School Improvement – Question of the Month, April.

Are there time frames agreed upon within our improvement plans, priorities, and strategies?


A foreword

There are many questions within Evaluate-Ed’s online self-evaluation platform, which could have inspired our title this month but eventually, I chose the one above. This term schools and MATs are deciding how successful they have been in addressing their current key issues, assessing the progress of children and young people, while concurrently reviewing their own financial position and staffing resources. They do this in a consistently changing context of “plans, priorities and strategies” at the national level.

Some headlines in March 2024:
Councils have £18m in SEND deficit bailouts withheld.
Recruitment and retainment of teachers still in ‘critical state’
‘Great teachers will be lost’ as government cuts NPQ funding.
I have long been involved in preparing, writing, updating, or reviewing School Improvement (or Development) Plans, created from various templates, in diverse roles, as head, deputy head, SIP, governor, inspector, teacher or advisor. For current school and trust leaders and governors, the constant flow from national leaders of statutory and non-statutory information, ideas, and directives, ensures that the context for our school improvement planning is constantly changing. Add to this the annual uncertainty around the level of funding over the last 5 years for schools and teachers’ pay we are faced with serious decisions in demanding circumstances.

Our expert opinion
In almost all planning there is and has always been an expectation for it to contain long-term objectives for at least 3 years and often 5 years ahead. At the heart of this planning are the priorities of a school or trust, in the context and availability of the necessary financial resources. During the last five years, (since March 2019) the role of Secretary of State for Education has been undertaken by seven different people and the office of Prime Minister by four. This is most definitely not an environment where “time frames” can exist or one in which a clear and “agreed” philosophy of education can be established. (For those who enjoy a quiz, hidden elsewhere in this month’s Newsletter are the names of our seven most recent Education Secretaries. No googling please!)

So as the Spring term 2023 comes to an end it’s time for us to celebrate the fact we as schools, trusts and teachers have been very successful with our plans for many years, despite the variety of external pressures, changing national leadership and reduced funding. We have done this by setting appropriate and achievable objectives, both short-term and long-term, by reviewing, adjusting, and achieving our school targets, while appropriately providing academic provision and goals for pupils, within an emotionally literate environment.

We also celebrate that data from Ofsted published last year (November 2023) also shows that 89% of all schools are now (September 2022 – August 2023) rated as “good” or “outstanding”, with the latest figures showing that “the number of schools rated as Good or Outstanding has risen to 19,380”.

“So, what are the essential habits that help school and MAT leaders to make school improvement happen, and how do they spend their precious time?
They carry out six essential tasks: –
They create energy.
They build capacity and set an example.
They meet and minimise crises.
They secure and enhance the environment.
They seek and chart improvement.
They extend the vision of what is possible.”

“What we need to do now is to establish a climate and culture at a national level that chimes with the idealism and sense of moral purpose that attracts people into our profession.”

The two extracts above are some school improvement thoughts from ‘About Our Schools’ by Tim Brighouse and Mick Waters, two men, who always perceive the significance of education “through the lens of a teacher and the child in the classroom.” (Mary Myatt 2021).

Spoiler alert!
Quiz question answer.

Could you name the seven Secretary of States for Education? Damian Hinds (in post March 2019), Gavin Williamson, Nadhim Zahawi, Michelle Donelan, James Cleverly, Kit Malthouse and currently in post (March 2024), Gillian Keegan.

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