Archive for September, 2010
So today Michael Gove has confirmed the demise of the Self Evaluation Form – completed by schools to flag up gaps in their provision and as a tool for inspectors.
A surprising amount of people are mourning the demise of the SEF – one poll had it at 50:50.
While the SEF may have gone, self evaluation is here to stay, and now’s s great time to get ahead and think about how you’ll set up your own system.
It looks suspiciously like self evaluation will end up like school improvement plans – not mandatory, but expected, essential and unique to your school.
I think you can’t look at self evaluation in isolation, but rather as part of your management information system that lets you know how well a school is performing.
Ideally, a school should set KPIs (a subject I covered in a previous post). The school improvement plan sets out what needs to happen for the KPIs to be achieved. Then self evaluation through a regular report on the KPIs and further analysis informs the governors on how much progress is being made and identifies other areas for development.
For the canny governing body a system like this can place you right at the very heart of school improvement.
My dirty secret is that I’m getting rapidly sucked into the world of Twitter. Even when I originally joined I didn’t really understand the many different ways it could be used.
Here are just five ways your governing body and/or school could be using Twitter.
1) To Communicate with Parents
Send a newsletter home with a child and there can be at best an evens chance it will ever make it to a parent. With Twitter you can communicate with your parents direct, they can ask you any questions they have, and you can do it in a timely fashion. Now more saving all your news up for one burst – you can let people know as it happens.
2) Connect with the Local Community
Equally as important Twitter can help you reach out to your local community with news of your extended services / community cohesion activity, and do so at no cost. There are a number of different services out there that will help you find local Tweeters, or you could just ask your parents for recommendations.
3) To Find Helpful Organisations
It’s mind boggling the number of charities and businesses that are now on Twitter, many of which you may never have known existed. Twitter makes it easy to connect with these groups, and also to ask followers for help and advice. This includes suppliers too.
4) For Staff Development
Twitterati may have already experienced Ukedchat – a weekly hour long chat about all things education. This is great and always interesting (if manic). Just as your staff may attend local networking meetings, on. twitter they can network and share ideas with like minded colleagues across the world!
5) With Students to Improve Learning
As a social network there are esafety issues here so vigilance is required, but Twitter can bring an interesting dimensions to lessons. Others will be better placed to go through what these are in detail (I’m not a teacher myself) but I have friends who’ve used Twitter to tweet plenaries to vote in class and to discuss activities in real time. It’s a brave new world out there and Twitter is a tool at the forefront of it.
It would be great to hear from you if you’re using Twitter already as a governor (I’m @supergovernor) and/or if you have any other uses to add to the list.
Like it or not, schools are going to need to cut coats significantly to make ends meet of the next few years.
I was recently reading a business book called Cut Costs, Grow Stronger which offers an interesting perspective on how this delicate task can be approached in schools.
It explains that many businesses take the view that an across the board cut is fairer, but that this ends up damaging more critical areas that need the extra cash.
Rather it argues for a capability based approach where you try to establish what your key capabilities are that give you a ‘right to win’. Resource those, then work out what the bare minimum is for non key capabilities.
This is trickier in education since government and Ofsted explicitly encourage you to be a jack of all trades, but it’s a useful exercise and may just help get a bit of clarity in this difficult area.
Just a thought:
The largest single item in any school’s budget is staffing. Maybe as much as 80%.
Now how much money do you spend on making sure you get best value from that investment, that staff are developed to make them the best they can be? Less than 1%?
Then for the money you do spend how do you make sure it’s well spent and providing value for money?
My view: schools need to focus as closely on the best value from their human resources as they dontheir physical resources.
Academies, free schools, fancy ICT – education’s not short of ‘magic bullets’ that are designed to increase the performance of schools.
But study after study has come up with the rather more prosaic (and obvious) conclusion that the most important factor in improving pupil progress is great teachers.
So what are you as a governing body doing to make sure you’ve got the very best teachers?
Interestingly this often falls to the Staff committee in a secondary, or Resourcing in a primary. Both are some of the less glamorous committees – but as it turns out crucial to the development of your school.
The first step should be to understand where you’re at with the results of lesson observations, performance management and results. Are these getting better or worse? How are your senior leaders confident in their judgements?
Then you come on to how to improve teacher quality. Training is always a good option (but make sure you’re evaluating its success), as are more informal forms of CPD, and competency proceedings shouldn’t be ruled out either.
By and large though your strategic role will simply be raising the issue, understanding the status quo, and supporting and challenging senior leaders on the methods they propose to make improvements.
