There’s a fundamental difference between school improvement and school effectiveness. Unfortunately, these two terms are often confused. Often, people believe them to be mutually exclusive. However, one does not preclude the other. School improvement and school effectiveness are two sides of the same coin. In short, one helps achieve the other.
As a school improvement partner, I work closely with headteachers to make their schools’ internal quality assurance processes more effective. As a direct result of building better systems, schools experience an improvement in the quality and standard of education their learners receive. Improved performance leads to a refinement of those systems in order to ensure sustained and ongoing improvement. This, in turn, makes schools more effective in delivering a high standard of education. And so the cycle becomes one of continuous analysis, evaluation, iteration and implementation. Not something that gets thrown together when an inspection is imminent or simply as the result of a bad inspection.
Schools Requiring Improvement
Firstly, don’t for one second believe that only schools given an Ofsted Grade 3 require improvement. All schools should be on a trajectory of continual improvement. Because there’s always room for it.
However, when moving from school improvement to school effectiveness, it’s important to consider where you are now and where you aim to be. SMART goals and carefully considered targets based on each school’s unique circumstances are critical to establishing a baseline for moving school improvement and school effectiveness. You need to map out the journey to figure out how you’re going to get there.
Most of the work Marell Consulting does with schools is focused on helping them build and implement the systems that drive continuous school improvement, leading to overall effectiveness.
Schools don’t need to have a Grade 3 for this. In fact, it can be argued that all schools need to address the systems they have in place, regardless of their current Ofsted grading. After all, they’re only one inspection away from a change in outcome.
In other words, it’s a case of seeing school improvement as a method of prevention rather than cure.
School Improvement Partners Help Drive Effectiveness
All things considered, once schools properly systematise their internal quality assurance processes, they become more effective. It becomes a case of everyone singing from the same hymn book. The goals and targets are clear, the structures and systems are in place, and everyone knows exactly what they have to do, when, and how often, in order to achieve them. At this point, schools become an organism, all elements working together in synergy, not an organisation of individuals.
It is therefore important for schools to go through a regular process of updating and evaluating their current practices with some form of external accountability, in order to ensure their effectiveness. Which is where school improvement partners come in.
A school improvement consultant is able to hold headteachers accountable, without the threat associated with Ofsted or a meeting with the school’s Governing Body. They should be seen as mentors or coaches, supporting them through the process of implementing systematic changes in their schools that drive improvement. Yet, all too often, I find myself drafted in as an emergency service, to put out (metaphorical) fires.
It’s always better to begin from a position of choice rather than one of necessity.
Adopting a Proactive Approach to Improvement and Effectiveness
Proactively choosing to work with a school improvement consultant to develop quality improvement systems, takes the pressure off. It allows school leaders the time to calmly process, internalise and implement new methodologies to become more effective with their overall delivery and compliance with standards.
However, bringing in a school improvement partner in reaction to a demand for rapid improvement (necessitated by an unfavourable inspection outcome) makes for an altogether more stressful experience.
Don’t wait until you require improvement.
Put the systems in place now and recognise that improvement is ongoing, whatever Ofsted said the last time. There are always things you can do differently. Processes you can refine. Strategies you can implement.
And it’s always better when you have someone there to guide you. From school improvement to school effectiveness.