School development is owned by teaching staff

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The extent to which the school development plan is owned by the teaching staff in School X: an evaluation of the process.

The term 'development planning' was introduced officially in schools in 1991. Past forms of planning were not published for the personal use of the staff and perhaps it lacked from organisational techniques. Constable (1994, p93) argues that teachers feel the need to be involved in the school development planning process and to have a copy of the document itself for personal use. A school development plan (SDP) serves as a tool for the school to: evaluate its present position; become aware of its challenges; identify methods to deal with them; make the necessary changes for school improvement; and help to evaluate the school's success (Hargreaves and Hopkins, 1991, p4).

Most successful schools design their development planning programme with a vision of improving pupils' achievement. Frost et al (2000, cited in Busher, 2002, p281), argues that it is very important to consider an evaluation of the present situation as the starting point for a "planning cycle". Having done this then they move to set the targets (Hopkins and Lagerweij 1996, p83).

In many countries like England and Wales, educational change has brought the following changes: government takes care of defining a curriculum and inspection methods, and schools deal with resources, staff and form of competitions with other schools (Bush and Coleman, 2000, p.7). An SDP makes part of almost all educational policies around the world. On a national level, a State is responsible to provide education for all and to monitor the education system according to the defined standards. Educational authorities are then in charge of a number of schools normally based on districts. In the United Kingdom (UK) this is done through the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED). Every school besides the external inspection should own an internal audit.

The Education Act 1998 (21) in Ireland states that a board is responsible for the "arrangements for the preparation of a plan (school plan) and shall ensure that the plan is regularly reviewed and updated" (cited in McNamara et al, 2002, p201). The Maltese Education Reform Act, CAP. 327(7), implies that the State has the responsibility to design a National Minimum Curriculum (NMC). The propositions presented in the NMC are then institutionalised through an SDP. The Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education is responsible to support schools in providing guidelines for SDP implementation. Recently, the Maltese government founded an external review committee to monitor the standards of education. One of the things to be reviewed is the SDP.

The aim of this assignment is to help in the process of evaluating the ownership of the SDP by the teaching staff in School X (which is a pseudo name) which was founded as a secondary school in 1998 under the present Principal. Some of the teachers used to teach there before, when it was a primary school. Coming from an international experience the principal used the same organisational techniques for school development planning. This work examines:

To what extent does the development planning process helps school improvement?

To what extent does collegiality helps in school development planning?

How far the staff is involved in the development planning?

To what extent does the teaching staff own the development plan?

The recent preoccupations in School X are the above mentioned issues. These matters are investigated through a questionnaire distributed amongst fifteen teachers coming from different departments with different numbers of teaching experience and five LSAs and through analysing the school development programme.

Literature Review

To what extent does the development planning process helps school improvement?

Davies and Ellison (1992, p1) argue that effective schools need to plan and planning leads to setting objectives. Through planning the staff will know what is going on in school especially when the school is large. With this innovation, all the staff works towards common aims and objectives (ibid. pp7-8). Likewise Hargreaves and Hopkins say that school's effectiveness depends on a school culture which is open to new ideas.

"Successful schools realize that development planning is about creating a school culture which will support the planning and management of changes of many different kinds." (Hargreaves and Hopkins 1991, p16)

An SDP can be developed to organise, guide and mange the school to keep up with the national standards of education. Braithwaite (1994, p143) says that in many countries an SDP is used to institutionalise in a narrow timescale the national policy of education. Hopkins and Lagerweij (1996, p77), say that the SDP contributes in creating a better environment for students' learning but it does not increase students' progress.

An SDP should be considered as a stepping stone for school improvement and change through which schools reflect on their strengths and weaknesses and set goals to strengthen what is good and to improve what is weak. All the areas of improvement must be listed down in a ranking order to identify priorities. Bruce Joyce (1991, cited in Hopkins and MacGilchrist, 1998, p409), describes planning as a 'door' to school improvement. The SDP document includes targets and audits; mission statement; school ethos; a list of the staff and committee members which involves the Parents and Teacher's Association and the Students' council; and a timetable for the formulation of the SDP. According to Hopkins and MacGilchrist (1998, p410), today's school planning is more student oriented than it was before.

