In the first post in this series, I detailed our process of setting strategic direction – a community wide collaboration of agreeing aims, values and a description of the future.
The next stage was to determine ways of knowing the extent to which our vision is being realised and to do this, we needed to be clear on the different types of impact that we can have as school leaders. A few years ago, I came across Thomas Guskey’s mechanisms for evaluating professional development. These proved a good starting point to think about ways to evaluate the work of the school in its entirety. Ultimately, if the school is working effectively, there will be an impact on outcomes for children. In order for children to do well, schools should seek to influence adults’ knowledge and adults’ behaviours. When certain behaviours develop into cultural norms, they become systems and processes. Finally, leaders’ impact on climate underpins the impact in all the preceding realms.
Within each of these, there are sub sections. The interesting thing with these is that there is an inverse relationship between the ultimate outcome and those that we can more directly influence.
Next, looking at each strand, we considered key performance indicators that would show how well our vision was being realised. It was pretty difficult to keep the number of key performance indicators low – there are lots indicators that seem important and, after all, schools are complex places. Here’s a snapshot of a few (with a baseline RAG rating):
With more specific indicators now agreed, we considered what could be measured or assessed in some way that would help us to know the extent to which our vision is being realised and whether the key performed indicators were being met.
Now with a clearer idea about what we might want to assess or measure, thinking turned to how we could do so:
There is quite a bit of overlap here – one quality assurance activity could easily provide information about all five strands of impact. Equally, there are certain quality assurance activities that would not provide any meaningful information about a particular strand and it is important for leaders to understand that. Any quality assurance activity would need to be chosen to ascertain the information that leaders require and not done simply because it has always been done or because it’s what others do.
To help show this, here’s another representation of what different quality assurance activities could give us useful information about:
It is worth pointing out at this stage that no individual quality assurance activity can provide completely reliable information and this is due to the many variables that are involved, not least bias in the person or people doing it. It is important for governors and leaders to understand that a combination of measures over time is probably the most reliable way of getting information that is anywhere near valid.
Having worked on this pre-pandemic, the educational landscape has changed somewhat and the opportunity will hopefully arise to reshape what the norms are regarding quality assurance in schools – less so hard accountability measures and more so a collaborative notice and adjust model. Even with more of the latter, the quality assurance activities would still be mostly valid; it would be how they are done that can shift. Pragmatism and humanity over numbers and one off performances.
Having clarified a vision for the future and mechanisms to check whether we’re meeting that expectation, the next part of this series looks at strategy selection to set out the details of what we need to do in order to be successful.