Once internal and external exams have taken place, there can be a school-wide exhalation of breath and the sense that the end of the school year is fast approaching with the long summer break beckoning. But it isn’t here yet, and because time is always at a premium in schools, we want to make the most of every day. So what can senior leaders do to ensure that the final stretch of the summer term is still productive for both the staff and the students?
Review the year
Inevitably, this time of year offers us a valuable opportunity to review and to take stock. What are we particularly proud of, and what have we learnt from the most positive experiences of the year? How can we then weave those lessons into our forward-planning for the coming year, so that next year is even more productive and successful? Can senior leaders offer the school community a structured opportunity to evaluate and then to look forward? In the process, consider what the ‘champagne moments’ from this year are, and ensure we value and appreciate all we have achieved.
Prioritise for the year ahead
In terms of future planning, this is a good time of year to revisit our vision, values and strategic focus. What are our priorities for the year ahead and how can we plan the calendar and organise proposed events so as to achieve those strategic aims? It can be energising to anticipate the new opportunities and experiences in store. Remember the philosophy of Appreciative Enquiry, finding the “bright spots”, recognising our strengths, and considering how we can make even more of them in the future.
Skills beyond the classroom
The final stretch of the year is often the time when the focus shifts from education within the classroom to a wider education. Organising memorable activities either within school or outside it will help us to reinforce and develop the wider skill set of both pupils and staff. Senior leaders can model this positively by setting and facing their own challenges outside of their comfort zone and trying something new, discussing what has been learnt and how they have benefited from the opportunity to invest time in something beyond the academic.
This is a time of celebration and of recognising the achievements and the wider contribution to the school of those who are moving on – both students and staff. Senior members of staff can organise celebratory events which energise and lift all members of the wider community. Say goodbye in a way which is memorable and suited to the individuals who are moving on – make it a tribute and a way of saying thank you.
And for senior leaders personally, a process of structured reflection can ensure they end the year on a positive note and begin the year to come re-energised, re-focused and refreshed. Give yourselves time and space to think and to record your responses to these questions:
- Name your five greatest achievements from the year which is coming to an end.
- Why are these important to you? What difference did they make, both to you and to others?
- Identify five specific things you would like to achieve in the year ahead.
- Why have you chosen these things? If you are successful, what difference will it make, both to you and to others?
- Keep these notes safe, and revisit them in twelve months’ time.
Enjoy the final few weeks of term – and do make the most of them!
Dr Jill Berry is an educational consultant and former independent school head, and is a source of inspiration for aspiring and existing school leaders around the country.