The SDP document is sustained by action plans that help to achieve the desired aims. A good SDP includes all aspects of schooling: resources, teachers, students, and parents, other personnel, teaching methods, assessment techniques, school policies and even the monetary aspect. The plan enables a school to set common goals for everyone that may not be achieved by the end of the timescale. Some of them may be changed within the timescale itself (Hargreaves and Hopkins, 1991, p7).

To what extent does collegiality helps in school development planning?

The leader plays a very important role in management. After various studies carried out with different heads of schools, and even through a reference of a number of studies, Valerie Hall (1998, p145), concludes that heads of schools need to be involved in the whole process of the SDP; that is from the planning session to the implementation and evaluation. Therefore it is the heads' responsibility to ensure that the targets are put into action.

However, when the institution is managed only by one person, it leads to an autocratic style of leadership. Through collaborative leadership and collegiality, actions for school improvement are shared among the head, teachers and other staff members. This type of leadership contributes a great deal in students' learning and improves their achievement (Hallinger and Heck, 2010, p12). A good leader should work on strategic planning in a way that s/he involves others in the decision making process without imposing on them or manipulate them to support his/her opinions

As described by Hoyle (1981, quoted in Bush and Coleman p4) management is not something static but ongoing. It is an activity where members of a particular team work together to achieve a set of goals. On the other hand Glatter (1979, cited in Bush and Coleman p4) defines management as concerned with the organisation in itself and with its context in the outside society. In education, management is needed to set directions, aims and objectives with regards to learning.

How far is the staff involved in the development planning?

Research shows that self management schools give better education because it is directed to individual needs while schools run by the government or other institutions will present education equal for all despite the differences between the members of one school and the other. (Bush and Bell, 2002b, p9)

West-Brunham (1994, p82, quoted in Middlewood, 1998, p10), describes the strategic planning as "mapping a route between the perceived present situation and the desired future situation." He states that in order to manage an educational institution well, one has to apply 'strategic planning' (1994, cited in Lumby, 2002, p86).

Collegiality involves teaching staff in the decision making process through discussion and shared power in the institution. From a number of studies in South Africa, Bush (2002, p20) found out that teachers were not involved in the decision making process. He concluded that through collegiality this problem can be avoided. When different people, having different views work together, results will be improved. While discussions may take longer, the practical part of the decision may take less time because teachers will be putting into practice what they have worked for. Davies's and Ellison's (1992, p71) thoughts support this view by stating that when teachers and other staff are involved in the planning they will be much more open to work on it than when it is imposed on them.

In a study carried out by Braithwaite (1994, p146), 35% of 21 Australian schools admitted that the involvement of all the staff together with students and parents in the planning process, gives them a sense of ownership. However, one can say that it is quite impossible to involve all the staff members when it is a large school. For this problem Hopkins and Lagerweij (1996 p84) states that when it is impossible to involve everyone, a representative of every department must be present. Carol Cardno (1998, pp112-113), in her study states that involving everyone in strategic planning is quite an unhealthy process. Cardno suggests that only those people who are affected directly or indirectly by the decision should be involved.

To what extent does the teaching staff own the development plan?

Far from planning the implementation process is important. Hopkins and Lagerweij (1996, p60) argue that in the 1970's:

"It was clear that implementation is an extremely complex and lengthy process that requires a sensitive combination of strategic planning and individual learning and commitment to succeed."

Fullan (1992, p87) suggests that implementation is concerned with what a person can change within herself. The principal must be the first one to initiate this process and must serve as a model for the other staff members to start implementing the plan.

Implementation is the toughest part of the whole process because it's easy to say things than to do them. On the other hand when people mean what they plan together, and when they do it not for the sake of doing it, they will own it and put it into practice. All this, will lead to school effectiveness and improvement. Drucker (1994, quoted in Lumby, 1998, p101) says that:

"Good intentions, good policies, good decisions must turn to effective actions... Effective organisations take it for granted that work isn't done by having a lovely plan."

Planning is time consuming but considering the benefits of it, it is worthwhile doing it.

