School objectives and development planning
Writing plans is the easy part. There are countless books, resources, courses and consultants available to help a school produce a good looking and widely approved document. Making a plan work, however, is always a much bigger and more demanding challenge.
Few schools lack a strategic plan but whether this plan forms part of the school’s actual decision making from board room to classroom is an altogether different matter. Too often the plan is written, approved, circulated and then neglected. Sometimes it is a short statement of fine words and bullet points, at others it is a lengthy document dated and adjusted every year. No matter the format, the most important element is whether it translates into action and that if action has the intended results.
Website are adorned with statements such as our vision is for every child to become a successful global citizen, accepting of life’s challenges in a safe, happy and nurturing place where an inspiring curriculum develops the whole person. This is the normal fare of schools’ visions and rightly so. It is the translation action that offers the major challenge and where schools can face the biggest difficulty. If the vision or plan just stay as words or occasional presentations and meetings then the school community will soon put it to the backs of their minds and planned change will not take place.
Strategies must be about improving the school experience and outcomes for every pupil and while goals and targets will vary every school should focus on learning, engagement and pathways
Learning. Describing how pupils will do better in the leaning areas regarded as a priority at that time.
Engagement. Describing how the children will be fully involved in school and how the school will demonstrate that they are achieving academically and socially. This will mean more than merely attending lessons. Engagement should foster wellbeing and show how the school is making sure that students are happy, safe and are developing friendships.
Pathways. The part of the plan that shows how the school will make it easier for pupils to move through the school and into higher education, employment or training.
In my experience school leaders and boards have the knowledge, expertise, energy and will to decide what should be in their strategic plan. Those within the school know what is best for the pupils. However consultancy with a third party will help to make the plan work. My extensive strategic experience as both Head and advisor to schools means I can help leaders turn great ideas into positive action, avoiding pitfalls and using tested successful approaches.
Helping schools manage change
Managing change is now a phrase so well-worn that its meaning and value seems to be under question. Organisations are always changing; leaders are always managing change and the organisation itself is always evolving. Hence leadership and management are always all about change.
My experience in implementing change and advising leaders tells me that leadership miscalculations are normally made at the start of the change process.
Change can be necessary, well intentioned, properly organised and approved at board level but still lead to unpredictable and damaging outcomes. I would go so far as to say that the school that thinks it has planned its change so well that mis-steps will not occur, has done the opposite. Missteps in the implementation of change are part of the process and it is how we cope with them, how we manage and lead through them that makes the difference between success and failure.
Damage can be minimised and success more likely when the school tests its change strategy and approach before implementation. Having been though the process of change many times I can save a school time, effort and possibly avoid litigation.
Helping schools manage staff reorganisation
I have overseen large and smaller scale staff redundancy programmes. This is always a horrible time for teachers and support staff; it can cause painful rifts, is stressful for everyone and will damage morale. No Head should underestimate the personal and professional challenge of laying off staff and no board should play it down or liken it directly to job cuts in another sector. Redundancy may been seen as part of the commercial world but remains a painful rarity in education. Legal advice and guidance is essential but beyond the legal process there are ways to navigate the stages with staff and support them. I am able to share both my positive and negative experiences with boards to help them through the various stages.
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