Over the next two terms, schools will be engaged in important activities associated with developing their strategic plans for the next 2-3 years. We would like to share a few insights and tips based on our experience with supporting principals, boards of trustees and leadership teams to work with their key stakeholders to co-construct coherent, impactful and measurable plans.
This is especially important as The Ministry has recently published its new guidelines for School Planning and Reporting - Te Whakangārahu Ngātahi with the following intentions to:
Focus schools and kura on continuously improving their planning and reporting practices to deliver equitable and excellent outcomes for all learners.
Support learners, whānau and communities to be involved in the planning process for their school or kura.
Give schools and kura flexibility to reflect their local contexts in their planning and reporting.
Support whānau and communities to hold their schools or kura accountable for learner outcomes.
The key components are a three-year strategic plan that is developed with substantive engagement from the school community, an annual implementation plan and an annual report to progress and outcomes. Here are some suggestions as to how best to go about the development of a strategic plan that has buy-in from your community:
1. Involve your board from the beginning to identify what problems need to be solved and what opportunities for improvement should be prioritised.
2. In a context of constrained budgets and staff with limited discretionary time, school strategic planning is as much about identifying what to prioritise, as it is about deciding what to stop doing, or reducing the expenditure of time, energy and resources required
3. Be bold to throw yourselves forward 3 years and envisage what will have changed, and then work backwards from there to plan what needs to happen to achieve those changes.
4. Understand the context in which you are working - using a PEST analysis framework is a straightforward way of thinking about this
5. Each school is unique and the plan should play to your strengths and determine how to further enhance these to benefit your learners and support your teachers
6. Develop innovative ways to capture voice from your key stakeholder groups - surveys, digital polls, focus groups, student led conferences, whānau hui all present opportunities to understand their aspirations, what they value about the school and what they would like to see improved.
7. It is useful to consider the risks that might derail or diminish the effectiveness of your plan - risk identification is the flip side of strategy development.
8. Make sure you keep governance separate from management when facilitating strategic planning - the board's role is to articulate outcomes and targets and the leadership team, with its pedagogical expertise, is best placed to identify the work programme to achieve these.Then of course the board should review and approve this programme of work and hold the lead team accountable for its delivery.
9. A measurement dashboard is now a requirement of the planning process - working out what to measure, how to collect data, and what to aim for is possibly the most challenging part of the process. Remember to establish your baseline in year 1 so that you can identify shifts over the course of the 3 year plan. We have, for example, developed an attendance tracker to monitor trends so that we can identify factors that influence attendance.
10. Things change so the plan needs to be reviewed and adapted at least every year - the anticipated outcomes should not change too much, but the pathway for achieving these could be very different, especially if external factors change dramatically (think Covid).
If you would like experienced strategic facilitation to support your planning process and data analytics expertise to support holding yourselves accountable to your community, please get in touch.