The link between self-evaluation and school improvement planning was explored in my previous blog.
This article focuses on how to write effective school improvement plans (SIPs), which will have maximum impact on pupil outcomes. Robust school self-evaluation (SSE) should underpin the school improvement planning cycle as it should give greater focus to gathering and analysing a range of evidence and making accurate judgements.
When to write a school improvement plan
The school improvement plan can only be written after the school has evaluated its performance and, most importantly, thoroughly analysed the outcomes which pupils have achieved. When analysing outcomes, data about attendance and behaviour must also be considered. Critically, the analysis of data must focus on the outcomes of statutory assessments, examination and test results for all pupils and then for groups of pupils. However the school’s internal data about different year groups and subjects must also be analysed before the SIP can be drawn up. School improvement planning should be cyclical, consisting of on-going review, planning, implementation and evaluation. Effective planning will require training to ensure that judgements about outcomes are secure and consistent.
What does a cyclical approach entail?
The school carries out an in-depth evaluation of its performance identifying strengths and areas for improvement and writing these up in a self-evaluation record. Using the record, school leaders then produce a school improvement plan, ensuring that it matches the conclusions identified in the record and the actions which need to be taken.
The SIP is then implemented, monitored and evaluated on a termly basis to assess the impact the plan is having on improving outcomes and performance. Findings are shared with governors and staff, and the improvement plan is modified to respond to the evaluation findings.
What should an effective school improvement plan look like?
The plan should be based around the four Ofsted judgement areas, as well as including details about how the school will deliver effective provision for spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development. It is not a list of everything that the school will do during the year.
The plan should include:
- Targets for improvement. These targets must be SMART and must be focused on outcomes for pupils
- Details of the costed actions required to achieve the targets
- Details of who is responsible for each of the actions
- A timeline for implementation with key milestones. The milestones should be measurable, clearly identifying what will have been achieved; for example at the end of term one, then term two and so on
- Success criteria, which should be quantitative not just qualitative, are absolutely essential to the success of the plan. Taking time to really think about what will be different after the plan has been implemented will lead to focused actions.
- Details of what, who, when, where and how the impact of the plan will be evaluated.
How do schools make best use of the SSE record and a school improvement plan?
The school improvement plan is, in a sense, the master plan and underneath it should sit all the other action plans which detail exactly how the identified priorities will be achieved. Staff appraisal objectives should link to the priorities for the school and the CPD programme should support these targets and objectives, and relate directly to them. The financial management of the school should also reflect the targets and priorities identified in the self-evaluation and the school improvement plan.
What tools can support school improvement planning?
There are some tools which can support schools with self-evaluation and school improvement planning. These include:
- A monitoring, evaluation and review policy which is shared with everyone. Leaders should not assume that staff understand why they are frequently monitoring and evaluating practice and pupil outcomes so it is important to take the time to explain what, why and how evaluation will take place
- A monitoring, review and evaluation calendar or schedule which is published and shared with staff and governors. The calendar should link to the assessment policy and practice in the school. There is no point looking at the plan a week before data is collected or the week after the governors’ standards committee meeting
- Agreed formats for completing school improvement plans and action plans which are used by all staff and which include costings. There are many different formats which schools can adopt but if governors and staff are going to be able to track improvements then it helps if everyone in the school is using the same format. However when middle leaders take up their roles and are asked to write an action plan they will need training and support if they are to do it well
- A training or development programme for leaders, middle leaders and appropriate staff, which focuses on making accurate judgements which contribute to self-evaluation and to improvement planning.
What about schools governors and improvement planning?
The Ofsted handbook tells us that school governors are expected to provide a balance of challenge and support to leaders and to understand the strengths and areas needing improvement at the school. This is why it is so essential to involve them in reviewing the different parts of the school improvement plan. The different sections of the plan should be delegated to the various appropriate committees and progress on priorities and targets should be part of the meeting schedule. It is also very important that governors review their own performance. Chairs of governors should be encouraged to have a 360 degree appraisal of their performance so that they can be reflective and have greater impact. With regard to governors self-evaluating their own performance there are useful tools which can be used including:
- The DfE audit tool
- NGA’s twenty questions
- NGA’s framework for governance.
And finally, Pupil Premium Funding
Schools are under great pressure to monitor and evaluate the impact of pupil premium funding, in particular, the impact that it is having on closing any gaps in achievement and attainment between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils. Leaders, including governors, should monitor:
- The level of pupil premium funding received by the school in the current academic year and levels of funding received in previous academic years
- How leaders and governors have spent the pupil premium, their rationale for this spending and its intended impact
- Any differences made to the learning and progress of disadvantaged pupils as shown by outcomes data and inspection evidence.