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Evaluation article: Know your strengths Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016 Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016 Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser? Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools? Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence Evaluation article: Getting personal  with CPD Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process Evaluation article: Parent View — an update Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Evaluation article: Know your strengths

Can you make inspection an enriching learning process that is actually good for your school? Heather Clements of Best Practice Network offers some advice. 

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation

In this article, Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectation in their schools. 

Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence

Tony Powell outlines a step-by-step approach to support schools in achieving the accolade of ‘outstanding’ as defined by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling College, gives a personal viewpoint of the benefits of bringing in the experts.

Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress

Steve Burnage discusses engaging with good practice in the leadership of teaching and learning.

Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review

Tony Powell reports on the findings of the final Rochford Review.

Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement

A high-performing leadership team is at the centre of any school improvement mission. But how do you go about creating an excellent SLT? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network asks…

Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement

Adrian Kneeshaw of Carlton Bolling school gives advice on how to focus school spending on improvement planning.

Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school

Matt Bromley offers some advice on turning around an underperforming school in a short space of time while laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement.

Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision

Tony Powell explains how inspectors gather evidence and make judgements on the quality of alternative and specially resourced provision.

Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing

With concerns about mental health rising, what can schools do to help their pupils? Suzanne O’Connell outlines the advice available from the National Children’s Bureau and how it might be…

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty

If you are struggling with a sense of uncertainty, be reassured: you are not alone. 2016 has been a year of upheaval, with the promise of big changes on the…

Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique

Tony Powell provides guidance on how to use discussion with pupils as a tool for self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection

Tony Powell looks at how to use the feedback from your inspection in school improvement planning.

Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty

How can an expanding multi-academy trust ensure that school improvement doesn’t become a casualty of change? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network looks at the issue and offers some guidance.

Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders

Adrian Kneeshaw looks at how leadership is important to the success of the school, and how to lead effectively.

Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend

In his second article on the headteacher and governor relationship, Tony Powell defines what is meant by a ‘critical friend’.

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations

Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectations in their schools.

Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem

Matt Bromley considers how schools can learn from exam performance data and build this into school improvement.

Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility

With new safeguarding guidance released, it’s time to check your arrangements and update your staff.

Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model

This article outlines the Ofsted methodology for determining whether a school is ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams

Steve Burnage offers advice on motivating staff, getting the best from them and building effective teams.

Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND

Suzanne O’Connell looks at a report on baseline assessment in primary schools and it’s affect on identifying children with SEND.

Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement

What do you need to do to make performance management a watertight process that makes a real contribution to school improvement? Keith Wright has some suggestions.

Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust

Tony Stephens, of the Co-operative Academies Trust, looks at what is the best type of multi-academy trust for a school to join or establish.

Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling, gives a personal take on renewing a failing governing body having designed and built one from scratch.

Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation

David Birch explains how capturing the views of students can sharpen school self-evaluation and have a positive impact on your school improvement strategies.

Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser?

Frank Norris offers advice on how to choose the most appropriate school improvement partner to work with your school.

Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal

David Birch outlines best practice in the management of the headteacher appraisal process and offers advice for headteachers on how to make the most of appraisal in their own professional development.

Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder

Professional development is a crucial factor in school improvement and improving pupil outcomes, but it could work harder, says Keith Wright.

Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance

Tony Powell looks at how the Framework for governance can be used to clarify the strategic direction of your school.

Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard

There is a new inspection dashboard to go with Ofsted's new Common inspection framework. Tony Powell explains how it can be used.

Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance

Suzanne O'Connell considers the guidance available regarding Prevent and school leaders' responsibilities.

Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able

Ofsted reports are making it clear. The DfE wants to see secondary schools challenging their most able students. In this article, Suzanne O’Connell summarises the criticisms and recommendations from ‘The…

Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare

Tony Powell looks at the new key area ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ under the new Ofsted inspection framework.

Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools?

The mental health of children and young people is at the top of the agenda at the moment. Increased anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are bringing some schools to crisis…

Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment

Tony Powell interprets government guidance on assessment to help schools support self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement

John Viner looks at research into boys’ underachievement and reviews some successful strategies.

Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers

Tony Powell looks at the revised national standards for headteachers and how they should be used by schools.

Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview

Tony Powell discusses how to prepare governors in advance for an inspection interview.

Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation

John Viner explores ways to develop a culture of continual improvement in teaching through lesson observation.

Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development

How can schools translate CPD into genuine improvement for staff? Keith Wright asked leaders to share their views, and discovered an emerging consensus about which approaches work best.

Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able

Tony Powell looks at how to identify the most able pupils, and the key factors that enable the brightest pupils to achieve.

Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability

Tony Powell looks at how the teachers’ standards can be used to evaluate performance and support improvement.

Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom

Since January 2014 there has been increased emphasis on the behaviour of pupils. In this article, Jim Donnelly offers advice on managing behaviour around the school.

Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons

David Birch offers advice on effective classroom management and argues that effective practice relies on a combination of the consistent application of agreed policy and the development of awareness and…

Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance

This is statutory guidance, which means that schools and colleges (including academies and free schools) must have regard to it. It contains what schools should do and what they must…

Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement

School improvement is a complex recipe that takes time to perfect. Keith Wright looks at some of the key barriers to school improvement and suggests strategies and systems to overcome…

Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership

Louise Wingrove gives practical advice on how to become a leader your team will want to follow.

Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision

Given that whole-school literacy is central to raising standards of achievement in schools and that it is a key focus for Ofsted, David Birch outlines some of the actions schools…

Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence

Teachers are good at gathering evidence of pupil progress, but many find it difficult to do the same with regard to their own professional development.  Keith Wright looks at the…

Evaluation article: Getting personal with CPD

Less than a fifth of teachers in England’s schools think their continuing profession development (CPD) is any good, according to a recent survey. One of the keys to unlocking the…

Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process

Performance appraisal is crucial to school improvement, but many schools are still without a rigorous and transparent way of carrying it out, says Keith Wright. Here, he analyses the challenges…

Evaluation article: Parent View — an update

Jenny Townsend looks at the importance of Parent View in achieving an outstanding rating in inspection, and how comments from parents are used by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach

Jenny Townsend explores how parental engagement can contribute to school improvement and in particular the role this can play in raising pupil achievement levels.

Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Ofsted’s Parent View means that parents have a direct influence on the decision to inspect. Jenny Townsend examines why this matters to schools.

Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement

Published: Monday, 31 March 2014

School improvement is a complex recipe that takes time to perfect. Keith Wright looks at some of the key barriers to school improvement and suggests strategies and systems to overcome them.

Summary

  • School improvement is also for good and excellent schools to ensure they maintain their level of achievement.
  • It is important to communicate vision to your staff and ensure that you get their buy-in to the school improvement changes.
  • Have the infrastructure in place to create and maintain your vision.
  • Share your school improvement journey with other schools.

School improvement is not just a concern for struggling schools. For the legion of good and excellent schools, maintaining the momentum means that improvement needs to be at the very top of their agenda too.

What all schools will realise is that creating sustainable, significant improvement is complicated. There is no magic bullet that will unlock the potential of every school.

Rather, school improvement is the result of concerted, interlinked activity across a range of key areas. In order to be successful there needs to be:

  • a belief by leaders and their staff in the need for change
  • the articulation of a vision which all staff can understand and sign up to
  • a focus on efficient processes
  • the development of sustainable leadership
  • the creation of a support network.

1 Believe in change and craft the vision

Determining whether change is needed is the easy part for a leader. No one would advocate change for change’s sake, but in a world of ever-increasing accountability, good leaders will be prepared to implement new initiatives and strategy even though it may be uncomfortable to do. However, very few school leaders can create change by themselves. In order to make things happen they need to bring their colleagues along with them and persuade them also to believe that change is needed.

Attempting to tackle change by putting in place systems and procedures as a first step will not work without that buy-in from staff. Leaders should be clear in their own minds that change is needed and communicate this is as clearly and unambiguously as possible to their teams. By bringing them into the ‘mission’, the leader will be signalling to colleagues that the journey towards change needs them on board in order for it to be successful.

There are several factors that get in the way of school leaders effectively communicating the vision to their staff. There might be a genuine lack of desire to do this. Vision might have taken a back seat to process and Ofsted box ticking. Another source of difficulty is that there may be a mismatch between the leadership’s idea of the vision and what staff think it should be. This is often due to the message not being communicated in the context of the role of the recipient. A message tailored to classroom teachers is not likely to transfer as well to the site supervisor.

