This section is an attempt to place what I have learned about the key school development issues into a strategic framework. It is hoped that this effort may assist some principals and teachers to formulate their own strategic plans. There is no "best strategic plan". Every school has its own individual issues to be addressed and the cultures within schools may be very different. The provision of guidelines would only serve to undermine both the concepts of dynamic, organic process and the principles of school based management.
Having given this section considerable thought, I decided that the best approach for relating my own perspectives pertaining to the many issues confronting school principals in
From my understanding of the key issues pertaining to school development and quality improvement the first two weeks would basically be a learning exercise. Learning about; the existing system strengths and weaknesses, the staff strengths, weaknesses and morale, buildings and equipment adequacies and inadequacies, school and student culture, community relations links, and school finances budgets. The main lessons that we learned from the schools that are successfully implementing quality improvement strategies were that:
1. Communication systems are crucial to affective school development,
2. Clear school vision and mission statements must be developed with consensus from the whole school community.
3. School development strategies must be developed cooperatively and with inputs from all stakeholders.
4. Delegation of responsibility to vice-principals, teachers, and students is necessary in order for the school principal to be able to effectively allocate time to school development issues.
5. Community support and trust through open communication and transparency is fundamental.
6. If we are going to expect more from the staff then we have to simultaneously address staff welfare in our program.
7. We need to accurately assess and maximize the school's human resources.
8. We have to maximize both school and the broader community's resources.
9. Academic development, supervision, and quality improvement systems must be integrated into the program.
10. The school curriculum (extracurricular activities inclusive) must accurately reflect the goals of the school's vision and mission statements.
COMMUNICATION and PLANNING
During the following weeks, together with school staff and the BP3, we will focus upon developing systems for improving communication and the creation of opportunities for staff, student and BP3 participation in the early planning stages.
After these systems have been established (and meetings scheduled) we will as early as possible commence formulating clear vision and mission statements for the school. These are the foundations upon which the programs for school development will be constructed. Without firm foundations, development like a house is prone to collapse. The preliminary vision and mission statements should initially be as comprehensive as possible (incorporating all concepts from all stakeholders). These vision and mission statements will be made more succinct after all the implications for school curriculum have been identified (addressing the aspirations of all stakeholders).
We will now commence dialog about how we may implement any revisions to the school curriculum.
What do we mean by revisions to the school curriculum? Every school has its own individual curriculum. Some schools have an emphasis upon religion, some emphasize sport, scouts, skills training, farming, arts, etc.. All these components or characteristics have learning objectives and form part of the school curriculum. The primary focus for SMUs is upon a high achievement in the national examinations (UN) and this will not change. However, in order to enrich the general or specific education of our students we offer extracurricular learning as indicated by K1 - K4 in the diagram on the left. This learning may take the form of classes, group activities, or individual activities.
Delegation of Responsibility
Having openly discussed the broad issues the process of delegating responsibilities will commence. Delegated staff members will be responsible for socializing the issues amongst other staff and coordinating the collective thoughts and inputs into proposals for consideration (creativity will be encouraged).
NOTE: Delegation of staff responsibilities will be based more upon assessment of staff strengths, weaknesses, potential, personal suitability and enthusiam rather than upon seniority.
Draft proposal reviews and planning discussions will be conducted with open books (full transparency) and be practically realizable within existing or projected resources. Staff must be confident that their new responsibilities are supported and achievable. However, staff will be encouraged to consider self-funded or cost-recovery options as well. They must be encouraged to think creatively in order to begin to address the many different needs of their students, considering the limited government resources. The documented results of our studies of the eight schools modelling change will be mandatory reading for all assistant principals, recommended reading for all teachers, and the head of the BP3. The processes employed by the many other schools that are actively addressing the issue of quality improvement will also be reviewed.
Teacher Motivation - the reality
Being fully aware that the key issue which will underpin and eventually determine the success of any educational improvement program in
How can we begin to address this issue within the school? Currently the BP3 greatly subsidizes teacher salaries and general school programs. The burdon of educational cost for most parents is already very heavy. We should not directly increase this burdon. However, as seen from our schools modelling development, increased school transparency and trust has frequently stimulated greater financial and other support from parents. From our developing schools we can also see that parents clearly acknowledge the need for their children to gain practical skills. In all eight schools (the sample) parents were prepared to contribute financially to extra-curricular courses organized by the schools. This extra income is being used to increase teacher motivation and support and to maintain and extend school facilities and further school development. This strategy greatly increases teacher focus within their own school and upon its ongoing development. Some schools have adopted self-funding programs and have also found sponsors from within the community to finance school projects.
Extracurricular studies such as English language and computer skills significantly support the students' mainstream curricular studies and have the potential for enhancing subsequent academic success. Bearing in mind that 75 to 80% of the SMU students will not continue on to a university education, the potential of the contribution from these extracurricular studies to students' general education and vocational options are very significant and important to the development of a skilled nation. Many of the schools we have studied have extended this concept and have attempted to address the personal aspirations of their students, parents, and community. Examples of these can be seen in the Examples of Schools Modelling Change documents. They have introduced farming, electrical, computing, and language extracurricular studies into their programs. In my school we will adopt this approach. We will through meetings, interviews, and discussions try to establish what extracurricular programs will best serve the needs and aspirations of our students, family and the community.
