With league tables published for another year it’s time to turn from quiet satisfaction or resolutions to do better; time to build quality in. At the point of the post mortem it’s too late make the patient better but lessons can be learnt.
As a teacher, middle or senior leader, headteacher or in my case the, ridiculously titled, CEO; strengthening your processes and systems in year may seem part of dull management. However, it’s the necessary flip side of moments of inspiring leadership. Both are needed if a school is to succeed. Where are we going is one thing; smoothing the path to help more people get there is another.
The graphic above is taken from the Trust’s Business Plan and adorns the wall in my office. I have a monthly reminder, in my electronic diary, to “check QA Plan”. Looking at the month gone; has everything been done, lessons learnt, remedial action taken if necessary? Looking at the month ahead; what reminders do I need to send out, have items been scheduled into the appropriate meetings? Academic standards, attendance and behaviour, professional development and safeguarding all appear. Checks on ethos and business functions also form part of the rhythm of my school year. My black felt pen ticks off the jobs as they are done.
View the quality assurance process in two ways; firstly, a means of seeing whether time and energy needs to be focussed on putting things right. Early remedial actions around standards, attendance or budget can all nip problems in the bud; before they become major issues. View them as in-year readjustments. Secondly, adding all the quality assurance bits together you build up a picture over time of whether things are going well or not so. Beware the dangers of ignoring early warning signs, none of us like bad news, or overreacting to a single bit of information.
Systemising your management of a class, department, school or trust helps you develop an automaticity; an orientation towards quality first and quality built-in. People you work with will have a structure, a framework, with clear expectations and time frames; the what and when are sorted and they can get on delivering for the pupils and colleagues. Clarity and predictability help people deliver on time to the standard required. Nothing is fool proof or complete but it’s a great start.
As a class room teacher look at your assessment data through the lens of who doesn’t know what; intervene close to the point of first teaching, don’t just move on. Use the data to reflect on your teaching; what do you teach well and what do you require support in order to teach better. Scaling this up to a subject leader; use the assessment data across the department or phase to review your schemes of work and the professional development needs of your teachers.
Whether leading in the class room or the staff room make this a metronomic part of your year. From the September or summer post-SATs, GCSEs or A-levels analysis of pupils’ papers, to the in-year data and information you get on pupils, staff or outcomes; don’t wait to the next post mortem before you act. Remember the metronome.