The Principal Diaries - The Annual Plan and putting the plan into action!

It was an interesting process pulling together my first annual plan as Principal at Albany Senior High School. School Charters and Annual Plans are interesting beasts. To be honest, they appear to be box ticking waffle and weasel words which gather cyber dust in some virtual filing system.

My belief was that a plan can be bloody useful, but only if it was actually designed to be useful. For that reason, I set about researching and reading as many as I could lay my hands on. What I found, for the most part, was (I thought) unnecessarily long winded and either attempted to capture so much in so much detail that they seemed insurmountable or so vague they read like paraphrased business as usual. In the end, the easiest approach was to go to The University of Auckland Centre for Educational Leadership to look at their resources and templates and have a crack of building something from scratch. The following is my attempt to craft an Annual Plan (this obviously doesn't include the broader school charter) that is succinct enough to fit on one A3 page, but detailed enough to be useful in supporting some kind of improvement and change. This, of course, represents a whole lot of input and feedback from the Senior Leadership Team and much staff and student voice.

The four categories across the top are from the charter and also provide a handy structure for the annual plan foci. 

Basically we have four areas of focus that provide our five goals: 
  • To re-frame Impact Projects and further develop mentor practice so as to improve attendance and engagement of learners.
  • To ensure learning is culturally sustaining, visible, deep and inclusive so as to improve student success in Specialist Subjects.
  • To enhance teacher practice in Tutorials so as to improve student success and engagement.
  • To grow student partnerships with community and/or business groups.
  • To build leadership capability of middle leaders to rigorously inquire with their teachers so as to enhance teacher practice and student success. 
These are then unpacked into a series of actions, outcomes and targets, so as to ensure teachers can see what they need to do in practice and understand what success will look like. It reminds me of this quote from Michael Absolum (2010) “When students have a clearer understanding of what achievement looks like, they have a greater chance of achieving, and they do.” Likewise, if busy teachers have a clearer understanding of what the changed practice looks like, I believe they have a greater chance of doing it. It also provides a mechanism for providing professional guidance, support and a level of accountability. 

In order to make it even clearer we are also developing the ASHS Annual Plan in Practice doc which attempts to unpack the principles for powerful learning which sit at the heart of our annual plan, ensuring learning is visible, deep, inclusive and culturally sustaining, and then highlighting the key areas of focus for each part of our curriculum. 

Principles of powerful learning in practice

The idea is that this can be used as a support for planning and I am also thinking about a version that could be used as an observation template. 

The challenge (as it always seems to be) will be ensuring we actually "walk the talk". A few ways I am hoping to improve our chances of this include:
  • A3 posters of the Annual Plan printed and put up in all work spaces and teaching spaces.
  • The Annual Plan in Action doc is used to support planning and observations. 
  • Framing morning briefings to match up with our four areas of focus (we are trialing going to brief morning meetings with aim of no afternoon meetings at all) - Monday is for school vision, big picture stuff, Tuesday we focus on Tutorials, Wednesday we focus on Impact Projects, Thursday for Specialist Subjects and Friday for Professional Inquiries which will focus on area of the teacher's choice. The idea that these are brief meet ups to focus what's on top rather anything administrative (it's a practice I saw used very effectively at HPSS and their daily "kitchen tables").
  • Deputy Principals will lead one focus area each, with a commitment to us also working collaboratively to support all areas of practice. 
  • I am also going to trial doing a weekly Facebook Live session on the school Facebook page as a way to engage the community and share with them our annual plan, because as we know, it takes a village!
There is nothing particularly radical going on here, and to be honest, that is by design. This year is really about laying strong foundations for where we go next. It was important that the first step was acknowledging the work that has gone on before me and about fine tuning what ASHS does so well already. This year we will focus on improving whilst also reviewing our curriculum and genuinely consulting our students, staff and community thereby being in the very best position to evolve our curriculum in 2020 (HELLO BLUE SKY!) and beyond. 

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