The other day I was lucky enough to have time to sit and discuss the important issues of school improvement with Vice Principals of a number of schools.
A number of issues were discussed however 3 key points came out of the discussions:
- School Culture and Climate
- School Communication Systems
Now the issues are written down in the order them arose in the discussion so no priority should be read into the order above. Let’s take each of the issues in turn:
School Culture and Climate
We discussed the need to improve the quality of teaching and learning and how those teachers currently delivering high quality learning experiences could be utilised to encourage this however this doesn’t happen unless a culture exists where staff feel safe in sharing ideas and where ideas are openly discussed and questioned. Ideas and thoughts regarding how to improve a school often already exist within the school itself although unless a safe, sharing culture exists, these often go without being verbalized.
In addition to this a sharing, safe culture, encourages and supports staff in peer observation, collaboration and team working. It also serves to support distributed leadership, where teachers are encouraged to take on leadership roles.
School Communication Systems
Now we are not just talking about a weekly briefing here; we are considering the communication system of the school in its most holistic terms. How do staff and students within the school find out what is going on in the school, its priorities, its mission and its progress towards realising this mission? Equally how does the school find out about how students and staff feel about the school, its systems and, in general terms, how things are going? Consideration needs to be given to processes and systems but also to more humanistic issues like how do managers find out about their staff as people with lives outside school. Communication is about ensuring that the right messages are heard and that all staff feel as if they too are heard, and that their contributions are valued.
How is the schools vision arrived at and who is involved in this process? How do we turn the written vision into an espoused vision acted and believed by all staff within the school, independent of role or position? Some discussion was had regarding whether or not all school vision statements were essentially the same, however I do not believe that this is the case as even although the words used may be similar and the general aim may be education, what this actually means within a given staff body in a specific school in a specific area, at a specific time may differ significantly.
Now overall the discussions were very interesting and identified three important strategic areas in need of consideration however one very important question remained:
How do we go about building on these 3 areas within your school?