I have run a few courses this year for people in leadership positions, and shared my ‘master’ sheet as an example of how I try to keep all my plates spinning at once. Here is a quick overview of how it works, and an editable version which you can download and adapt if you think it would be useful.
What’s it for?
- Managing multiple goals simultaneously in an unpredictable environment (i.e. school!)
- Ensuring that my priorities make sense with the priorities of other people and alongside the life of the wider school
- Communicating key dates, actions and deadlines with my team
- Being strategic, and seeing the immediate, medium and long term nature of my role
What is it?
It’s a big spreadsheet.
How does it work?
Down the left hand side is the calendar. There is a row for every day of the school year. There are then some columns which record all the key dates in the school calendar – parents’ evenings, data drops, mock exams etc.
Then there is a set colour for each of the priorities I am leading. The example version here has got blue, purple and pink, but I actually have 7 different ones on my current master sheet. Each of my priority areas has a vision statement at the top, and then I divide that area into as many strands as I think will be needed to cover everything.
For the purposes of this explanation, I’ve mocked up a possible example.
I might have a priority area which is about reading. I might have a vision statement like this one:
Student reading ages and the rates of reading for pleasure will increase significantly, and reading will be meaningfully embedded in curriculum areas.
I would then break that vision down into different strands which will be useful to look at in order to achieve the overall goal. For example, we might identify the following areas as being useful:
- Teachers have knowledge and skills to use reading in lessons and this is done consistently well across the school
- Curriculum planning has reading meaningfully embedded in all subjects
- There are a range of opportunities for students to engage with reading outside lessons through extra-curricular activities and use of the library
- There is a high-profile celebratory culture around reading in school and students are rewarded for their efforts and improvement
- Parents are supported to provide help to their child in reading at home
These five areas would then each have their own column under the main vision statement.
I would then plan in all the activities I need to undertake over the course of the school year to ensure that the vision and strands can be met. For instance, if I’ve identified the need for parents to support their children at home, I might want to schedule some parent communications and then some parent voice early in the academic year so that I can see where the level of need is.
I might then also schedule in some voluntary events for parents where they will be invited in to school for a parent reading workshop.
I might add other notes about adding optional talks for parents on reading to coincide with parents’ evenings so that we can kill two birds with one stone.
Having the calendar alongside my plan means that I don’t miss opportunities to get things done.
In the strand for teacher training, I can plan CPD and support over time. I can see where initial CPD will take place, but I can also see where there are opportunities for specific groups of staff to have more bespoke support.
This builds up over the year, and I can plan where to circle back, repeat and reinforce messages. I can also plan in where it would be appropriate to do various bits of planned QA. It’s important to note here that QA is ongoing and relatively organic at our school, but I still plan certain points in the year where I will be focusing on something specific. For example, if I’m driving reading forward, I will identify periods following CPD inputs where I can have more impact by increasing drop-ins and developmental feedback for colleagues, or taking time to plan student voice panels so that I can find out how they are experiencing reading in school.
Using this spreadsheet, I can track what I’m doing and make sure I don’t forget the little things. In School improvement, the ‘little’ things, those we might not associate with the important student-facing work, are often the things which mean a strategy sinks or swims. If you are implementing a new marking and feedback policy but you forgot to order the highlighters, or didn’t speak to the admin team about their capacity to mail-merge something for you, everything will fall flat. My master plan spreadsheet may seem like the invention of an arch-control freak, but it is actually a guard against my own scatty, distracted mind. I’m not a detail oriented person. At all. I’m an excitable ‘big picture’ type with ADHD. This spreadsheet gives me some semblance of structure and keeps me on track when I start getting distracted by the newest shiny thing which has caught my eye.
This system is one I have used in my day-to-day leadership for years. I share it with my team so that they can see how their work fits in to the big picture. I share it with my SLT colleagues and my line manager so that they can see what I’m doing. It is hard to communicate what we are doing with others if we can’t see it all clearly for ourselves. This system helps me to see it. All of it. And, because I can see it, I am able to identify when I have too much, or when something isn’t going to work. I can be pragmatic and (relatively) sensible about my time and priorities because everything is there in one place, and I can make changes immediately if things aren’t working.
If you would find it useful, I am sharing an editable template on my resource library here. Please feel free to take and adapt as needed. When you type in a cel it will turn light blue, but you can change that if you don’t like it – just remove the formatting in Excel.
I talk more about strategy and planning in curriculum, teaching and learning and literacy in some of my courses which you can find in my CPD library here.