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Strategic Planning Essay

This is a free sample essay on Strategic Planning:
Introduction
A Whole School ICT Policy is a crucial document that describes how and why a school is developing ICT. It should be seen as a dynamic document, which is reviewed regularly. The policy is intended as a statement of the beliefs, values and objectives of the school and aims to ensure that staff can work collaboratively within the context of utilising ICT as a functional tool within school. The purpose of the policy is to both review current practice and plan for the future needs of all in the school. As an essential management tool the policy should encompass aspects of why the school is heading in a particular direction, set realistic goals leading toward the ultimate intention and how milestones will be achieved.

Scenario
This assignment will discuss key issues in the development of a whole school ICT policy for a secondary school consisting of eleven to eighteen year old pupils. The school intake is 180 pupils per year, with an average of 50% entering the sixth form. The number of pupils enrolled is calculated as 1080 with six classes of thirty pupils in each year, from Year 7 to Year 11 and a Lower and Upper Sixth form of 90 pupils each. I have adopted the strategy that pupils in Years 7 to 9 work in Form Groups of 30, with GCSE Groups in Years 10 and 11 being split into groups of ?.

Whilst seeking to improve the overall ICT facilities and curriculum within the School, it is intended to honour the commitment to cross-curricular use of ICT, a provision that has been described by the recent OFSTED inspection as ‘patchy’. In response to OFSTED’s comment, the school Senior Management Team (SMT) and the Board of Governors have agreed to provide the necessary financial support for an immediate improvement to ICT provision. Furthermore, it has been agreed that additional ICT teaching space will be made available by developing the library into a Learning Resource Centre (LRC).

Strategic planning
Strategic planning is “aimed at total concentration of the organisation’s resources on mutually predetermined measurable outcomes” (Cook, W. Jr. 1988). According to this definition, an effective plan encompasses the school’s entire resources and purpose. Strategic plans are typically comprehensive and hence should include everything essential to a school’s Vision Statement – the starting point of any strategic plan. It is crucial for strategic planning that schools periodically establish and monitor aims and objectives around which any school policy must be constructed. Strategic planning enables people to influence the future and change. The very act of planning enables schools to exert influence over their own future amidst the restraining and constraining influences of socioeconomic forces, Local Education Authorities (LEAs) and government.

Wise planners pay particular attention to demographic changes, shrinking financial support, strengthening curriculum, and attracting, developing, and retaining effective teachers. They must also plan to fully utilise computers and other new instructional technologies and to prepare students for employment. Research shows that everyone concerned with education should participate in the planning process and that even the most carefully formulated policy will be irrelevant if sufficient time and money are not dedicated to meeting its objectives.

Cook asserts that “the best plans are based more on the collective intuition of the planning team than on so-called hard data.” He urges planners to meet regularly while Hart (1988) recommends using several small groups to begin the planning process in order to discuss, prioritise and report back to SMTs so that everyone shares a sense of cohesion, consensus and ownership. This is particularly pertinent if the plan is to evolve into a “Whole School Policy”.

The role of strategic planning in relation to the whole school ICT development is extremely complex as most of the components involved are inter-linked with each other in a complex of environments, inputs and outcomes. It can be equated to a web site with multiple links and alternative pathways. Compared to other curriculum subjects ICT is not only a subject in its own right but also overarches the whole institution. Therefore, ICT demands careful planning in order to effectively control and harvest its full potential and benefit and to avoid misuse and waste of funds, facilities, time and resources which collectively result in purposeless underachievement.

Strategic plans should span at least five years. They should be reviewed annually, with a particularly thorough review at the end of the first year. A strategic plan, after all, is not simply a document; it is a school’s road map to the future.

Evaluation of ICT
An ICT strategy is required to enable an overview of school activities to fulfill school curriculum aims and ICT ambitions. Its design should enable change while determining a route for all to follow in order to achieve a shared vision of determination and commitment by all (Freedman, T., 1999 p27). The ICT policy transforms token gestures into specific aims concerning curriculum, staffing and roles, resources and expenditure. In order to facilitate these aims, certain management issues need to be addressed. Ideally, the school would have a Steering Group (SG) in place ideally composed of representatives of the SMT (School Head and Chair) the Board of Governors, the ICT Coordinator, IT teachers and Technician/s and Heads of Departments. These would formulate data protection, licensing, security, finances, ethics, ICT and the NC, monitoring and evaluation, access, timetabling and training. The SG should meet regularly to monitor, evaluate and review planning to resolve implementation of ICT policy, departmental ICT teaching and usage monitoring, responsibility for ICT schemes of work and their monitoring and review (www.becta.org.uk).

OFSTED stipulate that the school SMT are responsible for the provision and implementation of a whole school ICT policy. It is common practice for the ICT Co-ordinator, in conjunction with the SG, to write and maintain the ICT policy document. However, the starting point of such a document is to ascertain the current situation by undertaking an audit (ICT activity, staff competence, resources) to frame an action plan.

Individual stages of an action plan must undergo evaluation. Hargreaves et al, (1989) suggests that school development planning consists of four cyclical processes: Audit, Construction, Implementation and Evaluation. This is commensurate with Kolb’s (1985) model of the Learning Cycle. It refers to the process by which individuals, teams, and organisations attend to and understand experiences, and consequently modify behaviour. The cycle is based on the idea that reflection offers opportunity to modify and refine efforts. The logic of the learning cycle is to make incremental improvements that constitute major improvement over time. The cycle also comprises of four steps: Doing; Reflection; Interpretation and Planning.

Coupled with these models, any implementation schedule should be drawn up with clearly defined review dates. However, as Crawford (1997) points out, it is foolhardy to plan the development of detailed ICT resources more than one year in advance as technology and prices constantly change and therefore impact directly on school provision. Thus, the ICT policy is like a car MOT – it is only a snapshot of how things stand at a particular time. Consequently, it is essential that the ICT policy is reviewed and updated annually.

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Jun 29, 2011

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