Contrary to this although people are involved in the planning process, sometimes ownership will be lacking. Plant (1987, cited in Busher, 2002, p282), presents what causes people not to accept or work on a desired change. He argues that sometimes it is because of "fear, lack of confidence, lack of skill, and particular beliefs." It can also become a shelf document if it does not have attainable goals linked to students' needs and learning. The action plans of an SDP should be identified and assigned to particular people so that everyone will know his responsibility. All this leads to a focused plan. A good leader according to Busher (2002, p282), is one who although doesn't find any support and cooperation from the staff, never looses heart in trying to convince everyone to put the plan into action despite the disagreements.

Implementation requires both monitoring and evaluation to evaluate the results of a development plan. Monitoring is done to check what is being done and to amend certain parts of the plan if needed. The evaluation is normally done at the end of the time frame of an SDP to weigh up what has been done and achieved.

In the OFSTED inspection in UK every school is monitored on the implementing strategies and the evaluating process of the SDP. Throughout the SDP timeframe, continuous evaluation is needed to assess the effectiveness and the implementation of the action plans. Fullan (1992, p91) argues that all action processes must be monitored by the principal or an assistant to ensure that there is a proper use of time, resources and helping to acquire a clear sense of direction.

According to the Maltese Education Act 327 the head of school is responsible to create a collaborative environment in which a school development plan can be designed and revised. Hopkins and MacGilchrist (1998, p411) suggest that a self school-audit should be running through the whole time frame of the SDP and not only at the end of it.


The Place of the Investigation

School X is a pseudo name used for confidentiality of the school investigated. It is managed by a Principal and two assistants. There are thirty-four teachers and seven learning support assistants. Some of them have been there for ages while others are still fresh. The students are all girls aged between eleven and fifteen years separated in fifteen mixed ability classes.

Designing Research

The focal point of this study was basically the process of development planning in schools. Through this investigation the involvement of the teaching staff in the development planning process together with the ownership of the document itself was investigated. Developing research questions is a starting point in research. Punch (2009, p5) describes it as "a goal of the pre-empirical stage of the research."

From the literature review it was discovered that many researchers consider development planning as an important step for school improvement (Hopkins and MacGilchrist, 1998, p409). This assignment investigates to what extent does the development planning process helps school improvement. The term 'collegiality' was an examined concept with regards to SDP. Not all schools involved everyone in the planning. Through the questionnaire in School X it was examined to what extent does collegiality helps in school development planning. From the readings about teaching staff's involvement in the SDP the following research question arose: how far is the staff involved in the development planning. After investigating this, the next question was to examine the extent to which the teaching staff owns the school development plan. The aim of this assignment is to answer these questions.

Choosing the Sample

Choosing the sample from a small number of teaching staff was not an easy task. Cohen et al says that it is an important stage in the process of research to define a representative sample of the whole population (2000, p93). Representative sample are important for the reliability of a questionnaire as it leads to more accurate results (Cohen et al, p117). Not to be a biased investigation, selective sampling was avoided through random sampling and everyone had the same chance to be selected. "In simple random sampling, each member of the population under study has an equal chance of being selected" (Cohen et al, 2000, p100). The issue of consent in choosing the sample was avoided since all those involved were adults. Comparing the pilot study results with the actual investigation results was a reassurance that the sample was a representative one.


Before choosing the research tool for an assignment one has to choose between a quantitative or qualitative outcome results (Punch, 2009, p5). Interviewing staff members was a choice but considering the different views needed; interviews were out of the question because they produce detailed data but not enough information and different perceptions. A quantitative research was the ideal approach for this study.

A survey was conducted in School X as it is thought to be the most suitable way to collect evidence and acquire information from different people about planning issues. This was done through a questionnaire.

"A survey is the most advisable methodology where the research objective is to gather general information about attitudes, opinions or characteristics..." (Fogelman and Comber 2002, cited in Briggs and Coleman, 2002, p128)

Cohen et al (2000, quoted in Briggs and Coleman, 2002, p126) describes surveys as a method to,

"Gather data at a particular point in time with the intention of describing the nature of existing conditions can be compared, or determining the relationships that exist between specific events (2000, p169).

