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School Development Planning (SDP Process)

This section of the website provides an overview of the school development process, the national context, links to useful resources and references. Click on the bulleted points for more information:

About development planning

The past decade has been one of enormous change for Irish primary schools. In this new millennium it is clear that change has become a permanent feature of primary education. The only certainty remaining is that our future will be radically different from our past. School development planning (SDP) is a method by which schools can implement and manage change effectively. One definition of school development planning is "a series of steps that help a school achieve its preferred future" (David Tuohy 1997). SDP enables schools to prioritise what will be done over a given period of time, to establish exactly who will do what by when, and provides a way of consulting with and involving the board of management, parents, pupils and other stakeholders.

Planning is now a statutory requirement for schools. Under Section 20 of the Education Act all schools are obliged to have a school plan. Boards of Management are given responsibility for ensuring that the plan is prepared, reviewed and regularly updated. Appropriate consultation with the stakeholders is also required. So is dissemination of the school plan, involving the circulation of the plan to those to whom it applies.

Schools exist for pupils and therefore the central focus of SDP is pupil learning. Consultation, communication and collaboration are critical elements in the process. Shared decision-making becomes the order of the day. Parents, as the primary educators of pupils, will be consulted and have a role. Broadening the notion of the school as a learning organisation to that of the school as part of a wider learning community will lead to benefits for pupil learning, for parents themselves, for teachers, for Management and for all associated with the school. Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.

Pupils are not the sole learners in the school community. The school should provide an environment within which all the partners can learn and develop. Besides the pupils, the most significant learners within the school will be the teachers. Fink suggests that when teachers stop learning so do their pupils! Ideally, the school should operate in a learning environment where all work collaboratively in the pupils' interests. In this context the culture of the school is important. Speaking in Galway in December 2000, David Hopkins identified three ways in which a school teaches - what it teaches, how it teaches and the kind of place it is. What kind of place is school for pupils, for staff, for parents, for support personnel? Does it provide a safe environment where successes are acknowledged, where mistakes are seen not as failures but as learning opportunities for all; where it is accepted that we can take calculated risks in the interests of learning; where there is a healthy balance between work and play.

Schools engaged in development planning might profitably ask the following questions

  • Do we acknowledge small successes for a pupil, for a parent, for a teacher?

  • Do we encourage dialogue, learning, creative thinking?

  • Do we promote team and risk-taking?

Facilitating learning is not just a once off exercise! In the words of Stephen Murgatroyd "The task is to search for a constant string of 1% improvements over many years. We are running a marathon, not the 100 metres. The pace of change should be a myriad of small steps". The school vision arising from this redefinition of the school as a place of growth and learning for all is a significant element of SDP and serves as the backdrop for all subsequent decisions and actions. When a school has defined its vision, it has constructed the foundations upon which success can be consolidated and challenges addressed.

Ideally, school development planning is based on the rationale that planning should address identified priorities from within the school itself, based on knowledge of the learning needs of the pupils and an on-going commitment on the part of the school community to continuously improve the provision for those pupils.


School development planning is a collaborative process and preparation of the School Plan must therefore involve consultation with all the partners including parents. A factor which must be taken specifically into account is how the needs of parents in regard to information on their children's education might be more conveniently catered for.

Over the period of the Plan, it will be subject to ongoing review internally and at the end of the period it will be evaluated in relation to the extent to which the objectives it set out have been achieved.

School Development Planning, School Self Review and an assessment of the Plan's outcomes are designed to enhance school performance through the involvement of all the education partners. In summary these processes, working together, will provide that every school:

  • will assess its current strengths and weaknesses;

  • will set effective and realistic objectives for building on its strengths and addressing its weaknesses;

  • will monitor and review its objectives on an ongoing basis; and

  • will, at the end of the period of its plan, evaluate the extent to which it has achieved its objectives.

 


Stages

 

The following is a summary of the stages of School Development Planning:

School Review:

Enables a school community to identify its particular strengths and challenges. Typically, school review would address the following:
  • Climate / ethos (characteristic spirit of the school)
  • Curriculum
  • Organisation
  • Staff development needs
  • The school in its community
  • Resources (physical, human, financial, other)
  • National/local context factors

Vision:

Describes the ideal to which a school aspires with reference to past achievement, current success and future dreams. A vision statement would encapsulate what it is hoped the pupils will have achieved in these areas by the time they leave school :

  • Academic
  • Physical
  • Moral
  • Emotional
  • Spiritual
  • Aesthetic
  • Cultural
  • Social
  • Personal
  • Other...

Priorities:

Enable a school community to define areas for action and respond appropriately. "Prioritising is a process through which we identify which of the broad areas of concerns need tackling first. Prioritising accepts that not everything can be tackled at once." (Skelton, Reeves and Playfoot)

Priorities should be developed using the many types of evidence available to the school:

  • Standardised tests e.g. Maths. Who uses the results of the tests? For what purposes? Is there evidence of a link between test results and teachers planning? What do the results across the whole school tell us about the teaching and learning of Maths?
  • Teacher-designed tests/tasks
  • Teacher observation: Can teacher observation be done systematically across the whole school from time to time to gather particular information? Is teacher observation facilitated through the provision of recording templates?
  • Other assessments, including attendance records, individual parental/pupil feedback, BoM/Parents' Association feedback, WSE, homework journals, copybooks/portfolios/profiles, school environment...

