Don't give up: the view from the top is lovely

18th May 2001 at 01:00
Jane Martin says use your imagination when planning your strategy for school improvement.

Are you reviewing the school improvement plan? This should be at the heart of the role of a governing body - to provide a strategic framework for the future direction of the school and to bring about improved quality of education. What's the secret?

* Make time for a strategic review of the school. More heads now are organising an annual review day for governors with school staff. In small primaries this could be all staff, in larger secondaries, key senior staff.

* How will you conduct the review? Any strategic discussion needs to have information on performance and governors will also need have evidence of how the school is doing against the current plan. But future strategy doesn't always depend upon analysis of today's problems. "Visioning" five or even 10 years ahead about what kind of society students will face and how the school can equip them also has its place. The wider perspective of the governing body is just the forum to result in an imaginative and informed view.

* Try not to miss the wood for the trees. Building on current strengths and tackling existing weaknesses is a goodplace to start but a bit of "blue sky" thinking should be more fun and can unlock a lot of creativity. Yes, you want even better results but can the day-to-day experience of school be enriched for pupils so that they enjoy learning even more? Can the school become a more useful resource for the local community? How can teachers be supported so that they continue to find teaching challenging and rewarding? These are all legitimate questions in thinking strategically about the direction of the school.

* Can it be done? Ultimately, of course, the best strategy in the world must be realistic. Planning the route and finding the resources is the essence of improvement planning and the trick of continuous improvement is to set yourselves achievable milestones on the way. Everybody in school needs to see that they are getting somewhere - particularly when change and improvement is proving difficult to attain. And governors must know who is responsible for what, in order to support and monitor progress.

* So don't forget to look up when the pressure of percentage gains is getting you down. And encourage everyone else to do so because, when you get to the top, the view is really lovely!

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