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Are you a people person?

One of my governors keeps going on about Investors in People and his business. What exactly is IIP and is it something that will benefit our school?

Investors In People was originally a badge that businesses could gain if they reached a level of good practice with regard to the training and development of their people in a way that furthered the goals of the business. This badge is available for schools, and a number have achieved this status. You have to be reassessed every three years to ensure that you maintain the standards required. More than 32,000 organisations have IIP status. Nearly a third of schools had achieved or were pursuing recognition in 2002 when the Department for Education and Skills wrote to education authorities to endorse the scheme. The department believes it is a cost-effective way of supporting continuous school improvement, and has positive spin-offs for staff development and performance management. But, as the department warns, IIP is not a soft option or a panacea. If you are only interested in collecting badges then stop reading now. However, schools committed to the training and development of their staff have found the process at the heart of IIP of enormous benefit.

If you regard all the people connected with your school as its greatest resource, then you have reached step one of answering whether IIP will benefit your school. IIP demands a commitment to invest in people, their training and development, for the purpose of achieving your objectives.

This commitment must start with you. Further steps along the IIP path bring other questions into play:

* Are you actively working on plans to develop the skills of individuals and teams needed to deliver your school's objectives?

* Are you developing the above as part of a coherent, well-defined and continuous programme?

* Have you got mechanisms in place for evaluating the impact of the training and development, and particularly the impact on school goals and targets?

* Are you using this information to inform future training and development?

Many heads find that this process sits very comfortably with some high profile items on their agendas; for example, self-review, school improvement planning, and workforce reform. Therefore, the IIP process is an integral part of the school's development and growth. As a result, it does not necessarily require a lot of extra work.

Before you embark on IIP, ensure that you:

* understand the standard (see www.investorsinpeople.co.uk) and the strategic implications for your school;

* conduct a review of your school against the standard to identify your strengths and any gaps that exist between your school's current practice and the standard;

* can make the commitment to meet the standard and that you communicate that commitment to all staff;

* have, in the school, the capacity to bring about change, and can produce the evidence required for IIP status.

Your governor and the world of business and commerce attach a certain kudos to the badge, but the process is what really helps to move schools on and affirms at a very human level the contribution people make to the overall success of the school. This will be the real benefit.

Patrick McDermott is head of St Joseph's Catholic college in Bradford. He has been a head for 12 years and a teacher for 27. He is a facilitator for the National College for School Leadership and mentored Catholic heads for 10 years Do you have a leadership question? Email karen.thornton@tes.co.uk

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