Practical strategies

Practical strategies for implementing change might include the following:

  • Establish your organisation’s attitude to change. Is it proactive, reactive or resistant? Discuss this with your team; if people understand the reasoning behind change, they will want to engage in the change.
  • Avoid communicating abstract visions – make it relevant to each role.
  • Ask your staff to help inform the vision. Use their input to make sure that vision is put into a context that directly relates to each role.
  • Nail the vision to every wall. This will keep you on track when others try to derail you. If an inspector asks any member of your team why they do what they do, the answer should always relate to the vision and their part in it.

2 Focus on efficiency

Many people do not want change because it hurts. It needs time, resources and money.

In the short term there will be some inefficiency – that is a barrier to school improvement. But if you are planning for the long term, a short-term blip can be absorbed.

Most schools will be able to create their own HR, finance and school development planning systems using products such as Microsoft Office. This might, on the face of it, seem to be a good use of resources and time. But it is important to think about who is going to develop, maintain, enhance and guarantee the performance of these systems.

It might make sense, at first, to have a deputy devote 20 per cent of his or her time to development planning. However, this actually represents a significant outlay and they are not focusing on what might be their key role: teaching and learning, and leading and supporting other members of the team. Leaders need to ask what will happen when that person is no longer available to maintain these systems or if they leave. It is an approach fraught with risk.

We have to develop time and resource efficiency by taking a long-term view. Adopting modern-day processes and procedures, such as proprietary systems developed specifically for the task in hand, will release people to concentrate on core expertise work in education. Management information systems and pupil tracking systems are good examples, but there also needs to be a place where all this data comes together and makes sense. There are purpose-built online school improvement planning systems that do this.

Practical strategies

Practical strategies for focusing on efficiency might include the following:

  • Identify areas not at the core of your school’s purpose. Financial management, HR administration, facilities management and software development should not compete as priorities with teaching and learning.
  • Once you have identified these non-core areas, research the market to find the specialist proprietary tools to meet those needs. Your school business manager will be best placed to source the best providers.

3 Make the improvement sustainable

This is where a lack of belief and vision has an enormous impact. Without these defining qualities leaders can lack confidence, which can make them more susceptible to reacting to whatever is thrown at them. Ofsted’s demands and policy changes are often the trigger for these knee-jerk reactions. These leaders can find that they are unable to focus on the most important part of their job: the leadership of teaching and learning. This simply is not sustainable.

When there is a clear vision that is shared, staff leaders can handle these pressures. As long as they have the systems and processes in place to manage and record the ‘outputs’ of that vision – attainment, staff performance, development planning – they can satisfy Ofsted’s accountability needs. More and more schools now tell me that they do not work for Ofsted, they do it for their pupils. I am sure most, if not all, have always believed that. The logical approach, therefore, is that the natural by-product of what they do will be something which should meet the needs of Ofsted. The best examples of sustainable school improvement are where teaching and learning drive the vision, not Ofsted.

Practical strategies

Practical strategies for making improvement sustainable might include the following:

  • Choose low-maintenance and leading-edge systems to underpin and manage the improvement processes that will help you fulfil your vision – processes like performance management, development planning and self-evaluation.
  • Remember that the school landscape is volatile and ever changing. Ensure that the school improvement system you choose can handle future developments such as changing inspection frameworks.

4 Make school-to-school support make a difference

No school can do this on their own. Thankfully, collaboration between schools is now becoming a reality across the country.

The impetus behind this is a noble one: schools get better if they work together and share their best practice. By doing this they improve the lot for all children, not just their own.

But there is a big gap between the aspirations schools have for sharing best practice and the hard, practical reality.

The sharing of best practice often fails because, in many cases, there are three degrees of separation between the moment best practice is observed in a classroom and when an attempt is made to impart that knowledge in the ‘recipient’ school. Often no account is taken of the differing contexts of schools, the transfer of knowledge from classroom observation in one school to another is prone to subjective interpretation by those doing it, and often there is a lack of support to help teachers adopt new practice.

Practical strategy

Do not just assess systems on what they can do for your school alone. Ask prospective suppliers to demonstrate how their system will aid practical collaboration and communication with any school or education service provider.

Toolkit

Use the following item in the Toolkit to help you put the ideas in this article into practice:

About the author

Keith Wright is managing director of school information management specialist Bluewave.SWIFT. He has worked with hundreds of schools during the past decade supporting institutional leadership and management. For further information go to www.bluewaveswift.co.uk

This article was first published in the May 2014 issue of School Inspection and Improvement magazine.

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