About Us

ABLE is a non-profit organisation run by a passionate committee of educational experts. Our mission is to provide unwavering support, comprehensive training, and the latest educational guidance to professionals in school, academy, and MAT business management roles.

We not only support School Business/Office Managers and School Administrators but we also aim to support Finance, HR, Facilities, and Health & Safety professionals whether they work in schools, academies, or MATs.

Join ABLE Today!

Where else can you receive 3 full day conferences and training events plus regular updates about business management in education for only £80+vat per year?

The History behind ABLE

In the early 1990s schools were allowed to delegate and manage their budgets locally, away from the full management of Local Authorities. This local management of schools (LMS) era brought with it a whole host of new duties for school administrative staff and therefore a group of Senior Administrators/Leaders, (5 in total), in schools decided to get together to support each other in a very informal meeting 4 or 5 times per year.

As the breadth of the LMS took hold in the Nottinghamshire Authority Schools more and more support staff wanted to become a part of this group to get the help, networking and support they needed.  It was then that the original members began to formalise the group with, what was then, the National Bursars Association and received funding for the initial set-up to develop the meetings and offer professional training and venues.  The group was named the Nottingham Bursars Group.  A committee was formed to ensure that the group had the best chances of success by ensuring that it would be led by support staff professionals in education.

The membership of the group has continued to grow over the years and has adapted to ensure alignment with National organisations and the need to respond to change and demand in schools.  In 2009 the group changed its name to the Nottingham Association of School Business Management to align itself to the change of the National Bursars Group to the National Association of School Business Management. It was at this point that Nottingham City schools began to become valued members.

The group’s links with partner businesses and local authorities have also grown over the years and the reputation for the quality of conferences, training and support has improved immensely. The sponsorship, business and financial support from these companies and authorities continue to ensure that the group thrives and can deliver the best opportunities to members.

So, now we have embarked on a new adventure, still, with three of the original committee members leading the way, the group has become the Association of Business Leaders in Education (ABLE) in September 2017. Yet again we are responding to the demands and expectations placed upon us by the formation of Multi-Academy Trusts and individual changes in business roles in our schools and academies and to ensure we align to these changes in our profession to support, develop and meet the needs of our members. It is also worth noting that the group of committee members working hard on the development of the group do so, voluntarily, and without their continued commitment, the group would cease to exist.

The group has had consistently 130 plus members over the last few years.  We are also now in a position to offer higher membership numbers due to constant change of venue to meet demand and also welcome colleagues from neighbouring authorities such as Lincolnshire and Derbyshire.  At £80 per calendar year for the number of events and training members have access to, it is sincerely one of the best value for money staff development opportunities on offer.  However, this value for money, is only possible because the group is also in demand from local and national companies who want to exhibit at conferences and offer training and support, which gives the group financial development and sustainability to provide the breadth of opportunities for all.

Karen Bonser
Executive Director

Meet the ABLE Committee

Meet the ABLE Committee

Karen Bonser- Executive Director
Karen has been an executive lead in the growth and development of ABLE over the last 25 years. As the Director of the organisation she ensures that the strategy and objectives are at the forefront of ABLE’s mission to provide high quality and value for money professional development and support for business leaders working in all areas of education support and leadership.

Having also been an Executive Leader for a large multi academy trust and Business Consultant to a number of other educational establishments for over 30 years, she has a vast range of skills, experience, knowledge and a passion to support and further develop ABLE and business leaders working in all areas of education.

Frances Rowland- Chair
Frances Rowland has supported school business managers in various forms since 2007. She worked for Nottingham City Council in their Traded Services Team from 2007 to 2020. She joined ABLE (then Nottingham ASBM) in 2012 where she sat on the committee sourcing presenters for ABLE conferences. She became self-employed in 2020 doing project work for Nottingham Schools Trust and chairing the committee of ABLE. She is also Chair of Governors at Haydn Primary School in Sherwood, Nottingham. She has experience is sales, marketing, contract negotiation and procurement. She has worked in a number of industries including catering, software and more recently support for school business managers. She has lived overseas a few times but always gravitates back to family and friends in Nottingham.

Emma Cripwell- Business Manager
Emma has been supporting ABLE since 2017, she has over 13 years experience working in an education business support role gained through previous employment in Nottingham City Council’s Traded Services Team and at SAAF Education.

Emma has a wealth of experience in event and membership management, finance administration, sales, marketing & business operations. Emma took the leap to become self employed in July 2022 and now provides remote executive PA and operational support to fast growing SME’s, entrepreneurs, charities, and associations throughout the UK.

Clare Stokes- Exhibitions and Partnership Coordinator

As well as supporting partners and managing exhibitions at all ABLE conferences, Clare is also the School Business Manager at Newark Orchard School.



Neil Beeson- Finance Support
I am very honoured to have the opportunity to support ABLE and its members. I have over 30 years’ experience in supporting schools in a variety of roles. The main focus over the last 20 years has been with Finance. Fifteen years with Derbyshire County Council, four with a large Academy Trust and recently a School Business Manager at Alfreton Nursery School and supporting a large special school. Some of my strengths within Schools Finance are budgeting, forecasting and IT systems to name a few. I consider myself very friendly and approachable. I have been a volunteer with the Scouts since I was 16, and have been a Beaver Scout leader for over 30 years. I find this to be very rewarding and an enjoyable. I love sport, watching and 

playing. I regularly play football and tennis. I enjoy cycling around the lovely Derbyshire Dales. I have been married for 23 years, have a son, who is about to turn 17, that has just completed his GCSE’s, which I am proud to say he totally aced them!

Jo Robinson- Business and Marketing Support





Varinka Strong- Business Network Training Coordinator
I am delighted to be joining the ABLE Committee.
I have recently retired, after working 25 years in Education and being based in a large primary school in Derbyshire. I started as the school secretary in 1998 and finished as a School Business Manager.
I have seen so many changes and the development of the role of the SBM through that time. The importance of the SBM should never be in doubt and is a vital post in schools to support the ever changing demands that are presented on a regular basis. I, therefore, hope it bring support to fellow school business leaders, help to promote ABLE in the future and expand the network.