JEFF BROOMES: Building a strategic plan for our schools
“Where there is no vision the people perish,” is the predominant slogan of one of the foremost organisations in Barbados.
The message here has been true in all spheres of our national life but no more so than in education. And to that I also add, “Where there is no coordination, chaos and indiscipline must be the result.”
A few years ago, all schools were mandated by the Ministry of Education to develop a strategic plan. This was a decision which I praised with the thought that it was made to help recapture and re-establish our educational standards that have long been in a downward spiral. I had hoped that unlike most strategic plans these would not end up being simple dust collectors. I was so very wrong!
The reason for the failure is clear. Developing the plan is the easy work that is often outsourced for professionals. Unfortunately, the tactical implication involves work, consistency and accountability that are often shied away from. With this potential albatross circling the neck, it was made even worse when insistence on completion was not given a priority rating. Inevitably, educational success and growth will flounder without focused coordination.
I have seen no evidence to suggest that the authorities have held schools accountable for the production of such plans and the subsequent implementation thrust. Additionally, the individual plans were never used as components to inform the bigger ministry plan as one would have expected. Hence, we continue to disingenuously shout about a 98 per cent rate of literacy that has not been so for untold years. How we blindly fool ourselves!
There must be a purpose for our work, and I will offer some suggestions to help in building the strategic plan. Our purpose must be informed by factors such as the natural societal changes and the need to respond, the need to review alignment of actions and results, the relevance of the school programme, the appropriateness of resources and the leadership focus.
In respecting this focus, it is absolutely important to assess both the constant and the flexible variables such as the legal (regulations, acts, precedents), policy directives and guidelines, available minimum resources, school-based prerogatives, stakeholder involvement in school activities, communication flow, the decision-making process, observed behaviours (students and staff) and the classroom environment.
After this process, it is important for statistics to be presented to give definite proof to the claims being made by the school. These will include academic results, disciplinary trends, teacher and student attendance, inclusive of absences and punctuality, as well as sports and cultural results. With this done, the process of creating and charting the virtual road map to drive the work of the school should begin.
The immediate approach must involve agreeing on the foundation blocks of an effective and efficient school. These are the vision (The picture of what the organisation should be like sometime in the future (5/10 years), the mission (What the organisation does, with whom and how it is done) and the values (the shared beliefs about the right way to do things, how to deal with people and how the world ought to be organised). This is important for true collaboration.
The next step in the process should be to identify the organisational chart, inclusive of the positions and relational responsibilities, as well as the underlying support structures and subordinate/supervisor relationships. This is the beginning of ensuring that any school is structured for success and national development. Next week I will seek to define the components that are the daily driving forces in the implementation of the strategic plan.
Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser, who also served as a vice-president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org