Many schools celebrated their personal successes in this year’s GCSE results, despite the news being dominated by an overall decline in the reported A*-C pass rate. Although this decline is in part attributable to the figures for the new, compulsory post-16 resits in English and Maths, a substantial number of Education leaders lay blame for it at the feet of the government, for ‘wave after wave of reform’ (Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers). The simple point is that if you have a high degree of uncertainty about the requirements for success, it is incredibly difficult to get on with your job and build a successful school. The tumultuous events of this past academic year have meant that more and more schools have been trying to run a tighter ship to weather future storms.
Every headteacher knows that their school is most effective when staff are able to get on and do their jobs well. Interference from external policy changes, or disruption caused by internal failings and obstacles prevents the school from running smoothly. The consequence of this is a negative impact on results, as well as on the success of the school’s broader aims. This, coupled with the current government’s appetite for rapid change, means the need to run a tight ship has never been greater.
Dangers in the Fog
Headteachers remain at the mercy of central government policy, but in the meantime they can do a lot to prevent their own school from suffering. Within every school is a multitude of working practices, either established organically over the years, or carefully structured and implemented by senior leaders to achieve a specific outcome. In both cases, people naturally find their own way to meet their objectives and will adopt individual variations in practice to achieve them as best they can in the time available. The result is that many schools find a ‘fog’ develops around the edges of their procedures. This is where processes are not followed closely by staff and fail to run as smoothly as they should, or where there is no clear, standardised way of achieving a single, central aim. This fog often extends all the way from teaching and learning activities (eg sharing files with students), to support activities (eg ensuring the asset register is up to date) and even to safeguarding (eg policies for ensuring internet filtering is compliant with statutory guidance). Wherever it settles, fog prevents the school from being effective and creates a heavy drag on time, resources and performance in every aspect of school life.
Charting a Course
Clearing this fog is critically important before schools can hope to rapidly improve their effectiveness. Our work with schools has lead to a tried and tested method of ensuring staff are on track and understand how to use technology and best practice in order to communicate, create and collaborate with their available tools and resources. This method has been embedded into a structured programme that allows schools to include their whole staff in identifying the processes and technology that best meets the school’s aims, and then make informed, evidence-based plans for achieving even greater improvements through technology. This ensures all staff are working together to use the best possible systems for their roles, in an agreed, standardised way. This improves efficiency across the school and puts everyone on the best course to achieve sustainable success.
This structured programme is the Digital Schools Programme. It will:
- examine your current technology and working practices,
- allow you to shore up weaknesses in your critical school processes,
- train your staff,
- chart your next steps in adopting the most practical and cost-effective technology for your school.