While considering the benefits of surveys, one has to note that a survey approach might have led to loss of data because where closed ended question were used, participants could not give reasons for their answer. Oppenheim (1992, cited in Cohen et al, 2000, p248) states that closed ended questions, "Do not enable respondents to add any remarks, qualifications and explanations to the categories." On the other hand Cohen et al states, that ranking order questions, "Enables a relative degree of preference, priority, intensity etc. to be charted." (2000, p252)

Through closed ended questions, respondents are asked to choose from a list of possible answers while open ended questions demand a much more reflective answer. The latter gives a deeper answer, and demands a more in depth analyses. A mixture of both was used in this investigation to obtain data on attitudes, opinions and explanation of some answers.

While considering that through anonymous questionnaires, the respondents can hide the truth and can answer it just for the sake of doing it, sincerity was encouraged. On the other hand anonymity may lead to accurate data as respondents are not afraid to reveal realistic information. When compared to an interview, a questionnaire "tends to be more reliable; because it is anonymous, it encourages greater honesty" (Cohen et al, 2000, pp.128-129).

One advantage of questionnaires is that the responses of a questionnaire are collected quite easily and they are more objective than interviews. Through the use of a questionnaire a representative sample may be chosen. Therefore it provides a much clear vision of the whole perspective.

"Surveys are also appealing because they can be aimed at large groups of people thus making them more representative of a wider society." (Mc Neill and Chapman, 1990, p29)

The questionnaire was put to test in a pilot study with ten people coming from different departments in School X. As Cohen et al suggests, a pilot study is important "to increase the reliability, validity and practicability of the questionnaire" (2000, p260). Through the pilot study nothing was noticed except for one idea to be included as an option. Therefore immediately after compiling the pilot study results, the questionnaire was distributed among twenty staff members by hand.

Potential Bias

Discussing beforehand all the issues with the principal was considered to be beneficial. She gave me permission to approach the staff personally to ask them to complete the survey. As Punch states, researching one's own environment may lead to a difficulty in maintaining:

"...a dispassionate, objective, arm's length approach to the research situation. Selective sampling, bias in the collection or analysis of the data and bias in the interpretation of results are obvious possibilities." (2009, p44)

Being a subject teacher in School X was quite easy to distribute the questionnaires and to collect them by hand. However, it was not that easy to ask colleagues to reflect and to answer questions about their own involvement in the school development plan process because they know quite well that being one of them makes me know the reality. The participants understood quite well the benefits of this research.


Analysis Introduction

All twenty questionnaires that were distributed in School X in October 2010 were answered and returned back. The school has currently started implementing a new School Development Plan (SDP) for the present and the coming scholastic year. Underneath I'm presenting the findings and the analysis related to the research questions established in the introduction of this assignment.

To what extent does the development planning process helps school improvement?


Knowing that the SDP's main aim is to create action plans for school improvement (questions 21 and 26) nearly all the respondents in School X indicated that this is present in their SDP. In fact only one LSA didn't agree with this statement that was investigated in question 8. Despite this fact, not everyone seemed to support the view that the SDP review students progress and that its targets are focused on students learning (questions 11 and 12 see figure 1 below). However, they agreed that the plan is somehow always linked with the previous one (question 13).

All participants agreed that an SDP should address school policies, behaviour and discipline, and students' needs. All of them except one highlighted also the decision making process, pastoral care, teamwork amongst staff members, and school's strengths and weaknesses. Three participants seem to be neutral to the idea of the mission statement in the plan, and all the others agreed. Three teachers agreed that the monetary aspect should be included in the SDP. Staff development, relationships with parents and students were also indicated to be important in the planning process (question 28 see Appendix 2 figure 5).


Hopkins and Lagerweij (1996, p77) presents two types of planning which sometimes may be mixed up together. These consist of 'development planning' and 'maintenance planning'. The latter is mainly concerned with budgeting and material things. From this survey, one can say that the staff is more concerned with the development than the maintenance planning. However, it is a necessity to evaluate the availability of resources before setting the goals. Hopkins et al (1994, p178) argues that if in the planning there is no concern for resources availability it will lead to failure.

