Advice for School Leaders: How to Properly Invest in a Scheme of Work
Updated: Jan 27, 2022
In a time of tough budgetary decisions, our resident Deputy Headteacher offers sound advice on how to make sure the scheme of work you've chosen stays relevant and get's used properly.
Remember you can browse every scheme of work available for the English Curriculum at schemesupport.co.uk, to see which one suits your students and budget.
When I’m writing implementation plans for new schemes of work, I think back to my second year of teaching, as I’m thinking forward, two or three years down the line. I was teaching at a large three-form entry in North London that had experienced dramatic changes on leadership over the prior year, five years and ten years. As a Teach First NQT, I had reached out to the Maths Lead and explained that I was finding the maths scheme we were trialling helpful in developing my pedagogy. I was asked to write this up into a formal statement and it was submitted to the governors as part of the rationale for a permanent investment into the scheme.
The bid was successful. But when clearing out my new classroom, I found a set of water-stained books with dated covers from the very same maths scheme... discarded and damaged. We had bought into the scheme years ago, and it had fallen out of use.
How could this be? How could we have bought it, used it successfully, sat back while the quality of delivery declined, allowed that to take place, replaced it with nothing, withdrawn our money, watched results fall and then initiated the process all over again?
These questions are easy to answer: pace of change, rate of leadership change, poor record keeping and a lack of reflective culture. But it points to a more important question though: in a time of constricting school budgets, how can we as leaders in schools ensure that we make the very most of the schemes of work that we buy?
How can we make sure that an investment into intelligent structures of information is itself used intelligently and considers the natural, but preventable fatigue that can set in when a methodology has been in use for a while? In other words, how can you keep your scheme of work fresh, relevant, essential and successful?
Schemes of work involve huge investments of time and money and complacence is the enemy. It’s never at the beginning of a scheme’s life cycle at a school that laxity sets in, it’s the summer term, it’s the second year, the experienced teacher who has their own way of doing things. Be vigilant and protect your hard work and investment: think about applying the following...
1. Be the scheme evangelist
A scheme of work needs a constant champion at a school. Be aware of your own fatigue levels and complacence as this can creep into the way a scheme is perceived. If there is a communal subject display, make sure it is regularly changed, kept fresh and sharp looking. These small things create important impressions.
2. Think medium and long term.
At the beginning of a scheme’s introduction there is a huge amount to do. Make sure that you have monitoring scheduled and advertised for the summer term. What are your expectations of progress made in scheme implementation by this point? Make sure staff are aware and confident that they will meet these expectations
3. Ask for mentoring/personal monitoring
What is in place at your school for you? How do you want to be kept accountable? What do you know and understand about your own energy levels? If you know you are inclined to sprint at the start of a project, but struggle in the middle, talk about it during performance review. Times are changing and those reviews are for you too, to meet the goals that are important to you.
4. Keep the subject vibrant and high profile at the school
Schedule a subject day or an exciting whole-school project as a mid-way point in the first year of a scheme. Plan to celebrate staff, ask for some star work to display and reward teachers too.
5. Insist on monitoring cycles and accountability
Make sure you have a calendar of monitoring and accountability set out in advance. Negotiate how much attention your subject gets and think carefully about what you want when. If you are having your subject as the first term’s observation focus, how will you follow up from that? How will you assess progress in the quality of teaching?
6. Get governors invested
Arrange a presentation with governors in advance to see progress from your scheme. Will you want key staff there too? If so, who? Think carefully about personal dynamics and experience.
7. Bring experienced staff on-board
Experienced staff are most likely to have their own ways of doing things. This can be great, this can also be challenging. Invite experiences staff to be part of your team. Being personally invested in the scheme is a great way to secure buy-in. It also expands your own capacity.
8. Use experienced staff for further CPD
How can you make your scheme even richer in content and pedagogy? If you have experienced staff members who miss using their own methods to teach certain things – challenge them to design a demo-lesson that uses the scheme but includes their own flair. This way, you don’t shut down contribution, but you do channel it.
(if this tale rings true to you, don't forget to you can browse our list of over 30 primary maths schemes to make sure you get the right fit for your school)