Long term /Strategic Plan:

Enables a school community to manage, pace and build capacity for change

Policies:

Provide clear guidelines for the school community

Action Plans:

Respond to the present priorities of the school. Its purpose is to establish good practice where there was none or better practice where current practice was deficient.

Monitoring and Evaluation:

Enable a school community to assess the implementation and effectiveness of planned change. Back to top

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

National context

While planning, and the School Plan/Plean Scoile have been an integral part of school life for many years, the preparation and updating of the school plan was first made a statutory requirement under the Education Act (1998).

Section 21 of the Act states:

  1. A board shall, as soon as may be after its appointment, make arrangements for the preparation of a plan (in this section referred to as the "school plan") and shall ensure that the plan is regularly reviewed and updated.
  2. The school plan shall state the objectives of the school relating to equality of access to and participation in the school and the measures which the school proposes to take to achieve those objectives including equality of access to and participation in the school by students with disabilities or who have other special educational needs.
  3. The school plan shall be prepared in accordance with such directions, including directions relating to consultation with the parents, the patron, staff and students of the school, as may be given from time to time by the Minister in relation to school plans.
  4. A board shall make arrangements for the circulation of copies of the school plan to the patron, parents, teachers and other staff of the school.

Towards 2016:

The importance of quality in schools, of school self-evaluation and of the role that school development planning plays in both, is central to Modernisation in the Education Sector in the current 10-Year Framework Social Partnership Agreement "Towards 2016".Read the full text of Section 31 of the Agreement by clicking here .


Sustaining Progress (2003):

Section 24.31 of Sustaining Progress continued the requirement for school development planning mentioned in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness:

"It is agreed that the modernisation programme of School Development Planning as agreed in the PPF will continue to be implemented and embedded in the school system."

The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (2000) identified school development planning as the basic element of a performance management system for first and second level schools:

Modernisation in the Education Sector:

"The education partners are committed to improving the quality of education provided in our education institutions. An important factor in improving performance is the development of performance management systems.

In the case of first and second-level schools, the basic element of a performance management system is contained in the School Development Planning initiative. Such a system will be fully developed through the following procedures.

Every school will partake in a school development planning process involving a school plan dealing with total curriculum and with the organisation of all the school's resources including staff, space, facilities, equipment, time and finance. It will also include the school's policies on a diverse range of administrative and organisational issues and, in accordance with the Education Act, 1998, it will set down "the objectives of the school relating to equality of access to and participation in the school and the measures which the school proposed to take to achieve those objectives." (It is noted that the Education Act, 1998 provides that every school must prepare a School Plan).

The School Plan is a collaborative process and its preparation must therefore involve consultation with all the partners including parents. A factor which must be taken specifically into account is how the needs of parents in regard to information on their children's education might be more conveniently catered for.

Over the period of the Plan, it will be subject to ongoing review internally and at the end of the period it will be evaluated in relation to the extent to which the objectives it set out have been achieved.

School Development Planning, School Self Review and an assessment of the Plan's outcomes are designed to enhance school performance through the involvement of all the education partners. In summary these processes, working together, will provide that every school:

  • will assess its current strengths and weaknesses;
  • will set effective and realistic objectives for building on its strengths and addressing its weaknesses;
  • will monitor and review its objectives on an ongoing basis; and
  • will, at the end of the period of its plan, evaluate the extent to which it has achieved its objectives.

The Department of Education and Science will engage in the assessment of the Plan's outcomes and advise on future plans. During this process, good practice will be identified and affirmed and a support programme will, where necessary, be put in place."


Schools' development planning was incorporated into the Department of Education and Science's Quality Customer Service Action Plan (2001):

Improving Customer Service:

The Inspectorate will continue:

  • To promote a culture of improvement through the development of School Development Planning activity within schools, including support for internal school review and self-evaluation processes.
  • To promote and develop School Development Planning and school self evaluation with the school authorities."

 


The DES Strategy Statement 2001- 2004 (2001) identified a key component in educational success as "the quality of teaching practice and school climate at first and second levels, as well as excellence in teaching and research at third level. The Department, in association with educators and other agencies, will:

 

  • support the wide-ranging and continuous improvement and development of schools through the School Development Planning initiative (now PPDS) and through the management of curriculum and other support services.
  • provide independent external evaluation of school and teacher performance through, for example, the Whole School Evaluation initiative (now PPDS), within a school-based culture of self-review, planning and improvement." Back to top

 

 


 

 

 

 

 


Development planning downloads

School review:

 

Annual development plan (planning diary):

School vision/mission:

Action plans:

 

 

Strategic plans:

Organisational policies/procedures:

 

Curricular plans:

Strategies for managing planning documents

Scale for rating curricular plans

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 Useful references

The bibliography section of each of the Curriculum Teacher Guidelines provides many useful references.

