As we approach the end of one academic year and prepare for the next, Jane Golightly suggests eight jobs that primary leaders should do before school closes, so that September gets off to a flying start

This week I have been working with schools on medium and long-term plans. This is always enormously interesting work and everyone wants to achieve the best they can for the children. But each time I do it I am reminded that although schools start with the best of intentions, many become distracted from their priorities and end up not having the intended impact. This can happen for a variety of reasons but commonly it is because the leadership team leaves planning and organisation to the last minute or does not carry out those activities which can make a real difference to how things are done and to what is achieved. As we approach the end of one academic year and prepare for the next, here are the jobs that I think leaders should do before school closes so that September gets off to a flying start.

Jobs to do before the end of term

1. Analyse data. This is one of the most important activities you will do before the close of term. At the end of the school year, leaders should have an accurate picture of attainment and progress in each key stage and in each year group. You need to know not just headlines but also about specific groups and individual children. This analysis will inform priorities for next year and support you in setting draft targets. It will also ensure that you are in a position to challenge targets set by staff early in the autumn term and discuss what personalisation of learning will look like for children.

2. Agree the intervention programmes that will be put in place. Don’t assume that because a programme was run one year that it should run the next. Use the analysis of data to identify the children to participate. Talk to parents, explain the purpose of any programme, why their child is involved and what difference it is expected to make.

3. Draw up the calendar for the year. Set key dates for staff, such as pupil progress meetings, the monitoring and evaluation schedule and the performance management timetable. Send to parents and carers important dates for the year ahead, including holiday periods. The home-school relationship can be easily strengthened by ensuring that parents and carers are well-informed. Good schools set and share dates for the year ahead, provide information about curriculum themes that will be studied and state when newsletters will be sent out.

4. Think about the staff. Ensure induction processes for all new staff have been reviewed and that they are up to date, incorporating any changes to school policy and practice. Put in place the professional development programme, ensuring that is linked to personal, professional, school, local and national priorities. Commission any support your school requires. If you are participating in specific programme such as the Improving Schools Programme or Achievement for All make sure that you have the dates for local authority meetings and events; agree with the relevant local authority officers dates for school-based meetings.

5. Undertake a whole staff and governors’ review of the year. What went well; what went less well; what will you do more of; what will you do less of and what will stop altogether. Remember the best schools also involve children in the review perhaps through the school council. You may need to look at curriculum provision. Perhaps it is time to reconsider the themes for collective worship and draw up a new list.

6. Agree timetables for assemblies, hall use, PE and singing rotas. A practical but necessary piece of work. Knowing who goes where, when and for how long will ensure that you get maximum use out of resources and allocation of sufficient time for activities. It also gives you an opportunity to look again at how you organise activities. For example, reconsidering groupings for collective worship and singing can make a real difference to access to a multi-purpose hall.

7. Freshen-up the environment. Freshen up resource labelling, school signage, photographs on display. If your school is due for an early inspection ensure that you keep examples of children’s work so that you can demonstrate the progress children make. Retain work for display. If you put it up before the end of term cover it with lining paper to protect it over the holiday period and it will be as fresh at the start of the term as it was at the close.

8. Plan for new pupils and parents. And finally, for new pupils joining your school, ensure that the parents and children, including foundation stage parents, know where to go, who can advise them and what will happen on Day One. This is especially important if you have parents who will require language support.

Some of the above is plain common sense and you could be reading this and thinking, we have always done that – doesn’t everybody? Unfortunately no they don’t; not all school leaders see the benefits that taking the time to prepare, plan ahead and think things through can have on the school community. For example, most of us will have seen the negative impact on NQTs of a lack of information and knowing what is expected at different points in the year; this affects how newly qualified teachers settle in to a new post and develop into good teachers.

As a leader you have a responsibility for ensuring the smooth day-to-day running of your school. This means ensuring you give it your full attention so that staff, pupils and parents can focus their attention where it is most required – on learning every day. Make the most of the last few weeks of term.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2009

About the author: Jane Golightly has written extensively on school improvement and has more than 30 years experience in primary education