School Bursar

Bursars are found primarily in secondary schools and are responsible for the strategic management of school finances. They may also have responsibility for other functions such as human resources or facilities management. The job title attached to the role may vary, in some schools they may be known as business manager or business director.  In small schools the bursar may work alone, in larger ones, he or she may manage a team of administrative staff.  Bursars work for school governing bodies within local education authorities.

Daily Activities
A bursar's role is challenging and full of variety. It involves four main areas of work: financial and budget management, facilities management, contract management and human resources.  A bursar's day starts well before the school opens. In some cases it can begin at home, as early as 7am, when staff phone in sick and the bursar has to try to find a supply teacher. (In some schools this is not a bursar's duty but is done by another member of staff.)

Some of the bursar's daily tasks can include: updating accounts and preparing a monthly summary of the school's financial position, paying suppliers and contractors, preparing staff contracts, sending salary claims to the council's payroll department, and acting as admissions officer. (This involves keeping a running total of children applying to the school and informing parents whether there are any places.)  Some bursars act as site managers; they appoint contractors, supervise and pay them and are responsible for health and safety.

People management can include being responsible for the work of cleaners, caretakers, technicians and lunchtime supervisors as well as being in control of the school administrative function.  Bursars often need to attend evening meetings and events for parents organised by the school governing body and may have to report to the governors on financial matters.  A bursar is an important member of the school leadership team and will often have a close professional relationship with the school head.

Skills & Interests
Bursars need to:

  • be well organised and methodical;
  • be highly motivated;
  • have a good knowledge of accounting and budget management;
  • have good time management skills and the ability to prioritise work;
  • be numerate and computer literate.

Most importantly they must have a pleasant and confident manner in dealing with people, including parents, education officers, school inspectors, governors, contractors, maintenance staff and pupils.

Entry Requirements
Although there are no standard qualifications or entry requirements for bursars, most applicants will be expected to have experience in a relevant work environment and possibly a professional qualification.  Some bursars may enter the profession from inside the education sector, for example they may already work in a school and be seeking to improve their position. The National Bursars Association and the National College for School Leadership provide courses which can be of help to those wishing to progress into the role of bursar.  BTEC/SQA National and Higher National level qualifications in Business and Finance or Public Administration or experience and qualifications in accountancy could all be useful when applying for a post.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
To gain promotion or a higher salary it would be necessary to move to a larger school.  There are also opportunities to move into financial work or other areas of education within a local authority.

Further Information & Services
You can get further information on this career from your local council's education department.

Accountancy Age journal
Association of Accounting Technicians
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy
Education jobs
Institute of Administrative Management
Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
National Association of School Business Management
National College for School Leadership

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

Careers Wales have produced a Spotlight article on careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths):  

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