Preparing for a successful start in September
The DfE’s release of updated statutory guidance, including Keeping children safe in education 2023, in preparation for the September return to school, provides a timely reminder of the importance of planning ahead for the next academic year.
A membership with The National College not only helps your whole workforce meet statutory training requirements for 2023/24, but also enables leaders to create training programmes precisely tailored to need - for individuals, departments, the whole setting, or for events such as your next INSET day – giving you everything you need to make sure you’re September ready.
In the blog below, Joe Toko, an experienced senior leader and ILM accredited facilitator, shares some top tips to help you ease into September and set you, your staff and pupils up for a successful new academic year.
Top tips for school leaders and teachers
With the summer holidays fast approaching, September is probably the last thing on your mind. However, we all know that whilst it seems like a lifetime away, September will soon roll around. To avoid the stress and panic of preparing for the new school year, get planning now so that you can switch off and enjoy your holiday. Here are some top tips to help teachers and school leaders prepare for a successful September start.
5 Top Tips for Teachers
1) Familiarise yourself with policy changes
Over time, schools and education settings are required to change policies to ensure alignment with new or updated statutory guidance, such as Keeping children safe in education, School suspensions and permanent exclusions, and the new ISI inspection framework for independent schools. This might mean that existing practices may need to be tweaked to align with the expectations placed on your school or college.
Brushing up on your school or college’s policies before the year starts is a good way of familiarising yourself with any changes. This can help you take early action so that you can get into a routine before changes take effect. Making adjustments before the start of the new year will also help you identify problems or challenges in plenty of time, giving you a chance to overcome barriers before your new classes arrive in September.
2) Know the curriculum
Getting to know the curriculum before the new academic year will save you time when it comes to planning. As well as looking at the starting point, look at where your classes will aim to be by the end of the year. This will make planning the content you will teach much easier.
As well as knowing what your classes should be aiming for in terms of learning, getting to know the curriculum before September will also enable you to identify any resources you might need to order ahead of time. Once you are familiar with the curriculum, planning your first week of lessons will be much easier, and put you on the right track for the rest of the year.
3) Organise your classroom
A study conducted by Leeds Beckett University in 2019 found that organisation is a key skill that teachers should focus on. According to the study, developing organisational skills will not only help reduce workload come September, but also help maintain your long-term wellbeing. Make sure you get ahead by ordering any stationery you might need, as well as gathering and organising your classroom supplies, preparing classroom displays (even if it’s just the backing paper and border), working out a seating plan and arranging the layout of the room. You may also want to consider making labels for pegs, drawers and resources. You could even make templates for book covers, which will save lots of time later in the year.
4) Get to know your class
You won’t get to truly know your class until you meet them. However, looking at their assessment data will help you anticipate what kind of support might be required and which pupils need to be stretched. Talking to their previous teacher could also give you an idea of what behaviour to expect.
He or she may also be able to point out which pupils work well together and which pupils need to be seated closer to an adult. This will help you make an initial seating plan, which can be adjusted as the year progresses. If you are fortunate enough to meet your class before they arrive in September, a simple ‘getting to know you’ activity or icebreaker game will help you learn more about your pupils.
5) Plan time for yourself
Regularly planning time for yourself is essential. According to a guide by Lynn University published in 2021, not only can it help you to avoid burnout, but it can also have a positive impact on your professional and personal life, as well as the wellbeing and achievement of your students. It can be difficult to plan time for yourself when you feel like there are endless tasks to be completed. However, making time for the things you enjoy away from the hustle and bustle of the classroom will help maintain both your physical and mental health. Taking walks, listening to music, taking the time to reflect, cooking your favourite meals or enjoying hobbies are all fantastic ways to unwind and give yourself a well-deserved break.
5 Top Tips for School Leaders
1) School improvement plan
The school improvement plan (otherwise known as the school development plan) is a key document that can be used strategically if completed before the start of the new school year. Many schools and colleges complete their SIP in late July or early September, although making a start before the end of the summer term means that you are in a fantastic position to begin implementing changes for the start of the new school year. Completing your SIP early can help you identify priorities for the upcoming school year and plan strategies to improve in advance.
2) Plan your personal timetable
Planning your personal timetable before the start of the new year can help you in many ways, not least in enabling you to manage your time more efficiently. You can also use your timetable to identify tasks you can get an early start on, which will also help you to avoid taking mountains of work home with you. It may be helpful for you to begin by drawing up a list of tasks that are separated into negotiables and non-negotiables.
Examples of these might include writing up the school self-evaluation form (SEF) or conducting a leadership and management audit. In doing so, you can prioritise and make time for the tasks which need immediate attention rather than fitting them in as you go. Planning for important tasks as soon as possible, preferably before the start of the new school year, will also prevent your time from being filled with activities that are perhaps less pressing.
3) Review policies
Undertaking an annual review of policies before the end of the school year is beneficial as it allows staff enough time to trial-run any adjustments that need to be made. This strategy will provide you with time to update your policies now rather than finding out that they need further adjustment in September.
To ensure that you are reviewing policies and that they are updated and managed effectively, keep a list of policies and the date they are due for review on a spreadsheet to ensure that no policies slip under the radar.
4) Plan an INSET day schedule
The first day back for many schools will be an INSET day, a day which will set the tone for the rest of the term, perhaps even the rest of the year. Although it can sometimes feel more like a box-ticking exercise than a meaningful opportunity to progress towards shared goals, planning an effective INSET day can help get your year off on the right foot.
The first things to consider are the training needs of individuals, as well as those of the institution. This will help you to identify training and CPD opportunities that will help individuals to develop in ways that can benefit both themselves and the setting as a whole.
To avoid rushing around on the first day back, you will also need to make sure that the materials needed for the day are prepared well in advance. Planning engaging and exciting activities for the day will also ensure that you start the school year one step ahead, and will increase the chances of staff wanting to actively participate in the activities being offered.
5) Prioritise your wellbeing
Prioritising your wellbeing during the summer holidays will help you to develop strategies to maintain a good work-life balance all year round. Establishing boundaries, which might include setting automatic ‘out of office’ replies to emails, not taking work home with you and setting query deadlines, will put you on your way to drawing a line between work time and personal time. Making sure you are spending time with friends and family can also help you feel refreshed and recharged. However, it is also important to make sure that you are prioritising yourself. This means that you are doing what you enjoy and not just what you feel you are obligated to do.
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