Writing and using a Primary School Improvement Plan (1)

Everybody reading this will, I am sure, have heard of the School Improvement Plan – but let me ask you 2 questions….

  1. Have you contributed towards it – either through meetings or by writing content?
  2. Have you even seen it ?

Amazingly these are relevant questions and in some schools neither of the above 2 questions can be answered positively!

So Just what is the School Improvement Plan and what is its purpose?

The School Improvement Plan (SIP) is quite simply the “business plan” that outlines how the school will move forward in the next few years and breaks this down into categories.

“At this level of managerial planning it is important to think of the school as a small business that is being funded by public money. Schools therefore have to show forward planning and development, future progression and improvement across all areas, adoption of national guidelines and changes and value for money.”

Basically it’s the core document for the school and it should be a working document that reflects everything that is going on. It should be possible to walk into school and ask where any particular factor sits within the schools improvement plan and to be shown where this is.

However this is not always the case for schools and unfortunately the SIP does at times not sit at the heart of school planning and improvement!

I have seen cases where these factors exist:

  • The HT writes the SIP
  • No input from the SLT or members of staff occurs
  • The SIP only looks at the certain curriculum areas
  • It is vague and lacks detail
  • No members of staff get to see the SIP – never mind get to know what is in it!
  • One SIP I saw was hand written on 3 pages of A4.

In any of the above examples there is a serious misunderstanding of the purpose of the SIP and if I had to extend this statement I would say serious misunderstandings in the role and responsibilities of the HT and possibly the SLT (although its members may have been excluded from the process).

What factors should appear in a SIP?

It may seem like it could be a complicated answer but it really is quite simple….

“The Role of the SIP is to look at how ALL aspects of the school will be taken forward in the next few years.”

This is not a “cop out” statement – its the reality! For the key personnel HT / DH / SLT you are tasked with planning the schools future developmental improvement and these incremental plans are part of that process and necessary for the schools success and accountability.

(Now once again I am going to say that this is my approach and opinion on these matters – you can use them as a base for your own school SIP ; tweak and adapt elements that you find useful or simply read and ignore. However the basic considerations and ideas will form a solid foundation for your School.)

The basic outline of your SIP

School Improvement Plans run on a cycle of usually 3 years, I have seen 4 year cycles and at times 5 years. For me I prefer 3 years as to be honest it is quite difficult to look further ahead than 3 years and much can change in that time. However 4 years is quite ok but 5 years seems a little to long.

If you look at all the factors involved in running the school you will find that there are a lot! However it is possible to group everything quite neatly into 2 main groups and I would suggest that these can be –

  • Curriculum
  • Management

Within these 2 broad groups you can cover all aspects of school improvement.


Just to get over any misconception here – if, for example, you have decided to adopt a 3 year approach to planning your school SIP, – you will not write all 3 years at one go and the SIP will not contain all 3 years planning. Rather – your overall plans are for a 3 year goal and each years SIP will chart the proposed journey / progress towards that final 3 year achievement.

Conversely some aspects of your SIP (and this applies more to the curriculum side of things) may have a 3 year cycle that they rotate through. (I will explain this further later on)

Who should be involved in writing the SIP?

Again its a simple answer – and that is EVERY member of staff with the exception of NQT’s (although I would partner NQT’s with another member of staff). This might seem surprising but remember its a working document and so involvement and “ownership” are both very important.

Broadly speaking the SLT will contribute to the Management section of the SIP (although their roles may involve them in the Curriculum side also)

Coordinators will contribute the Curriculum section of the SIP – and that’s for all Subjects…your SIP cannot just focus on 2 or 3 subjects – all subjects MUST be doing something, they can’t be doing nothing!

Smaller schools – the curriculum side of the SIP is problematic for small schools with regard to numbers of staff involved and as such coordinator responsibilities.

The management side of the SIP for small schools will remain the same as these are issues to be addressed regardless of school size.  However I will look later at how small schools can structure the SIP to meet the needs of the curriculum.

That seems to be a good place to stop for this first article – the next article will look at the Management side of your School SIP and the sorts of things you should be including.




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