1. Decide on your timeframe
What duration is best for what you’re trying to achieve? Decide what’s practical, given your school’s current circumstances. A year? Longer? Or do you need a short-term plan in order to rapidly tackle a specific issue?
2. Set priorities
Keep your plan’s priorities to a minimum – sections of the Ofsted framework or your last inspection report can be helpful here. Ensure that the priorities in question are key aims that will help your school or department advance to the next level.
3. Give actions meaning
Will the actions you’ve chosen have a genuine impact? ‘Ensure that Shakespeare displays are put up when studying the text’ might be desirable, but is that really going to help you meet a target of ‘Improve outcomes in reading’? Test any such decisions by assessing honestly whether they will raise standards.
4. Try something new
Focus your plan around new actions and developments that you’re not already pursuing. Including lots of ‘maintenance’ actions will simply clog up your plan, making it flabby, rather than sharp.
5. Format it well
Number your priorities, actions and pages – don’t just bullet them. This will make it easier to reference actions in future and monitor what’s been completed and achieved. Referring to ‘4.3 on page 5’ will let everyone know that you’re pointing to ‘priority 4, action 3 on page 5,’ while also making it easier to illustrate your plan’s coverage and impact via a monitoring grid.
6. Make your targets ‘smart’
Ensure that your plan’s targets are kept ‘specific’, ‘manageable’, ‘achievable’, ‘relevant’ and ‘time sensitive’.
7. Agree on what ‘success’ means
Devise some big picture success criteria for each priority, rather than getting bogged down with different success criteria for every single action. The latter amounts to too much detail, and will make the monitoring process a painful one…
8. Communicate clearly
Let’s be honest – most of our peers will barely even look at our plans, however proud we might be of them. To help communicate your key priorities and actions more rapidly, why not produce a poster-sized summary sheet for the staff room wall and distribute it among key stakeholders? That way, you can clearly distil your key messages without all the waffly bits…
9. Monitor it carefully
Leave a column on your plan free for monitoring notes. An action plan should be a working document; any notes, scribbles and updates will show that you’re tracking the plan and monitoring its outcomes.
10. Keep it short
Above all, remember that in nearly all circumstances less is more! Keep your plan sharp, focused and tight.
Grahame Smith is school improvement manager at Havering School Improvement Services