A day in the life: Association of School Business Administrators

Beyond the Classroom, Professional Development

A day in the life: Association of School Business Administrators

Pip Thomas, Chief Executive Officer of the Association of School Business Administrators, outlines the challenges of being an independent school business administrator and the support available.

Being the sole accountant and chief financial officer among a school of educators can be quite intimidating and sometimes lonely.

This is why more than 1300 business managers/bursars of independent schools across Australasia have joined the Association of School Business Administrators (ASBA). Our efforts have continually supported school-specific professional learning, networking and collegiality. Being the business manager of an independent school requires great skill in a wide range of areas, including finance, governance, risk, project management, compliance, leadership and management. Many independent schools require their business manager to be an ASBA member, ensuring they are well-trained, supported and up to date.

Many business managers join independent schools from private practice or commerce, and are surprised by the immense variety of the role. Before taking up the role of CEO of ASBA three years ago, I was the business manager of a large independent girls’ boarding school in Queensland for many years. My working week (and weekend) was filled with diverse activities, interactions with a diverse range of stakeholders and exciting challenges. A day might be filled with:

• Accounting (my happy place)
• Dealing with staff issues (a staff of 100+)
• Negotiating catering, laundry or maintenance contracts
• Talking with my grounds staff about oval/lawn health
• Speaking to architects about a multi-million-dollar building project
• Meeting with the school solicitor about child protection issues on behalf of the principal
• Arranging and attending a school board meeting, preparation of board papers, updating one of the school’s 72 policies
• Helping the school parents and friends committee arrange the annual fair
• Meeting the kindergarten children in my office as they undertake a school incursion to the business office – the highlight of my year

Not surprisingly, an independent school business manager is in need of custom training and support and this bespoke training is provided by ASBA across Australia and New Zealand.


For 30 years, ASBA has been the peak body for independent school business managers/bursars and has eight chapters (state and territory groups) across Australia and New Zealand. Members join each chapter as individuals, rather than the school, to ensure that all members fit the criteria. Professional learning and networking events are held each term at the regional and chapter level. The chapters each hold a conference each even calendar year, which includes a sponsor exhibition and high-quality speakers and social events. In the odd calendar year, ASBA Limited hosts the national conference, where approximately 800 delegates and 100 exhibitors/sponsors are in attendance. This event usually runs for three days and is at a minimal cost.

Membership to ASBA provides access to the website which includes a rich resource of personal development documents, an increasing number of webinars for viewing and event registration capability. Members receive a quarterly technical update covering issues relating to funding, management, leadership, governance, compliance and much more, and receive the twice-yearly hard copy magazine, Associate.

Later this year, ASBA is beginning a new mentoring program, where experienced business managers will receive certified mentor training, and then be paired with voluntary mentee business manager members. We hope this will allow a cross population of ideas, skills and knowledge between our greatly experienced members and newer ones.

In late September 2017, our ASBA2017 National Conference will be held at the Sydney International Convention Centre over three days with around 850 delegates and more than 100 exhibitors. This will be a great opportunity for members and non-members to learn about the latest in finance, governance, leadership and management along with many networking opportunties.
By providing a network of support, ASBA can help business managers with the challenges and daily pressures that lie ahead while reaping the rewards.

If you are interested in what we do or in joining ASBA, visit www.asba.asn.au or ring (02) 9431 8682. To register as a non-member for the ASBA2017 conference, visit


Pip Thomas is an FCPA with 30 years accounting experience. She has worked across commerce, foreign currency and treasury accounting, owned her own tax firm and been an independent school business manager for six years before becoming the CEO of ASBA Limited in August 2014. Pip’s goal is to help ASBA members to be the best business managers they can be with the support of the ASBA network.

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