The teaching staff in School X seem to agree with the idea of action plans as presented by Hargreaves and Hopkins (1991, p7). From the above mentioned findings the SDP in School X does not seem to be student oriented as it is stated in the literature review by Hopkins and MacGilchrist (1998, p410). The goals to be attained must be designed according to the students' desired achievement. Therefore it should include learning goals sustained by obtaining methods. Looking at students' achievement in the planning process makes the plan realistic. This was also indicated as an important factor in this survey. Middlewood and Lumby (1998, p82) refer to a study carried out in 1995 by Middlewood and Riley which states that students needs were rarely involved in the development planning of the schools under study. This will not lead to any success in school improvement.

To what extent does collegiality helps in school development planning?


The SDP process in School X involves the following actions presented in the figure 2. Only one person knew what collegiality was and identified it as one of the processes in planning. The others seem to see it either inapplicable to the school or else they did not understand the concept.


All the staff can participate in different kinds of management areas within the school. The head's role is mainly to direct, coordinate the planning, create space and be open to other people suggestions. Although they didn't seem to know anything about 'collegiality', they seem to admit that the management and teaching staff are involved in the planning process (see Appendix 2 figure 6). The term 'management' by many teachers is understood as the hierarchy of the school that is the principal with the assistants and the senior staff. Their working area is just the classroom and it is not often seen as a place of management. Some teachers might not see the benefit of contributing in school development planning (question 15).

When an SDP involves everyone it will not be an imposed plan but will be the fruit of all parties. Hargreaves and Hopkins (1991, p7) argue that "Effective development planning requires everyone involved to have a real stake in it." This is supported by Biott et al research that describes the involvement of all the staff in strategic planning as way to a successful plan. One of the head of schools in their study described this participation as 'beneficial' (Biott et al, 1994, p81). However, it is the responsibility of the head of school to design a plan in collegiality with the staff and parents (Braithwaite, 1994, p144). Likewise Wadesango (2010, p278) states that:

"Better schools tend to produce better students, and 'better' schools become so because of their ability to make the right decisions at the right time. Such decisions evolve from a protracted decision-making process; such a process that fully involves all the various stakeholders must be found."

Therefore it is a must that for a fruitful plan all stakeholders must be involved. This includes not only the heads and assistants but also the teachers and Learning Support Assistants (LSA) and sometimes even the parents/guardians. This view was supported by almost all the staff. One has to note that parents sending their kids to our schools have a right to participate in the development planning of the school.

How far is the staff involved in the development planning?


All respondents admitted that the principal is always involved in the planning process and nineteen of them said that assistant heads and teachers are involved, (Appendix 2, figure 6). They confirmed this in question 25 when they were asked to which extent they agree that everyone should be involved in the planning (figure 3 below). All teachers and LSA's under study agreed that all their suggestions are appreciated. With regards to SDP monitoring the respondents indicated that mainly it is done on staff development days and on staff meetings which are held every month and described it as the best timeframe for the SDP to be monitored. Only 9 of the participants said that teachers are also involved in the monitoring process.


The respondents seem to know that the monitoring is done monthly in staff meetings and three times yearly in staff development days by the management. However, this seems quite contrary to what they said in the questionnaire because in staff meetings all teachers and LSAs are involved. In another study in Zimbabwe in 2003, many teachers were called to participate in workshops. In these workshops, Wadesango (2010, p275) discovered that teachers were not happy with the principal's leadership style because it was too autocratic. More over when teachers are not involved in a particular process of change, they might refuse it. This might lead to students' failure in education and examinations. In School X the autocratic leadership style is not present because they feel involved and their suggestions are appreciated.

To what extent does the teaching staff own the development plan?


Consider it as a useful tool for different reasons, everyone seems to understand the benefit of development planning, (see Appendix 2 figure 7). Nearly all of them said that the document is an everyday reference for the principal, assistant heads and teachers. However although they agreed that the school owns good implementation techniques, eleven of them chose to remain neutral when asked to indicate their opinion about every member's cooperation with the SDP suggestions, seven seem to agree and three disagreed. Two of the respondents indicated that they were never involved in the implementation process because they were new to the process itself. Although it seems quite obvious that the school provides a copy of the SDP document to all staff, two of the LSA's under study pointed out that they don't own a copy of the document. However, all the staff consider it as a significant tool and as an important step to refer to it where their area is involved. This view was supported by all the staff who owns a copy. When asked to indicate what leads to an unimplemented decision they said that mainly it is because of different beliefs and uncertainty (see figure 4 below).

