What does school improvement look like at the moment for you in your school?
My company is rooted in the premise of school improvement. What does that ‘improvement’ look like right now? Starting on Monday with the run-up to Easter, it is worth taking stock for a moment and using this blog post to reflect on where we are at this point in time.
‘School improvement’ is more than a goal. It is a process. School staff constantly evaluate their practice, and they are continually improving their school using theories of improvement such as Deming’s (2000) model of continuous improvement. And yet, some of the 14 strategies listed below are more consistently applied to the school setting than others. How many relate to your school development plan?
There is no escape from the fact that it has been an incredibly difficult last half term. Absence rates for staff reaching more than 20% at times. It might feel more like treading water and survival right now.
Deming (2000) offered 14 strategies to support continuous improvement which can be adopted in the school setting. (1) Create constancy and purpose toward improvement of the product/ service, (2) adopt and deliver the vision, (3) cease dependence on inspection, (4) work with quality partners, (5) improve the system of production and service, (6) institute training on the job, (7) institute leadership, (8) drive out fear, (9) break down barriers between departments, (10) eliminate slogans and targets, (11) eliminate quotas and management by personal objectives, (12) remove barriers to pride in workmanship, (13) institute a program of professional development, and (14) include everyone in the transformation of the organization.
I contribute to school improvement through independent, confidential and external coaching with headteachers, senior, middle leaders and other edu-staff in schools. I directly address many of the 14 strategies for continuous learning theory. Coaching also leans upon adult learning theory.
Adult learning theory
Knowles (1980) posits that effective adult learning needs to apply to the following concepts: (a) adults learn best when they are self-directed, (b) past experiences can provide a basis to understand new information, (c) they are most ready to learn new information when they know that they need it, and (d) adults are problem-centred learners. Effective job-embedded professional development increases the capacity of individual teachers, which in turn, enables teachers to more effectively meet the needs of students.
The naked truth
The naked truth is: If education professionals are not okay, the school is faltering. As in other sectors, schools are a product of systems, structures and processes made into a dynamic environment by the unique combination of staff and students. And when one struggles, all the others are affected as well. The impact of lockdown is still unfolding.
Leaders are necessarily still consumed by the management of the every day. Next half term may well feel the same but we are also entering the next phase of this Covid era and this is bringing a whole new set of systems, processes and expectations from all of your stakeholders. The importance of regular and independent professional coaching cannot be more relevant for continual strategy revision and vital and necessary support for your staff.