Best practice guides help principals supercharge school strategic planning

Best practice guides help principals supercharge school strategic planning

A school’s Strategic Plan sets ambitious but achievable goals for staff to deliver the best outcomes for young people. Indeed, a growing body of research suggests that the quality of a school’s strategic plan is positively associated with student performance and achievement.

With school leaders about to plan their 2024 school year, the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) has released a series of practice guides on developing and applying high-quality school strategic plans.

Developed in collaboration with Learning First and based on AERO’s recent literature review on constructing effective school strategic plans, the guides will help school leaders to set goals and targets, prioritise their approaches, select evidence-based practices that suit their school’s needs, and evaluate progress.

The guides – which draw from the input of school leaders, school system and sector officials, a principal peak body and school strategic planning experts – are also linked to the Australian Professional Standard for Principals’ Practices (AITSL).

“AERO's practice guides are designed to be used flexibly, alongside existing school improvement frameworks and other resources provided by school systems,” Daniel Carr, AERO program director, told The Educator

“They aim to support principals, particularly in the practices of leading the management of the school and leading improvement, innovation and change. AERO's guidance highlights the importance of drawing on data and a clear understanding of school needs when planning for and monitoring school performance, and provides tangible advice on how to identify and set goals.” 

To track progress, AERO’s strategic planning guides recommend schools set out the key actions and outputs required to realise a practice, and regularly assess whether these are on schedule, Carr explained.

“Using a simple evaluation tool such as a traffic light system to monitor progress allows schools to respond more quickly to obstacles as well as situations where progress comes faster than anticipated,” he said. “This approach can be applied when embedding evidence-based practices in any school context.”

AERO’s literature review identified five key features of effective school strategic plans, one of which is having specific, sharp and select goals.

“This involves prioritising a small number of high-leverage goals, based on what is deemed most relevant in meeting clearly identified school needs,” Carr said.

“It is also important to then ensure that pedagogy, curriculum and assessment approaches chosen to address these needs [such as formative assessment], as well as particular practices (such as professional learning) flow directly from well-chosen goals.”