Tags:Strategic PlanLeadershipPrimaryCommunity and WhānauStakeholder Engagement

Case Studies
02/10/2020
6 min read

Creating a strategic plan that reflects your school

Diversity in New Zealand continues to rise, and strategic plans are a prime opportunity for our schools to better reflect this. Take, for example, Newmarket Primary – a school connected to more than 20 languages, and where 85% of students speak a language other than English at home.  

When guidance on engaging such a diverse community is lacking, school leadership can struggle to form a cohesive community plan. In September 2015, Springboard helped Newmarket Primary principal Wendy Kofoed overcome this barrier to achievement.  

Bringing the plan together

Wendy had made a strategic plan for her school, but was struggling to get teachers, whānau and parents on board.  

We know that strong home-school partnerships play an important role in supporting students’ learning. If parents do not engage with and support the work of the school, then students’ learning might be compromised.

Springboard Trust's Debbie Herlihy took on a role as a subject matter expert with the school, working with the leadership team to develop a project-based approach to work out the best way to engage people with the long-term plan – both inside and outside the school gate.  

Finding the baseline 

To create a journey of understanding, schools must first understand where they currently sit.

Newmarket’s Deputy Principal, Virginia Kung, took a survey of parents and staff to gauge their understanding of the school’s vision and goals.  

For parents, complexity of language was a huge barrier. As Wendy explains;  

“While work had been done to develop a relevant and useful School Charter and strategic plan, it was still couched in the language of school (edu-speak).”  

Workshopping a solution

In September 2015, Debbie held a team workshop to focus on improving community engagement with the school’s values.  

This began with working out the biggest priority issues and solutions, and focusing on those with the biggest impact. The Newmarket project team found it immensely useful, saying it made a strong platform from which they could properly engage the community.  

Project delivery: Engaging the community 

Getting parents, whānau and teachers on board with the school’s vision and values had two primary steps.

1. Engaging with the plan on a page

At its core, this meant distilling the whole strategic plan down to a single, easy to understand page.

The school held workshops to establish a clear understanding of this simplified plan, and how it related to everyone’s roles and the curriculum they taught. They communicated this page school-wide, and included it in all school newsletters.  

2. A refined parent survey 

Second, the school sent a targeted face-to-face parent survey out in August 2016. They developed this with Springboard Trust’s Elaine More, to get the highest response rate possible.  

With simple language, a series of prompts and an easy to follow structure, the team hoped to get clear results from the community – something they had struggled with previously.  

“I have learnt there is an art to forming questions to elicit the relevant insights and data,” Virginia recalls. 

Outcomes and lessons:   

With clear goals and ways of measuring success in place, Newmarket Primary saw some excellent results from their push for engagement.  

  • 85% increase in parent understanding of the strategic plan. 

  • 90% increase in teacher understanding of goals.  

Less tangible (but no less important) were closer links between long-term plans and the school curriculum, as well as greater teacher ownership of their goals – which improves learning outcomes.  

The next step is to keep the good work going. Simplified communications of the plan will be brought into induction processes, to ensure new parents and whānau are on the same page as the school.  

It’s a great example of clearer leadership that listens to the community fostering better outcomes for all. As Wendy and Virginia put it: 

The relationship and trust we developed with our Springboard Trust Engagement Manager ensured everyone’s skills and talent were acknowledged. Our capability to support all learners has been enhanced.

2015 Impact Report

Strengthening the Strategic Leadership of New Zealand Principals

A 2015 report by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research into the impact of the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme on students.

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