When Strategic Met Operational

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The concept of strategic planning often gets confused with long term planning.  Remember just because someone writes strategic in the heading or says it in a sentence doesn’t mean that their thinking or planning is strategic.  The key difference is whether you take account of what is happening all around you, in the environment, in which you are working.  The National Professional Qualification for Headship had two modules, which put together made the compulsory core – SLAM (Strategic Leadership & Accountability Modules).  The Strategic Leadership Module emphasised five factors to consider in strategic leadership and I’ve given an example for each one below:

P – Political: increasing zero tolerance of educational failure linked to accountability measures

E – Environmental: a new housing estate being built near the school

S – Social: changes in family structures, reducing or increasing birth rates

T – Technical: increased use of mobile technology by young people

E – Economic: impact of increased austerity on school budgets, in particular, capital budgets

I was never sure why education was never included as a factor but maybe it was considered a “given”.


The Boiled Frog



Before I share this bit of wisdom I need to stress you must not try this at home!  The story goes that if you put a frog in a pan of water and then put the pan on the stove the frog will sit there and slowly boil to death – it simply does not detect the gradual change in the environment around it.  Schools, leaders and teachers can all sometimes suffer from a bit of the boiled frog syndrome if they are not continually alert

Our challenge now is to develop a curriculum, taking into account the new National Curriculum and content of qualifications, at Key Stage 3 and 4. The strategic and the operational are beginning to merge as part of a continuum from assessing external changes and their potential impact to responding to them. There is clearly a massive amount of work for teachers to do here at a very operational level and it is likely to be a task that takes a number of years to fully complete and embed particularly with the new Key Stage 3 National Curriculum and the release of new GCSE specifications with only GCSE English and GCSE Mathematics currently available.

Full Circle Back to the Strategic

What schools now believe a curriculum should contain will be of paramount importance to the education it provides.  For nearly twenty-five years this has been largely dictated from outside schools. Increasingly the main curriculum developers will be found in schools not Whitehall as the role of informed prescription has come and possibly gone for some time.  The initial challenge will be to weave the Key Stage 3 National Curriculum & programmes of study at Key Stage 4 into a seamless whole with links into what has gone before and will come after.  In essence Key Stages 3 & 4 will become non-events as there is just a continuum and continuity of learning.  The more strategic challenge will be to work across phase – imagine producing a continuum of learning, for schools, teachers and students to use, with children and young people from 3 to 19 years old.

I’ve read some very good blogs recently on the curriculum to see how some people are beginning to think about and use the new curriculum flexibilities, which are appearing in school.  The strategic issue is how to link beyond the particular phase of schooling we work in to look across all key stages.  Children experience the phases and key stages across schools in a sequential manner.  However, the learning across, and often within, them is anything but sequential in nature at the moment.


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