I always feel that it’s important to do a bit of digging around the subject that you’re going to write about before you start, and I have. But there’s a disclosure I have to make straight away. As “gained time” approaches and I begin to assess and evaluate the year, I am considering how to approach the plan for CPD for the year to come. Instead of a reinvention of already existing strategies and systems I want the overarching approach to be focused on continuity.
We have systems that we have now tested in due diligence and which have stood up against the very best. We have approaches which work, when applied appropriately, and staff who are more than capable of delivering what we require and driving our kids in the right direction. We just need to have faith that reiterating our core messages is enough. That “staying on the bus”, will inevitably (?) take us to our destination.
The definition of continuity requires a continuing, uninterrupted flow. A repetitive production. A smoothness that may not be easily applied to the staccato patterns of the school year which uneasily begins to drift into ebb and flow as summers come and go and are interchanged with Christmases and Easters. What are continuous are the central messages.
In business, the definition of continuity is slightly different:
3. Contingency: the organisation establishes a generalised capability and readiness to cope effectively with whatever major incidents and disasters occur, including those that were not, and perhaps could not, have been foreseen. Contingency preparations constitute a last-resort response if resilience and recovery arrangements should prove inadequate in practice.”
Although the business model can’t adequately be applied to educational organisations the parallels are clear. The resilience of a school is shown through its application of basic structures of curriculum design, timetable, pastoral leadership, safeguarding, behaviour regulation, rewards and sanctions and accountability structures. The things that happen no matter what. Recovery comes in the circularity and regularity of the repeated message and also in the structures that allow for easy flow of information and ideas. Contingency in a school is the people who support and step forward and do the things that need to be done when they need to be done. The teachers who selflessly give of their time to conduct weekend trips, rehearsals and fixtures. The staff who stay behind with students with uncertain futures. The staff who step forward to fill gaps in teaching load for students who need them. And simply, the staff who, whether needed to or not, step forward at any time and say, “what can I do?”. All of these moments have happened in just this past week and throughout the year. It is as humbling as it is enlightening to be a part of it.
Beyond core messages, communication with staff around behaviour and standards, communication of required standards in terms of classroom practice, marking and feedback and the primacy of literacy. There is nothing “new” to say. But it is important to reiterate. It is important to, again, share the simple core messages with the understanding that we are honing as we move forward. That anything we do is intended to improve the core aspects that we know are the vehicles upon which improvement will travel and allow colleagues to collaborate and contribute to these messages.
Interestingly, “The management of business continuity falls largely within the sphere of risk management…”. The maintenance of continuity has to be seen as risky. Complacency is a clear symptom and people, understandably, are not enamoured with being told the things that they are “supposed” to be doing anyway. The introduction of something “new” suggests a freshness and a “hope” for the silver bullet we would welcome with open arms. In contrast, the repetition and reiteration of messages, processes and systems is often met with the criticism that “they’re not working anyway, so why would we persist?”. The balance is crucial, clearly.
Where continuity does not necessarily guarantee consistency, there is a corollary. We aim to ensure that students experience the same requirements in terms of standards wherever they are in the school. This is through a consistent application of the systems and processes we value. It is the continuity of this message that is crucial to ensuring consistency.
The security of continuity is where I want to focus. To allow colleagues the luxury of the knowledge that they are sustaining improvement through their actions and the consistent application of our systems. To reflect on the fact that we know what we are doing and that success will depend of consistency and continuity as we move forward. To reflect on the fact that innovation can still occur and that sharing of approaches is both welcomed and key, particularly around our core values, processes and systems. September will be about continuity.