The Learning Renaissance

How to Build an Effective School Improvement Specification

I’m often surprised by how senior leadership teams in schools begin a new project directly at the implementation phase. Bang! No prior consultations, no marshalling of internal resources to put together the most appropriate people to achieve the task. No consideration of the development needs of staff. Just, this is the project, let’s get started!

I’d completed many projects in schools as a teacher, leader and consultant, on a broad variety of topics from study skills, raising achievement to performance management, appraisal, quality assurance marques, STEM projects and the introduction of new learning technologies. I was always dissatisfied that things could have been done better. In particular, I felt that for the staff teams, projects tended, to use my old mentor’s Dave Hepworth’s term, to be a case ‘of lighting the fire under them, rather than lighting it within them.’

The staff’s prior knowledge was not recognised and did not drive the project forward. Too often external contractors were brought in to deliver specific training events, rather than developing on-going professional development processes to guarantee the quality of the project.

As well as an abrupt start date, school based staff projects tended not to have a clear end date, meaning that a number of conflicting projects were competing with each other for time and resource, stretching teachers further. The strategic plan, was simply a recurring one year plan.

I’ve spent a lot of time with architects and contractors in one element of my career, and although one part of my role was to prevent them taking over control of the outline of the learning spaces, I greatly admired their systematic approach to the planning process.

Their marshalling of all resources, and understanding the business case and shape of the final project, was what was missing from school bad planning. Their understanding of scope and dependencies was both subtle and more likely to yield the required result.

I set about trying to build an educational change specification for schools. The result, together with exemplars, templates and case studies is contained in my newly-published book, Future Proof Your School.

Having had the opportunity to explore the approach with colleagues in a number of continents, I was reasonably confident that local culture and circumstance would not de-rail this project development process.

School Culture Development: A Primer For All Teachers Serious About Developing Excellence

Five additional briefing papers, exploring how this approach can be developed, are linked to my Learning Renaissance blog below.  These allow you to appreciate the process in the context of your own school.

Future Proof Your School : Why School INSET persistently fails to raise teaching and learning standards | Briefing Notes #1

Future Proof Your School: Cultural knowledge, in-house experience and project planning methodologies | Briefing Notes #2

Future Proof Your School: The starting point for initiating cultural change in school | Briefing Notes #3

Future Proof Your School: Schools reflecting on practice and reflecting in practice | Briefing Notes #4

Future Proof Your School: Structure, Summary and Launch | Briefing Notes #5

I’m happy to talk with any school which is interested in building these principles into their own development work.


About educationalist04

I'm convinced we can, as a species, do much better than this if we set our minds to being much more positive and productive towards our fellow humans. The solution is learning - creating independent and autonomous learners who can problem solve, innovate and create a better more equitable and sustainable world. My books, Future Proof Your School and Re-Examining Success together with this blog, explore how better learning outcomes for all can be achieved.

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