Capability to better

serve and lead

Supporting primary schools financially and operationally

Leading a school is an increasingly complex task, with growing educational, regulatory and financial demands on principals and school leadership teams.

This is particularly true for principals of primary schools, who have a smaller number of administrative staff available than larger secondary schools.

To help primary school principals manage increases in the volume and complexity of financial and compliance obligations Catholic Education Melbourne implemented a business manager model in 2019.

Every primary school in the Archdiocese is able to choose to have a qualified accountant assisting them for one day per fortnight on site at the school.

By the end of 2019, there were 18 business managers supporting 145 schools across the Archdiocese.

Each business manager can support up to 10 schools, but to tell the story of our business managers we will focus on just one.

Cindy looks after six schools in the Southern Region of the Archdiocese and this is her story.


“I absolutely love this job”

Cindy’s day starts with getting her children off to Catholic school.

‘I went to a Catholic school, so I know the benefits of a Catholic education and I wanted that for my children too.’

Cindy’s journey to becoming a business manager started with her children.

‘Because I’m passionate about my children’s education I started helping out at the school voluntarily, which gave me an insight into the financial pressures of schools and principals.’

As a qualified accountant, with experience in complex and diverse environments, Cindy knew she had a lot to offer her school community. A role with CEM as a business manager was an extension of that passion, insight and experience.

‘I absolutely love this job, because I feel like I’m adding value to my schools and helping them plan for the future.’

“There’s always baked goods”

Cindy’s six schools are very different and bring different challenges.

She says that ‘every day is different’.

‘You really don’t know what the day will be like until you get there.’

One thing every school has in common though, is that ‘there’s always baked goods’ because Cindy’s schools treat her as part of the family.

The day start with a check in with the principal and bursar, to see how they are doing, and if there’s anything they are worried about.

While every day in a school is different, Cindy is very structured in her approach to the job.

‘I keep an agenda for every school and have lists for the principal and the bursar that we review together.’

‘An agenda is important for everyone, so that we can finish every day saying that we’ve ticked off items one, two and three and know what we’ve accomplished – and what else needs to be done next time.’

Principals appreciate the option of a business manager that reduces their financial and regulatory burden, which allows them to focus on learning.

Lachlan Foote, principal at St Agnes Highett says, ‘my passion is education and I want to focus on educating the children in my care’.

‘As an educator, I really appreciate having Cindy’s help with developing sound financial structures, identifying and managing financial risks and planning for the future’.

Alongside that valuable work, business managers also help their principals with critical tasks like staying on top of cash flow projections, assessing risks and audits.

And rather than using external accountants as in the past, the business manager model means the principal has one person dedicated to helping them, which allows for a trusting relationship to grow over time.

As Cindy says, ‘what’s really important is building that relationship, alongside the technical aspects of the job.’

‘But the relationship isn’t just with the principal, it’s also building trust across the school so I can maximise the value that I bring.’

Supporting primary schools with business managers has delivered real value to our schools financially and operationally and is another way of ensuring they are able to continue delivering a high-quality Catholic education.