Best of Insights for Principals Blogs

Recently Insight Plus produced a series of 8 blogs containing 50 insights into leading schools in a post COVID-19 environment. This blog now contains what we think are the most useful of the 50 insights. Associate Consultant, Roger Moses, and Director, Mark Vincent, independently identified what each deemed to be the 20 best tips and then compared notes looking for agreement. The 10 insights that follow are those where there was overlap. In developing these insights, Roger’s 23 years experience as Headmaster of Wellington College and Mark’s 25 years of consulting to 170 schools in Australia and New Zealand have been drawn on.

  1. Anticipate emerging needs. In 1825, if you asked a farmer what they wanted, they would have said, ‘A horse that’s half the size, twice as strong, and eats half as many oats.’ There would have been no mention of tractors. Proactive schools will see challenging circumstances as a chance to develop new programs and pathways and to reshape their future. To generate innovative solutions, encourage conversations that begin with ‘What say we…? or ‘Would it help in future if we….?’
  2. Prioritise staff and student wellbeing. One of the lessons learnt from the pandemic is that wellbeing is an essential prerequisite for student achievement and staff effectiveness. Pastoral care and staff wellbeing programs will need an increased focus on resilience, interconnectedness and sense of belonging.
  3. Diversify income streams. Philanthropic sources will diminish, sponsorships opportunities will dissipate, and government funding could be reduced substantially and as the economy struggles to recover. Determine how your assets and resources may be converted into alternative generators of income e.g. through strategic partnerships or the marketing of online programs or adaption of assets.
  4. Leverage the lessons learned from online study. As a result of the crisis, adaptive, interactive, science-based, and AI driven learning platforms are here to stay. Further develop these evolving teaching and learning platforms to reduce costs, to improve teacher productivity and to engage students.
  5. Leverage increased teacher confidence around technology. Throughout this crisis, the demand for online learning has fast-tracked the technological expertise of teaching and support staff. Harness this momentum and design professional development programs which enhance the momentum achieved to date. These same programs could well be generators of income.
  6. Acknowledge your staff publicly. The requirement for online learning at home has caused many parents to recognise the valuable work that teachers do under difficult circumstances. While public sentiment and appreciation of teachers is high, deliberately and frequently feature the contributions of your staff, both in your internal communications and promotional material.
  7. Simplify policies and procedures. Because of the urgency created by the pandemic, decisions were made and actions taken in your school without the usual requirement to vet things up and down the organisational hierarchy. Take a critical look at your policies and protocols. Use what you have learnt from this crisis to simplify overly complicated processes and eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy.
  8. Use a scalpel, not a bacon slicer, to cut costs. Do not ask for ‘across-the-board’ cuts from every faculty, department or section. Doing so may demonstrate equality of sacrifice but it does not solve the problem. Worst of all ‘equality of misery’ misses the opportunity of removing fat from overweight parts of the school. It could result in cuts into healthy muscle rather than just ‘the fat’.
  9. You can’t fix what you don’t measure. Increase the emphasis on collecting quantitative information to diagnose the current situation and frequently monitor all your Financial Performance Indicators. Analyse the financial position of your school at the moment compared to where you want it to be in the future (despite the prevailing economic conditions). Then assess the size of the gap. Take action to join the two.
  10. Avoid ‘analysis paralysis. In difficult times the temptation is to put off the hard decisions until you feel you have all the data and information that you need. Sometimes you just have to rely on ‘gut feeling’ to determine when to make the ‘hard calls’.

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