The school development plan…
To be honest, I don’t remember being involved with it much as a deputy – the objectives were on the staff room wall and we just needed to remember what they were – I know we were bound to them with percentage points and expectations of progress for our appraisals. However, I don’t remember thinking about the objectives or getting people involved with developing it.
As a new headteacher, governors quickly expected a school development plan. As we all knew, this was one of the key documents that was necessary – alongside the 16 page SEF, the equally long SIAMS self evaluation and all the other unnecessary paperwork to prove that we were ‘doing’ things.
So, let’s stop here.
Tip #2: Unless you are becoming headteacher of a school you are already working in, do not assume you know from day 1, what the school’s next steps are. Your first job is to create a vision with your new team. But to do this, you’ve got to really get to know your school.
What is successful in one school, may not be effective in another. Just because you used a certain ‘programme’ that worked wonders for your writing, phonics or maths in your previous school, does not mean it will automatically fix anything in your new school.
You will walk through the doors of your new school and pick up on things that you know need changing right away. I suppose they call these the ‘quick fixes’ or ‘quick wins’. But in the same breath, I would say be careful of these as well. Like many new teachers, I was given the advice to, “go in tough – let everyone know who is the boss. Make ‘quick changes’ just to change things so they know you mean business.”
You’d be surprised at how often I was told about these ‘quick changes’ – so many people said that I needed to do this from day one. My advice would be to be careful about these – I’ve seen other heads get this very, very wrong.
Be human. You are dealing with people, who may be just as nervous as you are on day one. You are their new headteacher – you could come in and change everything! It’s a very tense time for everyone – remember this.
Get to know your new team. Understand what they love about their school, what drives them, what they would like to see changed. This will be your starting point. What is the culture and ethos like?
Get to know your children. Understand what they love about their school, what drives them, what they would like to see changed. This will be your starting point.
Get to know your parents and your community. Understand what they love about their school, what drives them, what they would like to see changed This will be your starting point.
You must see the school from the perspective of everyone involved. They know the story of the school so far and are key to getting you to realise your vision. It is up to you to generate the enthusiasm of all these stakeholders to join you in the new journey the school is about to take. But remember as I said in my last blog post – you will not have everyone on board – you may lose people along the way, but this is just part of the process and it is ok.
If I’m going to make changes, I want them to have impact. Therefore, I consider what these changes will mean. As I have progressed in my headship I now use these key questions to help me with any change: What is the purpose of what we are doing (or what we want to do)? How will this impact our children? and How will this impact the workload of staff?
The first change I made was during the first Inset with my new team. During previous visits to the school, I quickly picked up on how late teachers were working and how the headteacher expected this of them. My husband always highlighted workload and wellbeing with me as a teacher and deputy, so this was forefront in my thinking. Therefore, I told staff that I expected them to be able to leave at least twice a week by 4:15 with nothing in their hands and that everything we did in school would help us make this a possibility. This change was difficult for some teachers. Another thing to always remember is that change, no matter what it is, is change – even if it is to benefit others, it won’t be an easy adjustment for everyone.
So, take time to get to know your school, to evaluate, assess and collaborate. It is during this time that you will understand your new school more clearly and you won’t make changes just for ‘the sake of making change’. All change should be meaningful and well considered – no matter what anyone tells you.
Our first draft of the school development plan wasn’t fully produced until January – a whole term after I stepped into my new role. Obviously things may have been different if I was walking into a school that had serious issues – but again, I would follow the same process.
I’ve seen so many headteachers caught up in making sure all the paperwork is in place (often doing paperwork that is useless and unnecessary) – and what happens is that they spend so much time with their head down that they miss what is going on around them. I’ve had times where I’ve been caught up with this as well.
What is really important is how well you know your school. How do you know what needs to be changed? What are you going to do about it? How are you going to make sure the change you implement has impact? What impact will this change have on your children and staff?
When you truly know what needs to take place to begin to realise the vision, then you can begin writing it down. But know that the school development plan will change and adapt throughout the year – we’ve had things on our plan that just get marked off because we realise that what we thought was a good idea at the start of developing our plan, in practice isn’t going to be useful, effective or have an impact. So be sure your plan can be easily adapted and changed. Things change – things adapt – you can’t plan for everything – so to always know what your school needs you need to be present…
And if you are worried about Ofsted (which you shouldn’t be)- you can have the most professional looking paperwork in place, but if you can’t talk about your school they will see right through it. Know your school inside and out – build a vision with your stakeholders and work relentlessly towards it. Be human and put children and staff at the centre of it all. You can’t do this from your office.
Work on getting the balance right and the paperwork that needs to be completed becomes easier and will fall into place.