By this stage we will have began to identify many of the major issues to be addressed in our school. Being a typical school the issues include buildings, facilities, academic development, staff welfare, extracurricular programs, community relations, sports fields, assembly area, car parking space, and canteens. At first the issues may appear to be overwhelming. However, the development of a long-term prioritized plan will help to keep us focussed upon the issues but, more importantly provide us with a point at which to start.
Firstly, we will categorize the issues. For example:
1. Staff Development and Welfare,
2. Buildings and Grounds,
4. Public Relations,
5. Extra Teaching Programs Student/Community Needs.
We will decide what issues we can begin to address now, what issues will compliment each other through simultaneous development, and what issues will require special strategies. Categorization of the issues simplifies the delegation of responsibilities to appropriate staff (vice principals, teachers, students, BP3). In our school currently there is no funding available to increase or improve buildings, grounds, or facilities. However, we may be able to commence a preventative maintenance program to try to prevent any further deterioration of our existing buildings. Public relations is an area that we can work on immediately after we have formalized our plans for school development. Socialization of the school program is an important factor for achieving community support. As discussed earlier, we can also begin to address many of the genuine quality education and management issues without financial input.
Secondly, we will list the long-term objectives (goals). The list may look something like this (keep it simple). Secondly, we will list the long-term objectives (goals). The list may look something like this (keep it simple):
1. Improve academic performance,
2. Extra-curricular classes,
3. School assembly area,
4. Sports field,
5. IPA laboratory,
6. New canteen.
Thirdly, for each item in our list we will now determine the strategies that we will use to address them. For example:
1. Organizational changes within the school,
2. Re-allocation of esisting budgets,
3. Look for sponsors within the broader community,
4. Strengthen commuity links through local officials,
5. Utilize local staff (overtime).
This list will become the basis for the planning and allocation of both rutine and nonroutine budgets. The list, and the implementation details accompanying it, will become our long-term plan. A long-term (transparent) plan is most important if we are going to encourage community support, and it will be especially useful for the allocation of non-routine (unexpected) resources (project funds, grants, etc.). Often when resources of this nature are made available a meeting is called and decisions for the utilization of these non-routine funds are made spontaneously (poor management practice).
In order to minimize costs, maximize human and other resources within the school, and assist with staff welfare, an understanding of the capacities of our local staff to undertake small projects must not be overlooked. Projects within the school can be offered to school staff who are prepared to undertake the work at moderate overtime rates, keeping the school's money within the school and assisting staff welfare.
On the left we can see an example of what administrative staff (TU) are capable of doing when they are given encouragement (More Examples). On the right we can see the results of work done by teachers, students and other volunteers to develop SMU training farm.
Having set up basic management chains and structures that will begin to maximize some of the school's human resources we will now begin to focus more upon specific academic management areas. The school's NEM will be the starting point for this focus. More importantly the comparison between past input (SLTP) and output (SMU) NEM results. From here we can obtain a basic picture of the school's academic performance. Needs for improvement in specific subject areas may be identifiable and these can serve as a basis or catalyst for introducing open discussion and analysis of the school's general academic issues; general implementation of the curriculum, academic philosophy, teacher professional development, teacher resources, etc. Consistent with the ethos of School Based Quality Improvement issues of academic performance should be clearly identified and where possible addressed within the school.
If the issues require external assistance then being able to clearly define and relate these issues to Kandep and Kanwil representatives (Pengawas) is a crucial procedural step. Generalized issues produce generalized responses and these are rarely affective.
Many issues relating to student perceptions of a "good school" are documented in earlier reports. From what we learned during the student interviews I believe that probably one of the most significant issues is discipline. The students prefer a school which is disciplined. They respect the active enforcement of behaviour and dress code, monitoring and visits to classes by the principal, and enforcement of punctuality, they view this as caring. However, they also expect the same from principals and teachers. Students learn by example.
School Based Academic Improvement
Current systems for monitoring and providing academic assistance to schools and teachers are inadequate. The following programs will certainly be implemented in our school. They are based upon my personal understanding of the realities of academic development needs in schools from my observations during the study (not case histories). I believe that these systems offer a realistic and practical way to begin to address some important academic issues.
We will commence addressing many of the school's academic issues within the school. We may have to re-think and discuss the educational philosophy and values of the school (influence school culture). We can perhaps address teacher resource issues by re-prioritizing school budgets, sharing resources, or by searching for sponsors. We can implement systems for supportive clinical supervision of teachers by sharing and maximizing the skills of our better teachers to support weaker or less experienced teachers. Teacher subject knowledge is an issue of teacher professionalism and teachers will be responsible for their utilization of the school's library, other skilled staff, and other resources to improve their subject knowledge.We will initiate regular in-service workshops utilizing both internal staff and also invited presenters (known good teachers from neigh bouring schools). We will schedule teacher forums (inter-school) which are for open discussion of the broad issues and could very well help to identify specific needs areas to be addressed by the MGMP. The system of student representatives will be utilized to collect input for academic improvement by acknowledgeing student identified academic issues. These steps should not require any extra funding (perhaps bus fares) and the potential for improved academic quality is only limited by the enthusiasm of staff to participate in the programs.