The Investors in People Standard had a major impact on Alison Shakespeare’s school’s CPD, helping them to embed a culture of continuous improvement across the organisation. Read why she thinks it’s such a good idea for school improvement
When our Investors in People assessor confirmed in July 2007 that we had met the standard for the second time, she reported that the school ‘is using the Investors framework to develop continually and improve the school’. There is no doubt that Investors has had a major impact on our development and ethos and helped us to embed a culture of continuous improvement across the organisation.
There has been a sustained improvement in GCSE results over the past three years and in March 2008, a one-day ‘light-touch’ inspection visit from Ofsted described us as a ‘truly excellent school’. Leadership and management were judged to be outstanding, ‘with staff at all levels being highly committed to the school and to students’ academic and personal development’.
However, as we bask in the warm glow of this positive feedback we know that it was not ever thus. We have indeed come a very long way since we first began working towards the standard in 2002. Examination performance at the school had always been good, but close examination of our value-added data indicated that in some areas students’ progress was not as rapid as it could have been. CPD was one area of the school which was underdeveloped and so the post of assistant principal, human resources, was created to ensure that a strong culture of professional development underpinned the overall strategic plan to raise achievement.
In October 2002, just two months after my appointment, the principal asked me to take on the challenge of leading the school towards achieving Investors in People status. I was excited but apprehensive. Professional development was not particularly high-profile at the school at the time and some of the staff believed there to be an ‘us and them’ divide between teaching and support staff. To kick-start the process, an Investors in People questionnaire was used to pinpoint the key issues and evaluate how far we were away from achieving the standard (see box below). It revealed there was some way to go. I discovered that training opportunities for support staff were limited (non-existent in some cases) and the quality of induction was inconsistent. The school’s strategic objectives were not well known and staff had only a vague awareness of how their role fitted into the overall plans for the school.
Investors in People Standard
Developing strategies to improve the performance of the organisation
Taking action to improve the performance of the organisation
Evaluating the impact on the performance of the organisation
We decided to adopt a ‘one staff’ approach to everything we did to ensure teaching and support staff were working together for the benefit of students and the school. We wanted everyone in the organisation to know what we were trying to achieve and to understand their role in its overall strategic development. Better communication at all levels in the school was going to be needed.
We began by focusing on support staff, as this was where most of the areas for development had been identified. We enhanced our induction arrangements by designing a very simple induction checklist and allocating every new member of the support staff a mentor. We introduced performance reviews for all support staff, and asked all support staff to contribute to the school development plan. Thirdly, we focused heavily on their professional development by ensuring that they all received the training they needed to carry out their support role effectively.
We also formed a support staff group, which meets regularly and is chaired by a member of the senior leadership team. This group has become an influential body within the school. For example, concerns raised by this group informed the decision not to change the timing of the school day. Another member of the group suggested creating a staff photo board, which has now been implemented.
We also introduced meetings for the whole of the support staff on every Inset day to broaden their perspective and enhance their understanding of the work of the school. Key members of staff were asked to give short ‘briefings’ on their work in school. Topics so far have included admissions, the work of the education welfare officer, child protection and educational visits. This has really helped the support staff to understand what the school is trying to achieve.
As the morale of our support staff improved, we shifted our focus towards our leaders in the school. The principal believed strongly in the idea of ‘distributed leadership’ and wanted all leaders in school to recognise the key role they play in raising achievement. Spurred on by the introduction of a new Investors in People Standard, which requires organisations to define the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed by leaders, we developed our own set of ‘leadership capabilities’. Produced by a group of teaching and support staff, in consultation with all colleagues, they define succinctly and clearly what we expect of leaders at the school.
Additional leadership training was also prioritised through investing in well established NCSL programmes, such as Leading from the Middle, the Strategic Leadership of ICT and NPQH. To raise the profile of training still further, the principal agreed to run an internal leadership programme for newly appointed leaders. This has provided them with valuable time for reflection as well as an opportunity to discuss the leadership capabilities.
A*-C GCSE grades have risen to 80% over the past two years (70% including English and Maths in 2007). Despite strong competition from a local sixth form college, the number of students joining the sixth form has increased significantly. Staff morale is high and during our Ofsted visit in March 2008 the lead inspector described the school as a ‘vibrant, exciting and happy community’.
We believe the continuing improvement of our school to be intrinsically linked to the Investors in People standard. It has been by no means the only ‘lever’ but it gave us a focus and an incentive to look at areas where we could be doing better. We are now confident that all colleagues have a clear and shared vision for the school and know where they fit into the overall plan.
So, to those colleagues who are considering whether to aim for Investors, I say, go for it. It will undoubtedly improve your organisation and should have a positive impact on your examination results. And to those readers who may be due for re-assessment and might be wondering whether the extra effort is worth it, I say look back at where you were before you embarked on your journey towards the standard. Would you want to go back there? No, neither would we.
Working towards the standard
- Promote a shared vision and understanding of your school. The ‘one staff’ approach.
- Use the framework to improve and develop rather than simply as an audit tool.
- Involve the whole senior leadership team in the Investors process. It’s a big task and should not be the responsibility of the CPD leader alone.
- Try to create a ‘listening’ organisation. This should help you to manage change and minimise issues as they arise.
- Value your support staff. Ensure they receive an effective induction (regardless of what time of year they start) and provide a forum for their views to be heard.
- Develop an external perspective by looking outside the organisation and gathering best practice that can help to move the school forward.
- Finally, remember that Investors is not a paper-gathering exercise. During the assessment it’s what people say about the organisation that counts. Bear that in mind throughout as, despite what the leadership team’s view is of the school, the view from the ground is sometimes very different.
Leadership capabilities: All leaders should be able to demonstrate the following capabilities
|Knowledge and understanding||Leadership and management skills (ability to:)||Behaviours|
Issued with New Staff Guide
Introduction: Issued with Staff Handbook or know where to find one Tour of school Tour of facilities (eg tea, coffee, lunch, toilets) Know who your line manager is and where to find him/her Know who your Mentor is and where to find him/her Been introduced to the principal, vice principal(s) and office Staff
Have signed E-safety and Code of Safe Conduct policies
Have a copy of or access to your individual/department timetable/plan
Pastoral/Health & Safety: Know procedures for illness/absences, etc
Know fire drill/emergency procedures
Please sign when completed and return within one week to Alison Shakespeare. Thank you.
Alison Shakespeare is assistant principal, human resources, at Tomlinson School in Camberley