Strategic planning while simultaneously fire fighting is not the easiest of scenarios but it’s one that our schools are getting very familiar with, writes CLC’s Peter Lillington.
By now many schools are well versed in mobilising quickly to respond to new regulations and whether guidance is being relaxed or tightened, planning afresh what’s in the best interests of their students and staff. It has, after all, been the ongoing agenda of the current period.
Traditionally, the summer holiday period is a chance for a change of pace and an opportunity for school leaders to focus more widely beyond the day to day needs of the classroom. In this very different kind of year, some schools will be making provision for their students to continue to engage with learning over the summer, both formally and informally, and this may involve further commitment from teachers. Others may be recognising the pressing need for staff to rest and relax before resuming next term.
While it’s unclear what the pandemic will dictate for education in the autumn, we know that strategic planning for multiple scenarios will be well advanced in many, if not all, schools.
The bigger picture
A leadership webinar last week from the Chartered College of Teaching looked to provide some clear pointers for schools on ‘the key priorities for all schools from September 2021’. The two eminent and well respected speakers, Rachel Macfarlane and Sameena Choudry, were introduced by Dame Alison Peacock, who highlighted in her opening remarks the need to reduce inequity.
This theme was taken up by the speakers who took a timely step back to reaffirm the bigger picture.
Rachel Macfarlane is currently director of education in Hertfordshire, with an extensive track record as a school leader, and has recently published Obstetrics for schools, which opens with a quote from Marcus Rashford:
“Imagine if all children were on an equal playing field. Imagine children waking up believing that their dreams could come true. Imagine what that belief could do for the future of this country”.
Rachel’s ‘obstetrics’ analogy is with what society regards as an acceptable success rate for midwifery and childbirth services (ie as close to 100% as possible). She poses the question, why should a service that affects the life chances and future of those same individuals who have been brought into the world, be regarded any differently?
Sameena Choudry, founder of Equitable Education and #WomenEd, spoke passionately on the needs of all learners, touching on issues relating to equality, diversity and social justice. She highlighted 2020 statistics relating to state schools in England, such as:
- 32.5% pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds
- 19.5% speakers fo English as an additional language
- 17.3% were eligible for free school meals
- 12.1% were on Special Educational Needs Support
- 3.3% had an Educational Health and Care (EHC) plan
Both speakers talked about the impact of the pandemic and urged us not to make assumptions about how individual students have been affected, pointing out that some have thrived while others have been severely disadvantaged. In practical terms they called for school leaders to really examine to what extent schemes of work and the curriculum have been tailored to maximise applicability and relevance for all groups and circumstances (based on up to date knowledge of students in their home and family context as well as at school). Above all, leaders should present an optimistic picture of hope.
Strategy in practice
From our BlendEd context we think this is a very fitting lens through which to view all the detail of platforms, tools and delivery mechanisms, modes and pedagogy. We’ve talked a lot about strategic planning on numerous occasions and a good starting point for resources and pointers is our BETT talk on technology and digital strategy.
We also recommend looking at:
- EEF school improvement planning page
- Using Digital Technology to Improve Learning
- Growing up digital: What do we really need to know about educating the digital generation?
- Education for a Connected World: A framework to equip children and young people for digital life
- 360 Safe
The very useful ProjectEVOLVE, from SWGfL and UK Safer Internet Centre, builds on Education for a Connected World with with perspectives, research, activities, outcomes, supporting resources and professional development materials for each of the 330 statements. It has also just published a Knowledge Map feature for years 1,3,4,5,7 and 10. Its aim is to reduce workload by recommending resources relevant to the children you teach while giving valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses in their online development.
More specifically, there are also two instances of recent work in the past couple of weeks that may offer some particular insights.
Using the Naace Self Review Framework
Recently we were able to work with headteachers, business managers and computing/digital leaders to share successful strategies and plan for the future using the Naace Self Review Framework, which we frequently recommend.
The framework was updated this year by a panel of expert writers to take account of the current context, and would provide an ideal tool to scrutinise digital and blended plans as they stand at the moment under the key headings of Leadership and Management, Teaching and Learning, Professional Development and Resources.
Do you think your school or organisation matches one of the set of threshold descriptors for the Naacemark quality mark?
Technology development planning is well informed, strategic, and fully integrated into school improvement planning. It sets challenging targets across the school and informs the school’s overall educational vision, extending beyond the school.
Or have you achieved this top level fit?
Technology planning is creative, innovative, flexible, and outward-looking. It sets challenging targets to contribute to exemplary educational practice nationally or internationally.
A balanced scorecard
We know that computing/digital/edtech subject leaders often will – and should – have a major impact and role in developing this never ending narrative of strategic planning.
Discussion the other day with a group of colleagues new to this role this year revealed a range of issues. On the positive side, they noted a big increase in access to devices and teacher skills and experience in some areas. On the ‘hard to handle in the time available’ side, ‘my printer’s not working’ has been replaced with ‘this virtual platform is not working…’ and a sometimes uninformed backlash against screentime, to name but a couple.
As the term slowly edges towards the finish line we wish all leaders of learning and technology whether senior leadership team, curriculum leaders, tech specialists, classroom teachers, support staff and other school roles a peaceful break from the day to day pressures. We hope that you will find you have some time to reflect and evaluate, and to mentally or otherwise draw up a balanced scorecard (while the devil is in the detail, it’s important not to become mired in the detail), and a chance to replenish stocks of optimism in challenging circumstances.
We’ll be following up on some of these strategic issues in the autumn term with more blog posts and resources.