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What to do when the school improvement plan goes wrong

The easy answer to the title of this post is 'to accept and embrace it!' Mind you I might have not chosen the most accurate of titles, because I have been writing school improvement plans for some sixteen years now and I have yet to produce one that went according to the said plan. Perhaps a more interesting title would be 'what to do when school improvement plans work' but, as I have little experience of this I might struggle to write that much that you might find helpful, or realistic.

School improvement plans can go awry for lots of reasons. Some of these are entirely our own fault, and some are the result of pesky circumstances. Sometimes you can put so much into a plan, even the most productive and focused of organisations anywhere would struggle to achieve its lofty aims. I have been there. Some of my early improvements plans had so many actions they could have been written by a choreographer for Village People! There were a variety of elaborate actions detailed but with little thought given to how deliverable they were by a small staff of very busy teachers, who were trying to deliver each day for all their learners. Some of my early improvement plans were almost of book length and couldn't have been much of a read as we never seemed to finish one. 

Moving on to my plan from last session. This was radically different to my first efforts, in that it was only a few pages long and had three main actions. I am now working across two schools, instead of one,  and with many more staff to help share the development workload. A doddle, you would think. But no, again circumstances conspired to prevent us from completing yet another plan. Staffing was a major issue last session. We had staff leave on secondments, two pregnancies, some long term illness and a succession of replacement teachers to cover some of our classes. Included in these were my DHT and myself having to teach classes at times when we found finding supply teachers rarer that vets who specialise in dental work for hens. Add to this was the fact that we had to host another school, it's pupils, staff and parents for over one term, and the further disruption ensued. Both factors had big impacts on the delivery of our development plan and prevented us from completing all we wanted.

This current session we have two main targets. We have a settled staff again and I am filled with high hopes that this could be the year. Already, four weeks in, we have made significant advances in both key areas. I have been able to release staff, because I planned to, so that they can collaborate to deliver improvements for all our learners. We have had a number of productive collegiate development sessions after school and I look forward optimistically to our next In-Service days in November. But who knows what lies ahead that may derail us from our metaphorical developmental train journey? The only certainty in school development is the uncertainty. 

I still maintain that such plans are a vital to school development. Plans help us to develop and move forward from where we are to where we would like to be. Without a plan how do we know what we should do and whether we have done it? A plan allows us to reflect on what we have achieved, as well as consider what we have not, and why. One plan is the starting point for another. We really do need to accept and embrace the fact that we might not achieve all we set out in our plan. Don't beat yourself up about the things you don't achieve, but celebrate all those you do. Plans are just that. Like Balderick in 'Blackadder' make sure everyone knows you have one, cunning or not, and what their part in it is. They are not set in stone, they need flexibility and realism built into them. Like all school development, the plan is part of a relentless process and they have to reflect the complexity of the challenges we face, many of which are unpredictable but can still be expected.

So to answer my own challenge in the title, accept it, it's going to happen. It's not a bad thing and it doesn't make you a bad person or a bad leader, or your plan a bad plan. Remember, shift happens!


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