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7 ways to get school development plans back on track
When Covid is under control, how can you get long-term strategic thinking back on the agenda? This head has some ideas
Published in TES 08.03.2021
In 1940, when London was in the midst of bombings, fighting an invasion and dealing with the hopelessness of the Second World War, a small number of Education Board members set about planning a new school system.
This was the makings of the 1944 Education Act which transformed post-war education in Britain. This far-sightedness was key and shows the values of strategic planning – even as all around you is chaos.
A similar situation has unfolded over the past year – and so just as those leaders in the 1940s showed, we must also look forward and think strategically.
Covid: Strategic planning for school development
Here are seven ways we can prioritise strategic school development to help us emerge stronger from the crisis:
1. Start with the positives
The pandemic has “forced” every stakeholder to think about learning on every level – so consider how you can use that as a springboard for new projects. What could, and should, be kept post-pandemic? Blended learning? Hybrid provisions? Remote parents’ evenings?
It’s been a tough time but let’s not overlook what we have learned, what we have achieved and what is worth keeping for a post-pandemic world.
2. Make time
You will never find the time or have “spare” time so you will need to carve out time within busy schedules. Block time for strategic focus at least once a month and for no less than an hour.
Ring-fence and protect this time, resisting the temptation to cancel because urgent matters arise. Consider having “future developments” as a set agenda item for all team meetings to ensure that you have a time and focus for forward-thinking.
3. Return to your mission
Ask “big questions” and plan developments that align with, and work towards, your core purpose, vision and mission.
What is it that makes your school special? What is important to you? For your learners? For your context? Don’t lose sight of what you were working towards pre-pandemic – it may be you were just starting something with real impact so revisit that when normality returns.
But, of course, the pandemic may have changed so much that returning to the way things were could seem a backward step now – don’t be afraid to ask if your mission is still relevant and, if not, consider how it can be realigned for the new era.
4. Look for ‘inroads’ with wellbeing and creativity
Development projects after a crisis should bring innovation, a sense of “new life” and re-energise the community – creative and wellbeing-orientated ideas could be key for this.
What about a project driven by the arts and linked with positive mental health? Some schools are now working towards enriching their provision with artists and musicians in residence.
Others are planning a more structured move into practical learning, such as an apprenticeship programme in a primary school setting.
5. Involve all stakeholders – including pupils
Engage all members of your community in strategic think tank opportunities.
Children and young people generally demonstrate a flexibility in their thinking, which may lead to creative and innovative projects for everyone to work towards.
The joy brought directly from student ideas will be a welcome distraction for everyone.
6. Seek out the trailblazers
Do you have staff who embraced the challenges encountered in a crisis and found new ways of working or problem-solving? Could they become early adopters for the next strategy and development plan?
Consider appointing project leaders based on how staff demonstrated their ability, commitment and flexibility whilst working online – is there a leadership programme that these staff can be fast-tracked into where their capabilities can be harnessed?
7. Be bold and look long into the future
Consider a development plan that takes you beyond the next academic year. What about a five-year plan?
The pandemic will not always be disrupting education so resist the urge for strategic conversations to be only about shorter-term items, such as the recovery curriculum, pastoral support on return and academic catch-up plans.
It may not pan out as you imagine but having an overall goal can help to inform decisions that need to be made in the future.
We all need something else to hope for, to think about, to steer us and to remind us that life will return to “normal”, whatever that normal will look like.
5 ways to ace recruitment during COVID
Published to TES 18th March 2021
With fewer international teachers moving jobs right now, schools need to stand out from the crowd.
Recruitment is a competitive world in international teaching at the best of times. But during a pandemic it’s even tougher.
Yet this year we have noticed a significant increase in the quality of applicants applying for teaching positions with us.
This has meant we had a number of high-quality candidates when it came to making final decisions and offers. The rise in the number of quality candidates also meant we were lucky enough to finalise our recruitment earlier than in previous years.
So what has made the difference? Why have we been able to attract more candidates than ever before in a time when many international teachers are “staying put” and many others have made the decision to return to the UK due to the uncertainty of the job market and the challenges of Covid?
International schools: Getting teacher recruitment right during Covid
Here is what we did and how your school can do it, too:
1. Make the right impression from the beginning – the devil is in the detail
The job advert itself needs to be personal, brief, non-generic and give an impression of your school’s ethos.
Adverts must also be accurate and free from errors. Any communication with interested candidates by the school should be “professionally friendly”, as well as give a personal feel for the school.
This can be difficult where schools have a large number of applications, but even standard responses can be carefully pre-prepared to give an impression of the school’s ethos and the appearance of personalisation with a little time and effort taken with the standard reply draft.
Timely responses to emails and clear instructions for interview (including the platform to be used, who will be involved in the interviewing and the stages of the process) are all small but important details for candidates that can help start things off strongly.
2. Get personal and ‘overshare’
Give as much information attached to the advert as is necessary to give prospective candidates a “feel” for the school. The standard attachments of job description and safeguarding policy won’t be enough to entice high-quality teachers to apply.
The documents should be personal, reflective of the school’s strengths and easy to read; visuals and infographics are a great tool for this.
Ideas for additional links/attachments are:
- A personal letter from the head of school.
- An infographic about the CPD programme offered to staff.
- An infographic about what makes the school special or different.
- A summary of the induction programme (it could be the programme used from last year).
- On-boarding information.
- Information about the country and location.
- Links to the school’s social media and YouTube accounts.
While giving a great impression about the school’s efficiency, information like this also serves in giving clarity and transparency. If the school does not want to publish these documents as part of the advert, a note stating what will be sent within the application pack could be used instead.
3. Create candidate confidence
While the documents attached to the advert will add an element of “candidate confidence”, there are other things schools can do to ensure potential staff are drawn into applying. The school website is one of the most important recruitment tools.
Make sure that the website demonstrates the following easily within as few clicks as possible:
- Membership of any associations (especially those linked to CPD).
- Awards (again any that refer to HR, leadership and innovation will influence and encourage quality applications).
- Accreditations and/or “inspection” reports.
- Videos – linked to a YouTube account with virtual tours, interviews with students and interviews with current staff articulating why they like working at the school.
4. Career advancement opportunities
Make sure that career advancement and CPD opportunities feature heavily within the advert, in the uploaded information and within the website.
This is often a big pull for candidates who are looking for leadership opportunities in the future. Less experienced teachers will also be keen to know about the approach to early career development.
Does your school run an associate programme for developing leaders? How do you ensure continuous professional development? Does the school support external CPD in the form of staff scholarships for master’s degrees? All of this needs to be clear to entice quality candidates to apply.
5. Plan for reputation growth
Make a list of three things you want to be recognised for within the global community and then focus on projecting this within your wider interactions. In 2018, one of the primary phase development plan targets at Sri KDU International School was: to raise the reputation of the school within the local and regional arena.
There were clear success criteria for this:
- Candidates interviewing for positions were able to articulate the strengths of the school when asked, “Why do you want to come and work for us?”
- Current staff were able to clearly articulate three common strengths of the school.
- When the school’s name was mentioned in social conversations outside of school, other parties would know the school name and would recognise it as a reputable establishment.
- Enrolment numbers over time would rise.
- Recruitment and retention would be easier.
We focused on pushing ourselves forward to lead local networks, increasing our social media interactions, delivering free webinars and becoming more involved in larger educational organisations.
In the long term, recruitment for international schools could potentially become more challenging. Covid has left many international school teachers with a sense of uncertainty and longing for stability. Schools will need to work harder than ever to make sure they have a field of quality applicants to draw from.
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