, hospitality management, human resources or the Armed Forces.
  • Education or school administration.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

The National College for School Leadership (NCSL) runs a bursar development programme, leading to the Certificate of School Business Management (CSBM). This course offers funded places for existing bursars working in maintained schools and fee paying places to those planning to work in schools. It also leads to the Institute of Administrative Management's (IAM) International Diploma. The CSBM is at the level of the first year of a first degree course and can be completed within a year part time.

NCSL also offers a Diploma of School Business Management (DSBM), which leads to the Advanced International Diploma of the IAM. This course is around the equivalent of the second year of a first degree course and again can be completed within a year part time.

The National Bursars Association (NBA) offers the Senior Bursar Development Programme for experienced, practising bursars with senior leadership responsibility. This awards a Postgraduate Certificate in Educational Studies through the University of Leicester with a progression route available to a full MSc in Educational Leadership. Successful participants are also awarded licentiate status of the NBA.

The ISBA offers a new bursars' training course to its member schools and runs regular professional development courses.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A school bursar/business manager should:

  • Have excellent interpersonal skills for dealing with a wide range of people.
  • Be an effective communicator - both in writing and orally.
  • Have good project management and organisational skills.
  • Be numerate and computer literate.
  • Have a good knowledge of accounting and financial management systems.
  • Be capable of innovation and have leadership skills.
  • Possess commercial and strategic awareness.
  • Have good time management skills and the ability to prioritise work.

Your Long Term Prospects

In order to progress, a bursar will often have to move to a larger school. Substantial experience and/or a postgraduate qualification such as an MSc in Educational Leadership or an MBA in Education Management may enhance a bursar's promotional prospects.

Additional opportunities for bursars include financial or education administration with a local authority. There may also be opportunities for bursars to work in British schools overseas.

Get Further Information

Independent Schools' Bursars Association (ISBA),
Unit 11-12 Manor Farm, Cliddesden,
Basingstoke, Hampshire RG25 2JB
Tel: 01256 330369

Local Government Association,
Local Government House, Smith Square,
London SW1P 3HZ
Tel: 020 7664 3000

National Bursars Association (NBA),
First Floor Offices, 140 Wood Street,
Rugby, Warwickshire CV21 2SP
Tel: 01788 573300

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