It’s almost enough to get you excited about performance management!
Governing body meetings are a often a marathon, rarely a sprint. But surely it’s about quality, not quantity and since we all have lives to lead I’ve brought together a few tips on how to make your meetings are swift and effective.
1) Start Promptly
Often the first 15 minutes are just spent waiting for everyone to arrive. Providing you’re quorate, start bang on time and people will soon get the message.
2) Prune Agendas
Often agendas take on a bit of a life of their own as different items get added year after year. What’s on there that you really need to discuss? Focussing on the big issues will help you be more strategic.
3) Be Prepared
Send round every paper in advance, don’t allow anything to be tabled at the meeting – except in truly exceptional circumstances. Nobody should be reading things for the first time at a meeting. This allows for better informed debate.
4) Make Your Goals Clear
Set SMART targets and measure your school’s progress against these in a regular report. Not only is this much quicker than simply asking a vague question like ‘How are things going?’, you’ll also get a much more transparent view of a school’s actual performance.
5) Be a Strong Chair
If you feel someone’s bringing up a topic that’s already been covered, politely say so and move on. Don’t be afraid to get people to take points up offline with people after the meeting if they’re not directly relevant.
Hopefully, with these you could half the time your meetings take AND make them more effective at the same time!
Schools of course now do self evaluation all the time, but what would the self evaluation for your governing body look like?
I’d hope the full governing body had a hand in drafting the sections of the SEF that deal with governance, but ben if they did how would your gb respond to the following questions?
1) Do all governors have a clear and accurate view of the school’s strengths and weaknesses?
2) Are all governors aware of their legal responsibilities, and educational policy and practice?
3) How do governors ensure that senior leaders are challenged, as well as supported?
4) How do governors monitor and verify the school’s progress?
5) What have governors done to shape the strategic vision of the school?
Even if it’s not done formally hopefully the questions above are food for thought. After all – nobody’s perfect!
As the public face of the school the school website can often be a hot topic of conversation in governors meetings (well it is in mine at least). Here’s how to take a comprehensive approach to improving your school’s website.
It sounds daft, but school websites are complex and often have a number of different aims. They can be used to persuade parents to send their children to a school, to help students’ learning, to ease administration and other things besides.
Set your goals for your site and your success criteria. Say you want one of the site’s goals to be to persuading parents to send children to your school. You could then set a success criteria of having your online prospectus downloaded 50 times a month (or whatever figure you like).
Once you’ve set your goals you need a way to see the data. I’d recommend getting Google Analytics installed on your website for this. It’s free, easy to install and very powerful. Your IT team should be able to use it to draw off all the information you need.
That will give you some idea about how your website is doing. For a fuller picture do a little research. This comes in two stages.
Firstly borrow a few willing volunteers sit them down in front of your website. Then work out what the top 10 things this person will need to do on your site, and ask them to do it. So if you’re dealing with parents see if they can find your prospectus, or report an absence or whatever. See how easy they find it, work out what works for them and what needs changing.
The other (complementary) approach is to have a website questionnaire. In the past these used to be quite long, but the tendency now if just to ask a few short to the point questions – did they find what they were looking for, how would they rate the site etc. These can be a useful benchmark of how much your site is actually improving.
With hard numbers and a variety of forms of customer feedback you’ll know what is and isn’t working about your current site. This is the most important step in making it better. Once you know what’s wrong how to fix it should be clear.
If it’s not and you have a few different approaches Google offer a free tool called Conversion Optimizer. It allows you to test two approaches to a page and see which is best. I suspect very few schools go to this level of depth, but thousands of businesses do and I don’t see any reason why schools should be less concerned about providing good learning environments online than businesses are with turning a profit.
Usually New Year resolutions are only made when one has eaten far too much turkey and drunk far too much mulled wine.
With schools just back, I wondered what governors New Academic Year resolutions were. Maybe they’re simply to spend more time in school, or maybe something a little more off the wall.
Mine? To work with my school to develop a proper marketing plan to make the most of this year’s GCSE results (of which more in a future post).
I ran into this interesting article a few days back: “We’re exploited: says school governor.”
What do you think? Can you be exploited in a voluntary position? Are school governors really exploited?
I think in some ways it’s the reverse side of a discussion we had on this blog a while ago about whether school governors should be paid. There’s a kind of professionalisation going on which means more and more of a governor’s task is high level school management. Depends I suppose if you think this is a bad thing or not.