There is a palpable sense of corporate pride among the senior management team of Hayocks Primary School in Stevenston, North Ayrshire, as they recall their journey to the Investors in People (IIP) award which will be presented to them this week. Headteacher Elaine Maclean and her team have clearly been absorbed in the "culture of management'' for a long time.
The IIP initiative was launched to the business world in 1991. Its aim was to provide a framework for the development of standards in management, in particular by offering a set of benchmarks for the improvement of staff development and training.
In 1995, the initiative was introduced to schools in Strathclyde. In co-operation with HM Inspectors, IIP has dovetailed its benchmarks with four key HMI performance indicators, providing a tailor-made framework for IIP in schools.
The school pays pound;550 per day for assessment, which can take between one and three days, according to the size of school. The award is held for three years, then schools can apply for re-assessment. To date, seven secondary and four primary schools in Scotland have received IIP accreditation. One of these is Hayocks Primary.
Just over two years ago, when the pilot scheme for schools was launched in Strathclyde, the Hayocks team decided to "have a crack'' because they were "half way there anyway'', says Elaine Maclean. They already had a strong commitment to staff development and a record of being at the forefront of many initiatives.
One of the driving forces in going for the award was the team's desire to raise the school's standing in the community.
The school took as its starting point 24 IIP principles, grouped under the general headings of Commitment, Review, Action and Evaluation. These were the original principles of the IIP standard for business, which had to be re-interpreted for a school model. This process helped the Hayocks team to pinpoint areas of their staff development plan which needed reviewing.
The most basic principle of IIP is the commitment to staff development. So Maureen Denningberg, Hayocks school's staff co-ordinator (acting head while Elaine Maclean is on secondment), continued to interview staff about their needs, a process already in train under the school's own staff development plan.
There was no level of appraisal in the interview which was simply to try to establish what the school needs and what the teacher needs. This was followed up with appropriate action, and then review and evaluation. This "needs analysis'' is what IIP is all about, says Maureen Denningberg. When the school was ready, it called in the IIP assessor.
Staff reaction to the IIP initiative has been positive. "Once we could reassure them that, during the one-day visit, the IIP assessor was not here to find out how you do your job, but to ask you if you are being given the facilities to make your job easier, their reaction was very favourable,'' says acting deputy Seonaid Logan.
Like Hayocks Primary, Largs Academy has a strong tradition of staff development, with meticulously devised policies. It prides itself on having a dedicated and happy staff, willing to co-operate in the IIP initiative, and a senior management team committed to the continued development of its staff.
A much larger school set in the middle of a town, Largs Academy has over 80 members of staff, but headteacher George Maxwell reiterates the fundamental principle of IIP: "It's about continuously developing the people who are charged with the success, attainment and achievement of their pupils.
"You've got this word quality in your school aim . . . the people in your school are almost your sole resources to deliver the goods."
Like the team at Hayocks Primary, Mr Maxwell was confident that the school was "75 per cent of the way there'' and saw involvement in IIP as a structured means of guaranteeing the continued improvement of its development programme. He had strong support from his staff, the parents and the school board, many of whom are in business and were familiar with IIP.
Preparation for the award took six months at Largs Academy, concluding with a three-day assessment. Having been fully briefed on the aims of IIP, members of teaching and support staff were selected for interview by the assessor.
Apart from this assessment period, the Largs staff says that the IIP project did not increase their workload. The staff development committee is particularly delighted to have been told that the work of their school management team is "just spot on''.
Real success stories, but what of the jaded management team battling to improve a flagging staff? The initiative cannot work from the bottom up. IIP requires effective leadership, as is demonstrated in the two North Ayrshire schools.
Unil now a puzzling combination of national and professional modesty has prevented teachers from extolling the virtues of their schools. But for the school with good development plans, IIP accreditation offers deserved recognition. For the school with a less cohesive structure, it offers a highly structured, practical and positive challenge.
Further information from Stuart Jardine, IIP national development officer, tel: 01465 713508
A handbook on how to apply for an IIP award is available from ASCETT, 120 Bothwell Street, Glasgow G2 7JP, tel: 0141 248 2700, ext 2876