How to plan all the 'must do' tasks?

11th March 2005 at 00:00
It's development planning time again. Why are we all working away in our schools completing development plans individually, when we could work together and come up with the universal plan?

Not so long ago the development plan was designed to be a full community audit, with self-evaluation guiding each organisation to come up with a realistic business plan that would last for about three years, with the opportunity to tweak it a little each year. With a plan in place, we would have a list of priorities to protect as well as guide the progress of the school.

Colleagues in business warned me against having too many priorities and asked who would project-manage the various tasks. If only I could take more notice.

My authority is now talking about a development plan which drops the current year and adds another to the end of the three-year block, probably because of all the initiatives which appear and can't wait three years.

Suddenly we have eco schools, health promoting schools and enterprising schools. A new one for me today was the opportunity to gain AIFL (Assessment is for Learning) status. There must be more I have not discovered yet.

These initiatives come with a "must do" tag. Add Better Behaviour - Better Learning, formative assessment, perhaps languages in primary school and something about learning and teaching, and these could be our universal priorities.

What then of "factors which affect the development of the school?" We all have the five national priorities, of course.

Every time I see those words I am reminded of environmental studies, which had biology, chemistry, physics, history, geography, business studies, home economics, technology, ICT and more, all rolled into one. The same could be said of the five national priorities.

Take "attainment and achievement". These are different things and each commands a lot of time to plan for and get right.

The "framework for learning" is certainly a few topics rolled into one.

Much of a school's work in any year will be focused on developing staff skills more widely, developing pupils' self-discipline and making the school environment "conducive to teaching and learning".

I welcome the help I get from our business manager to do this and the designated funds reaching schools. It's a pleasure to help manage improvements like window replacements, roof repairs and redecoration, even if it is a lot of work.

"Inclusion and equality" is an enormous task, covering Gaelic and other lesser used languages as well as working with pupils who have disabilities and special educational needs and trying to do the right thing for everyone. Often this involves lengthy negotiations to get support or funding to help individual children. Inclusion with full funding is easy.

As for "values and citizenship", most headteachers will be very involved in programmes to teach pupils about these. This priority, however, asks us to work with parents to teach pupils respect for self and one another. Then they have to learn about interdependence with other members of their neighbourhood and society, and the duties and responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic society.

"Learning for life" seeks to equip pupils with the attitudes and expectations necessary to prosper in a changing society and adds the need to encourage creativity and ambition.

All of that could be more than enough for a three-year development plan but the national priorities will probably appear as only one factor affecting the development of the school.

In addition, we are all still affected by implementing the post-McCrone agreement, even if we don't have to juggle new timetabling arrangements until 2006-07. We probably have to plan for a school review or inspectors'

visit or, if they've recently left, implement an action plan.

More and more of us will support ever increasing numbers of students and probably a probationer teacher. And we will have to implement our share of the education service's improvement plan. Appraising all staff and planning professional development are time-consuming tasks, as are monitoring and evaluating attendance, attainment and the curriculum, and documenting the whole process. I wonder if there is any room for local priorities.

What was it my colleagues in business said about project managers? I'd settle for a non-teaching depute head.

Sheilah Jackson is headteacher of Queensferry Primary in Edinburgh

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