Figure 4


It is very important that a written plan is put into action and not left on paper. According to Miles (1986) and Fullan (1991) (cited in Hopkins and Lagerweij 1996, p69) the process of change consists in 3 stages which are bound together. The first stage is initiation which consists of taking a decision that something has to be done. In fact when looking at the evaluation provided by the head of school I have noticed that the first thing the school does is to distribute a questionnaire among the staff, students and parents to evaluate the past year's SDP. Through it, the targets are designed according to the particular needs. However, the staff did not seem to acknowledge this as a part of the SDP process. This also includes collecting information of the present position about anything that seems to be in need of a change. After analysing what has to be done according to Miles (1986) and Fullan (1991) (cited in Hopkins and Lagerweij 1996, p69) the second stage of implementation is next. Through this phase plans are developed in order to adapt to the required change. It is important to learn new skills or to strengthen what is already present. When all this is done the third stage will follow. The plans become part of the school development system. This stage is called institutionalisation.



The extent to which development planning helps school improvement in School X is shown through students' achievements. This supports what Hopkins and MacGilchrist (1998, p410), said about today's school planning that is more student oriented than it was before. However, through this investigation one can say that the action plans are not always linked to students' achievement and school's success. (Analysis figure 1)

Another question investigated was the extent to which collegiality helps in school development planning. Participants do not seem to know what collegiality is all about although Hallinger and Heck (2010, p12) defines it as an important step in students' learning. In contradiction, they all indicated that they are involved through questionnaires, talks, staff meetings, staff development days, discussions and direct contact with the principal. All their suggestions seem to be evaluated.

Related to this question it was examined how far the staff is involved in the development planning. Respondents seem to consider collaboration between the head and all the staff, together with students and their parents as beneficial to the development planning. However, with regards to the monitoring of targets and action plans, they do not feel that much involved.

The biggest preoccupation of the principal of School X as mentioned in the introduction was the ownership of the plan. So the last question researched was the extent to which the teaching staff owns the development plan. They truly own the SDP and work hard to achieve the targets that are related to their area. However, they do not seem convinced with regards to other colleagues' cooperation. Bush and Coleman say that:

"It seems clear that the responsibility for strategy is firmly located with senior management, but that the involvement and understanding of all is desirable." (2000, p69)


Nowadays the school is surrounded by a lot of pressures caused by change. School X must make sure that the changing strategies and areas are supported by all those involved in the school even parents. Hopkins and Lagerweij (1996, p67) suggests that this may take a number of years. It is important to strengthen the assignment of every target to particular people because this leads to a fruitful plan. From their research Hopkins and MacGilchrist concluded that it is necessary to have a focused SDP having many targets to focus on, makes it more difficult to complete the plan (1998, p419).

Not all the teaching staff seems to understand that the year ending questionnaire presented to them by the administration, is part of the development planning process, monitoring and evaluation. Understanding this they will be able to own the development plan and work for better results in students' achievement and holistic school improvement. Schools improve through an understanding of change by all the staff members. Policies amendments are only the starting point of school improvement but not the final step.

"A self renewing school would encourage all personnel to study change and learn how to work together to improve education." (Joyce et al 1993, p23).

The monitoring process seems to be in the hands of the management. They take the initiative to monitor it in staff development days three times yearly and briefly every month in staff meetings. During these days or hours all staff is present. It is much more beneficial if everyone feels invited to get involved in this process.

The management of School X needs to explain the purpose of learning in every target as it seems to be unclear to the teaching staff. Most successful schools design their development programme first and foremost with looking and the improvement that they would like to see in pupils' achievement. From West-Brunham, one can define strategic planning as a bridge between present and future (1994, p82, quoted in Middlewood, 1998, p10).