Macclesfield College has reached another significant milestone along its ongoing journey to becoming ‘outstanding’, by being confirmed as East Cheshire’s first FE provider to offer and deliver the new School Business Professional apprenticeship standard.               

Launched nationwide in 2018, this far-reaching Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship qualification is targeted primarily at school business managers, as well as others in key school support roles such as senior administrators, school office managers, HR and finance & procurement officers and bursars.

Focused on the appropriate, effective and streamlined day-to-day management of schools at all levels, the School Business Professional higher apprenticeship standard typically lasts around 18 months and those enrolled on this course can expect to learn about budget management, producing financial reports, marketing and communication techniques and the efficient running of key, school-based administration systems, such as attendance records.

To qualify from this demanding course, all candidates are required to undertake a comprehensive and rigorous End-Point Assessment (EPA) – covering no fewer than 70 separate components and criteria – once all individual course elements have been successfully completed.

Prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, the course included one classroom-based session per month, and one site visit every other month, backed by full telephone support and online learning modules covering a broad range of operational and managerial skills, knowledge, self-awareness and behaviour. During the lockdown, the course has been reconfigured to incorporate one online session per month, with an individual tutorial session delivered online every other month, again backed by full telephone support at all times.

The delivery of the School Business Professional higher apprenticeship standard originally commenced at the College back in September 2018, with a cohort of five East Cheshire-based candidates, who were soon to be joined by a further three school business managers – one based in Crewe and two from neighbouring Shropshire – all tasked with developing work-based portfolios to present at their EPAs, to End-Point Assessment Organisation, Best Practice Network.

This programme – all aspects of which are mapped to the latest ISBL (Institute of School Business Leadership) standards – is overseen at Maxim Business Training, Macclesfield College’s dedicated employer-responsive arm, by experienced Trainer and Coach, Deborah Sandhu, and it has recently grown to include an additional three candidates from across the East Cheshire region.

Two of the original cohort of learners for this course at Macclesfield College – Karen Crosland, School Business Manager at Manor Park Primary School in Knutsford, and Jenny Sykes, Director of Business and Operations at Poynton High School – were recently among the first learners in the country to successfully take and pass the School Business Professional EPA, both gaining distinctions in the process.

“Jenny and Karen were an absolute credit to themselves and to the schools that employ them,” confirms Deborah Sandhu. “They both worked incredibly hard to build up first-class portfolios in advance of their EPAs, and I am sure that the knowledge and new skills they have each acquired from this course will prove crucial to their individual roles, and be valued highly by their respective employers.”

“The School Business Professional Level 4 apprenticeship is an excellent course that involves plenty of interaction with similar staff from other schools, which has provided me with an invaluable network,” says Karen Crosland. “I found it to be well structured and our excellent tutor made the whole experience a pleasure and something to look forward to each month. All in all, it was a very useful course which will hold me in good stead going forward.”

“Embarking on the School Business Professional Level 4 apprenticeship was a tricky decision for me, less than a year into my first role in a school, but I am so glad I did,” elaborates Jenny Sykes. “Learning on the job and attending college has been a great way to get to grips with the demands of my role.

“This course is invaluable to anyone new to our profession. I have not only learnt so much from the subject area, but being able to meet monthly at the College with other school business professionals, gives a great opportunity to share best practice and pick up those little hints and tips that really help when back at school.

“The role of a school business professional can be quite isolated in some schools,” Jenny concludes, “so having the support of the College tutor and the team on the course has been amazing. I miss my days at Macclesfield College so much that I am already looking for my next course to enrol on.”


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