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School strategy: A guide to meeting strategic goals and challenges in schools

Find out why forming a robust school strategy is essential for achieving and exceeding schools objectives, and how to ensure your school strategy is fit for purpose.

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A school strategy is a fully documented plan that tells people what your school wants to achieve in the future, and how it plans to get there.

1. What is a school strategic plan?

A school strategy plan can include:

  • Purpose: why your school exists.
  • Values: how staff and students are expected to behave.
  • Context: what is different or special about your school?
  • Goals: what you are going to focus on over the next four years to improve students’ experience at school?
  • Plan: how the school is going to do this.
  • Actions: what you will undertake to implement your key improvement strategies?
  • Milestones: key stages and KPIs that will be used to identify progress in their implementation.

A school strategy ensures that SMTs and SLTs collaborate to define what they plan to achieve in terms of pupil objectives and organisational goals.

A robust mixture of planning and communication will ensure that all educators and stakeholders — including parents, teachers, administrators, governors, board members and community — are working towards the same goals.

According to our annual research, 100% of head teachers are confident they have a vision for the future of their schools. Almost half of classroom teachers state that there is either no clear strategy, or, if there is, they are not aware of it.

Read more strategic insights from our annual report The State of Technology in Education.

2. What are schools’ top goals?

According to our annual research of 1,600 educators in the UK, The State of Technology in Education, the most important strategic goals for leadership teams are relatively common.

The most important goals for schools in are:

  • Attainment and results
  • Reducing the attainment gap
  • Improving attendance
  • New pedagogical techniques/learning strategies

Most educators agree with the priorities set by their schools. For those that don’t, providing more creative learning experiences, improving behaviour, and delivering educational benefits through technology were highlighted as areas that should be given more attention.

Interested in the latest SMT and SLT opinions on school strategy? Download our annual report The State of Technology in Education.

3. Raising your school’s profile

A great school profile impresses prospective parents, contributes to attracting the best teachers, and helps to give the local community a boost. So taking the time to shout about what makes your school special is, of course, important.

“Department actions need to relate to overall school strategy.” Teacher, Academy Secondary, State of Technology in Education 2017/18

One of the best ways to improve your school’s profile is to improve student achievement. And there are lots of ways you can do this. For example:

Also, parents from the Millennial generation have different expectations about communication. While the opportunity for face-to-face meetings will always be necessary, consider also using behavioural apps, online forms, update apps, offering video conferencing for parental meetings, and any other tech that makes the job of being a parent that little bit easier.

Read more about Raising your school’s profile in our blog.

4. How do schools tackle attainment?

Engaging students through learning is the best means of improving students’ grades and results. The introduction of edtech means a shift away from a linear teaching styles to a more pupil-led focus.

By tapping a student’s familiarity with his or her own technology, or encouraging learning through various mediums, it allows a subject to be approached from multiple angles, and for members of the class to work at a comfortable pace.

What’s more, the correlation between low income and low academic attainment is greater in the UK than almost any other developed nation.

A three-year-old pupil from a disadvantaged family is likely to have a learning readiness one year behind that of a pupil from a richer family. The same pupil will also be 15 months behind in vocabulary development. Teach First

A report from the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) reports that giving both affluent and low-income students the same access to technology can aid achievement, boost engagement and improve readiness to learn.

What’s more, it can improve communication skills, the ability to self-manage and increase collaboration with peers.

Read more about how schools are tackling the attainment gap in our blog.

5. Why should schools use social media?

Almost all large companies, charities, celebrities and politicians use social media to engage with their customers. Schools should be no different.

Sharing informative and educational social content positions your school as a forward-thinking, modern institution. People rely on social platforms for their main source of news and advice, and it plays a big part in many major marketing strategies.

Ideas include:

  • Information broadcasting: this is a great use of social media for many reasons; it’s quick, easy, cheap, most parents will have Facebook or Twitter accounts, saving on printing costs.
  • Promotion: an increasing number of educational institutions are using social platforms to market themselves
  • Pupil communication: schools are using social media groups to communicate with students. Members can exchange files, links, information, polls and videos quickly.
  • Resources: platforms like Pinterest are an excellent source of information and resources for educators to share.

Social media managers in schools should aim to post a mix of useful information; perhaps reminders for parents about upcoming inset days, school holidays, school events and school trips. They could share good news about your school such as exam results, new equipment, and fun class activities.

“The great thing is that many people know how to use Facebook already, and Twitter is so straightforward it would not take long for people to learn it. If there is no expert in school, seek advice, either from another school or from external expert.” The Guardian

To earn credibility and respect as a school or educator on social media, you have to do more than say a quick hello to new followers. Be active, engaging and responsive. Consider creating content such as blogs and media rich posts to share with your followers.

Read more about how and why schools should use social media in our blog.

6. How to boost school results

Raising a school’s profile and getting it to the top of the league table, whilst keeping students’ needs at the heart of every decision remains a continuous challenge for SLTs and other school leaders.

Leadership and management are key to any school’s success, with standards, attainment, policies, SATS, and Ofsted constantly at the top of the headteacher’s agenda.

Ofsted guidelines often change, but improving education ultimately comes from enthusiastic, knowledgeable and focused educators who understand how to inspire and engage pupils.

You can use free software to boost your schools’ results with the following:

  • Interactive lessons
  • Collaborative learning
  • Resource sharing
  • Flipped learning
  • Differentiated learning
  • Formative and informal assessments
  • Instant feedback
  • Digital note-taking

You can use software to generate a report based on the assessment for learning data that you have collated from both lessons and stand-alone assessments.

To boost motivation, give pupils badges and rewards in recognition of their behaviour. These badges could even be tracked to measure patterns of behaviour over time. Your teachers could award badges to individual pupils, or an entire class. Badges can also be edited, shared with others, or kept private.

Read more about boosting schools’ results with free cloud-based software in our ClassFlow guide.

7. Making a modern school environment

There are three identified critical aspects to the modern classroom. All of which can be used by teachers to create a 21st-century learning environment that meets their needs, with the minimum of disruption.

New pedagogical methods use technology and space to provide teachers with new ways to instil deep learning:

  • Collaborative learning
  • Student-led learning
  • Flipped learning

Creating a modern classroom isn’t as simple as making one overall change. It requires a flexible approach which takes into account factors such as the latest research and best practices, the culture and context of the school, and the subject matter in question.

Modern education, however, is rarely confined to the classroom; the world of digital learning is widening and seeping into home technologies. Equipment and technology, therefore, play a huge role in facilitating the modern classroom; helping to promote student-centric learning, engagement, collaborative learning, personalisation, and formative and summative assessment.

Find out more about creating modern classrooms in your school.

8. Data protection and GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been introduced by the the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission in 2018. Its purpose is to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the EU.

According to GDPR, schools handle ‘special category data’ which is subject to tighter controls. This could be details on:

  • Race
  • Ethnic origin
  • Biometric data
  • Trade union membership

With such emphasis of evidencing compliance, it’s important that schools can also demonstrate that the whole school is on board when it comes to data protection.

Schools must consider their accountability on the following:

  • Privacy
  • Data audits
  • Policy reviews
  • Data transfer review
  • Appointing a DPO

Note that, anyone who takes on a data protection role should receive adequate training to help them with this.

It’s also important that ALL staff understand their responsibilities when it comes to keeping personal data safe.

The ICO has a wealth of information to help SMTs put adequate data protection policies and training in place.

Find out all about the impact of GDPR on your school strategy in our GDPR blog.