This year I completed the seventh development plan I have written as headteacher. Each year the development plan has had a slightly different look and feel as myself and the Senior Leadership Team have reflected on the previous year’s successes and failures. This year’s plan has evolved into the best document we have written to help drive school improvement. This is for the following reasons:
Clear Agenda: We’ve thought long and hard about the key areas we need to focus on to improve our school. The six themes of our ‘Aim High Agenda’ will be used to focus our development plan for the next five years, giving us a longer-term strategic focus to our planning.
Community Focus: In setting the Aim High Agenda, we have thought carefully about what will make a genuine difference for our school and the community we serve. In our context attendance, parental and employer engagement are vital areas of focus to help raise student aspirations. We feel strongly that our curriculum must be rich, recognising the importance of breadth and enrichment as well as securing excellent outcomes for our students.
Simplicity: We have worked hard to avoid the long, rambling, catch-all development plans you see in many schools. Ours is tightly focussed on the areas we must improve to raise standards in our school. Organised around the six themes of the aim high agenda, each section contains a few key foci that allows us clarity of thought and action as a school.
Champions: Each action has an owner who is responsible for leading change. This year we have worked to break down silos of responsibility, with senior team members owning actions across the different themes of our aim high agenda, rather than working in isolated areas of responsibility. This cross-over of leadership emphasises the whole-school, team-wide nature of our areas of focus.
Success Criteria: We have thought carefully about how we will measure success. In previous years we have been guilty of putting unrealistic numbers in our development plan that are not achievable. We need to recognise that each cohort is different, that change is incremental and that our success measures need to take into account a range of measurable outcomes and contextual factors. We feel the numbers put in this year’s plan are ambitious, but also realistic, measurable and achievable.
No change for change’s sake: Many of the actions build on previous initiatives that take time to have an impact. This year we talk about embedding our use of the suite of curriculum materials and mastery statements we have worked so hard to develop. We want to reinforce the consistent use of our every lesson statements for staff and students. We do not want to overwhelm staff and students with multiple new initiatives; instead ensuring carefully considered strategies are given time and attention to secure the desired impact.
Product of many conversations: Prior to the final draft the aim high agenda and development plan was shared with our middle leaders at their conference, our parent forum, our governors and several senior team meetings, including a planning day following the examination results. The input of a range of stakeholders is key to ensuring a development plan that focusses on the right issues.
This year’s development plan may look simple and the focus areas may appear obvious, but sometimes the simplest and most-effective things are the hardest to craft. I have asked all staff to read the development plan carefully and reflect on where your role in the school they can have an impact on achieving our ambitious targets. A multitude of small, incremental gains across our school will lead to significant improvements in outcomes for the young people we serve.