How can we deliver school improvement on a budget?

Waist-up view of 15 and 16 year old classmates in uniforms sitting at round table taking notes and discussing ideas.
Image © JohnnyGreig | iStock

VP of ONVU Learning and former MAT senior leader and Ofsted inspector, Matt Tiplin explores ways schools can deliver school improvement on a budget

Still reeling from the impact of the pandemic on pupils’ education and mental health, schools are battling with another serious challenge that threatens to impact on the provision of quality education – a shortfall in funding. What steps can schools take to support teachers to continue to deliver quality education and ensure school improvement remains an achievable target?

Headteachers are under increasing pressure to find ways to cut expenditures and balance the books, with nine out of ten schools forecasted to run out of funds by September. And as a result, schools are predicting a range of cost-cutting measures that will need to be taken this year.

According to the largest survey of head teachers ever conducted by the NAHT, measures will include a reduced investment in CPD, a reduction in teacher hours and a reduced provision of additional targeted support for pupils needing extra help.

Targeted teacher support

Teachers learn best from other teachers. Research shows that encouraging greater collaboration between teachers improves the quality of teaching practice and overall school improvement. They want to know what works for me, my pupils and my school and how suggested school improvements can be effectively and practically implemented.

That’s why providing regular opportunities for teachers to mentor, coach and learn from one another can help shift the dial when it comes to effective school improvement. Being able to share their professional experiences and personal reflections can be more beneficial than buying in an expert to speak at an INSET day.

Providing regular opportunities for teachers to mentor, coach and learn from one another

A report by the think tank Centre for Reform found INSET days typically focused too much on whole school priorities and not enough on the needs of individual teachers. This can leave teachers feeling less engaged in the training offered and frustrated that their time would be better spent preparing lesson plans.

Grouping teachers with similar training needs together in smaller, more frequent sessions can encourage them to share issues and talk through practical solutions for school improvement. Running these types of sessions removes the ‘judgement’ that can so often feel like an underlying part of professional development and instead promotes an environment where everyone learns from one another, helping teachers to feel more valued and trusted.

male teacher infront of computer class
Image © skynesh | Istock

Providing actionable feedback

Recruiting new teachers and training them is expensive for schools and difficult to achieve given the current recruitment challenges. Whilst providing teaching cover for staff off sick is both costly and a potential disrupter to pupils learning. All of which will have a negative impact on both the performance and the bottom line of the school.

It is far more cost-effective and efficient to retain teachers in the longer term by shaping school improvement plans around what’s happening in the classroom and not only what happens during lesson observations.

Giving teachers an opportunity to self-reflect on how the lesson went

This is because lesson observations and learning walks can only ever reveal a snapshot and are unlikely to be true reflections of the quality of daily teaching. A more objective way to support and develop quality teaching practice is to use camera technology in the classroom. This is because it gives teachers an opportunity to self-reflect on how the lesson went using the video footage of the class. That way they can see for themselves what worked and what perhaps didn’t, giving them more ownership over their professional development.

Colleague and peer-on-peer reviews

It’s also worthwhile encouraging teachers to share any lessons learnt with colleagues or suggesting a colleague review the footage as a peer-on-peer review can provide valuable insight into how the lesson went. Especially so if the observer has first-hand experience of teaching this set of pupils and can offer practical suggestions to improve teaching practice. Sharing the lesson footage can help the observer, too, as they could also pick up new ideas and approaches to develop their own teaching practice. Doubling the value.

As budgets are squeezed, difficult decisions are approaching around the scale and pace of school improvement. Finding cost-effective ways to retain staff and positively impact on pupil progress by delivering cost-effective school improvement will need to be at the top of every head teacher’s in-tray.


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