Wednesday, 16 March 2011

School improvement that will last: Planning for action

School improvement that will last

In the last of four articles setting out the principles of 'joined-up governance', Ann Holt and Stephen Adamson complete their look at ways in which governors can work to bring about lasting improvement in their schools.

Planning for action

The final element in the change equation is no less vital than the others. Any changes need a well-drawn-up plan to secure the improvements desired. Good action plans should identify:

What actions are to be taken or tasks set

Who will be responsible

Start and end dates

The resources and costs involved

How success will be judged

Who is to monitor them

Who is to evaluate the effect, and how they will do this.

Among the major tools for the governing body in preparing actions are its own agendas. When the clerk, the chair and the head are preparing them they are in fact leading the governing body in what needs to be done. The aim must always be to concentrate on the governing body's key function: to ensure that all children have the best possible education, tailored to their needs, interests and aptitudes. Items on the agenda should be linked to each other, should link with other governing body meetings and committees and should link with the other monitoring activities. A good agenda will make it clear where the strategic thinking is to be done and where there is need for reflection.

Finally, bear in mind that among the most successful schools are those that are prepared to take risks, because the pace of change requires some risky living. The forward-looking governing body will create a climate in which staff are encouraged to 'go for it' but can admit if things are going wrong so that the governing body can then join forces with them to solve the problems. In too many governing bodies it feels as though difficult issues are covered up rather than confronted. In adversity some governors either behave as though they don't want to know or come down like a ton of bricks on someone they can blame. Where either response is typical, heads try to avoid telling the governors anything that might be construed as bad news and, as a consequence, any notion of accountability goes out of the window.

It is vital that governors and heads establish a feeling of being in things together. Then we all have available a collective wisdom, gleaned from both the internal and external perspectives. By joining up the different elements of our school's governance we should create a school that is not overwhelmed, feeling itself to be the victim of pressures from elsewhere, but is in control of where it is going – one that has a clear view of what is good for its pupils.

The material in this article has been drawn from Joined-up Governance by Jane Martin and Ann Holt, revised edition 2010, Adamson Publishing and first published on the School Governor Update from

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