Joan Sallis answers your questions

8th April 2005 at 01:00
Everywhere I turn I hear references to the School Improvement Plan. I am an active and conscientious governor, so I don't like feeling puzzled about who is supposed to be doing this, why, how, by when, for whom etc.

Every time a teacher, the chair of governors, or a worried parent wants to see the head, she is "busy with the school improvement plan".

As a governor I can't help wondering where we come in. Nothing has been on the agenda, our chair says it has not yet come up in conversation, but from what I understand of our responsibilities this seems to be something which we ought to be informed about if not actually directly involved in.

Could you please enlighten me?

Your concern shows you are a conscientious governor. You are quite right: the governing body has legal responsibility in law for the general conduct of the school and improving its performance. Don't be too hasty, however, in condemning your head for taking time to get to grips with these new requirements - provided she doesn't take too long. There is no deadline - the idea is to bring together a number of school activities into a process that will gradually become routine and part of school life.

But it is a pity you haven't had some explanation of what is going on and an indication of when you will be brought into the picture. I have already taken part in governors' conferences where the SIP has been discussed.

The new plan will take the place of the School Development Plan. It will also be a basis for information given to inspectors and used to structure action after inspection. It can run with a calendar or academic year, and can be part of a less detailed plan for three or four years.

The plan should have clear priorities, realistic targets and be properly resourced and monitored. Milestones are helpful. It will identify actions, resources, responsibilities, time-scales and success criteria. It will be for the use of staff and governors, those who carry out the head's annual appraisal and also inspectors and the local education authority. A useful guide has been produced by Calderdale LEA and is available on their website.

There is no doubt the governing body is responsible, with the head, for producing and operating this plan. Once your head has got to grips with it, you must ensure that you are involved with setting it up from the outset.

Send your questions to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 3202, or see www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert where answers will appear

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