Planning in a fast-moving environment

Planning in a fast-moving environment

I’ve just sent out an email to the people we have called the “vision leaders”. They are responsible for putting together the goals and action plans for each of the eight key areas of 2020 Vision. Woodstock is a busy, place but October is always particularly full. We have weekend cross-country and sports days, quarter break, then activity week, when the faculty and students disappear to far-flung and near-flung places for hikes, cultural studies and service learning. So it’s not the best time to be carrying out major reviews.

But the main problem I wanted to communicate was that our actions and initiatives are running ahead of our planning. We’ve not had time to write down what we’re planning to do before we’ve half completed the work. Now, that can obviously be a bad thing – “Ready! Fire! Aim!” – but in the present context at Woodstock it reflects the fact that the 2020 Vision, presented to the Board last September, had not just documented a serious of objectives and proposals; it had captured the essence of Woodstock’s future, identified the critical areas for action, and fired up those involved. The fact that we had an incoming Principal in December 2011 who had been intimately involved in the development of 2020 Vision was also a significant factor.

So many of the key initiatives envisaged are already moving. Here’s just a few examples.

1. Excel in Vision and Leadership:
* The Board has been completely restructured and the school constitution updated; there is increased clarity around the roles of Board and administration, there is a smaller expertise-based Board, who will meet twice as often (four times a year). This is supplemented by a larger representative General Body.
* Three advisory councils are in place or shortly to commence in the school – leadership, staff and students.
* The senior management and organisation of the school has been restructured to address weaknesses. This includes the creation of a new role and small department with a primary focus on planning, staff recruitment and retention.
* The short-term appointment of an experienced Chief Operating Officer has enabled us to look with fresh eyes at aspects of the school’s operations where changes can generate funds which can be redirected towards our key goals, notably student scholarships and staff retention.

2. Enhance Student Learning:
* Considerable work has gone into the creation of a new student schedule which increases the available teaching time by up to 20% while also making blocks of time available for student enrichment (see below).
* Academic departments have been combined to streamline the Heads of Department structure.
* The curriculum across the school is being reframed or, in places, rewritten to provide consistency, breadth and depth.
3. Enrich Student Experience:
* A new post has been created, Dean of Enrichment, for which we are receiving applications for a July 2013 start. The post holder will be charged with co-ordinating and developing a large range of enrichment activities for all students, from drama to hiking to music to community service.
* Woodstock has enrolled as a member school for the International Award for Young People (known in the UK as the Duke of Edinburgh Award). Already, many students are signing up for the baseline Bronze award, with Silver and Gold to follow. The award recognises attainment in three areas: a skill; a service-learning activity, and planning and an outdoor expedition.
4. Ensure a Stable and High-Quality Staff:
* A new department has been created with a primary focus on staff recruitment and retention.
* We have an ambitious programme of improvements in staff housing, both in renovations of the fabric and in additions to the furniture, fittings and equipment.
* We are in discussions with a major UK teacher training institute to offer both master’s degrees and international teaching certification for staff who need to bring up their level of skills, and push further on.

There’s more, but this indicates how much is already happening towards the fulfilment of 2020 Vision. So does a place remain for planning? Of course. We need to do two things:

1. Create further whole-school initiatives which will address multiple goals within the various plan areas. For example, an initiative is in mind to integrate our service learning projects (Student Experience) with the kind of local partners we want to support (Indian & Himalayan Environment) in a way which draws on and demonstrates our Christian heritage.

2. List further ways in which we can make progress in the individual areas of the plan, and ensure that these are built in to the job descriptions and operational plans of the departments concerned, so that all the school’s efforts find a focus in 2020 Vision.

Not least, we need to continually and tirelessly tell the story of 2020 Vision, and keep it in the forefront of people’s minds. In our day-to-day work we should all be asking the question: how is what I am doing enabling Woodstock students and staff to learn and grow, and helping the school to develop towards its goal: by 2020 Woodstock School will be widely recognised as a leading educational institution in Asia, impacting the world from its Indian Himalayan context.

Please comment on what we have written, and on the 2020 Vision as set out at What looks good, what more could we do? How can you help us tell the story?

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