1. Get up to data
Review the way you use the pupil performance data that sits in your management information system. Properly read and analysed, it will shed light on all that you are trying to achieve.
The online tool "Improve" will help. It's a detailed self-evaluation process that a senior leadership team can work through, checking off their procedures and finding ways of making the data support teaching and learning.
The tool is devised by Capita, suppliers of SIMS (the schools information management system), but it deliberately doesn't carry the Capita brand, and is relevant to any management information system.
2. Out with staffrooms
Do you need a staffroom? At a recent conference, I encountered a school preparing for Building Schools for the Future whose staff thought that was a silly question. Then they monitored the way the staffroom was used and found that once the 10-minute Monday morning briefing was over, it stood largely empty for the rest of the week.
The head explains: "Given the limits on floor area, we decided we could find better ways of using the space." And, of course, staff will continue to meet each other in teams and informal groups in smaller spaces around the building.
Whether you agree or not, it's a good example of the need to approach BSF with as few preconceptions as possible.
3. Look to the middle
Reinforce your move to distributed leadership by supporting colleagues in applying for the Leading from the Middle programme. This course from the National College for School Leadership is designed to support people with "middle" responsibilities - those managing subjects or year groups, for example - in becoming confident and effective leaders.
It's quite common for heads to encourage most, or all, of a school's middle leaders to take this course - perhaps three or four at a time on a rolling programme - in order to strengthen overall leadership in the school. Collaborative groups across schools are also encouraged.
Applications for the next cohort, beginning April 2009, opened on December 1 and close on January 16.
4. Enter the Pod
If your pupils are keen on making their school greener - and most are - think about entering them for EDF Energy's Awards for Greener Schools. There are several categories for schools and individuals, with six awards of Pounds 5,000 and 12 runners-up prizes of Pounds 1,000. Entries close on February 25 next year and the awards will be decided in June.
You can get full details if you register your school on the Pod, EDF's interactive website, which is supported by the Eden Project and has lots of other information and activities.
5. IT made easy
If you're looking to do more work on pupils' employability skills, look out for Microsoft's free digital literacy curriculum, which was introduced for adults in April this year. I understand that a secondary school version has been trialled and will be launched at the Bett education technology show in January.
The curriculum involves web-based distance learning, and pupils in pilot schools have appreciated working at their own pace with instant feedback. You can see the latest version at www.microsoft.comukdlc
Send your contributions or suggestions for this column to Gerald Haigh at firstname.lastname@example.org.