  • Catholic Primary School Managers Association (2007), Management Board Members' Handbook, Dublin: CPMSA
  • Combat Poverty Agency (1998), Educational Disadvantage and Early School Leaving, Dublin: Combat Poverty Agency
  • Curriculum Development Unit (2000), Empty Desks: Positive Approaches to Maximising Attendance in Primary Schools, Limerick: Mary Immaculate College
  • Davies, B. & Ellison, L. (1992), School Development Planning, Harlow: Longman
  • Davies, Brent & Ellison, Linda (1999), Strategic Direction and Development of the School, London: Routledge
  • Department of Education and Science (2007), Special Educational Needs, A Continuum of Support, Guidelines for Teachers, Dublin: Stationery Office
  • Department of Education and Science (2007), Special Educational Needs, A Continuum of Support, Resource Pack for Teachers, Dublin: Stationery Office
  • Department of Education and Science (2006), An Evaluation of Planning in Thirty Primary Schools, Dublin: Stationery Office
  • Department of Education and Science (2005), DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools, Dublin: Stationery Office
  • Department of Education and Science (2003), Looking at Our School: An aid to self-evaluation in primary schools, Dublin: Stationery Office
  • Department of Education and Science (2002), Fifty School Reports: What Inspectors Say, Dublin: Stationery Office
  • Department of Education and Science (2002), School Development Planning: National Progress Report, Dublin: Stationery Office
  • Department of Education and Science (2000), Learning-Support Guidelines, Dublin: Stationery Office
  • Department of Education and Science (1999), Primary School Curriculum, Dublin: Stationery Office
  • Department of Education and Science (1999), Developing a School Plan: Guidelines for Primary Schools, Dublin: Stationery Office
  • Diggins, P., Doyle, E. & Herron, D. (1996), Whole School Development, Dublin: Drumcondra and Dublin West Education Centres
  • Dimmock, Clive (2000), Designing the Learning Centred School, London & New York: Falmer Press
  • Eivers, E., Shiel, G. and Shortt, F (2004), Reading Literacy in Disadvantaged Primary Schools, Dublin: Education Research Centre
  • Glendenning, D (1999) Education and the Law, Dublin: Butterworths
  • Government of Ireland (1998), Education Act, Dublin: Stationery Office
  • Government of Ireland (2000), Education (Welfare) Act, Dublin: Stationery Office
  • Handy, C. & Aiken, R. (1990), Understanding Schools as Organisations, London: Penguin Books
  • Hargreaves, A. (1994), Changing Teachers, Changing Times, London: Cassell
  • Hargreaves, A. & Hopkins, D. (1991), The Empowered School: The Management and Practice of Development Planning, London: Cassell
  • Hyland, Áine, (Ed.) (2000), Multiple Intelligences: Curriculum and Assessment Project, Cork: UCC
  • Integrate Ireland Language and Training and Southern Education and Library Board 2007, Toolkit for Diversity in the Primary School, Dublin: IILT and SELB
  • Integrate Ireland Language and Training (2006), Up and Away, A resource book for English language support in primary schools, Dublin: IILT
  • Irish National Teachers' Organisation (2000), Early Years Learning, Dublin: INTO
  • Irish National Teachers' Organisation (1999), An Approach to School Review, Dublin: INTO
  • LDS (2002), School Leadership - A Profile, Leadership Development for Schools: Clare Education Centre
  • Lieberman, A and Miller, L (1999), Teachers - Transforming Their World and Their Work, New York: Teachers College Press
  • MacBeath, John (1999), Schools Must Speak for Themselves, London: Routledge
  • MacGilchrist, B., Mortimore, P., Savage, J. & Beresford, C. (1995), Planning Matters: The Impact of Development Planning in Primary Schools, London: Paul Chapman
  • Mahon, Oliver (2000), The User's Guide to the Education Act, Ennis: Clare Education Centre
  • Murgatroyd, Stephen & Morgan, Colin (1993), Total Quality Management and the School, Buckingham: Open University Press
  • National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (2007), Guidelines for Teaches of Students with General Learning Disabilities, Dublin: NCCA
  • National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (2007), Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum, Guidelines for Schools, Dublin: NCCA
  • National Council for Curriculum and Assessment / Council for Curriculum, Examination and Assessment (2007), Exceptionally Able Students, Draft Guidelines for Teachers, Dublin: NCCA
  • National Council for Special Education (2006), Guidelines on the Individual Education Plan Process, Dublin: Government Publications
  • National Parents Council Primary (2004), Working Effectively as a Parent Association, Dublin: NPC
  • O'Brien, S & Vekic, K, (2003) Partnership in our Schools: A Model of Best Practice, Dublin: Centre for Education Services, Marino Institute of Education
  • Prendiville, Patricia (1995), Developing Facilitation Skills: A Handbook for Group Facilitators, Dublin: Combat Poverty Agency
  • Rogers, R. (Ed) (1994), How to Write a School Development Plan, Oxford: Heinemann
  • Stoll, L. & Fink, D. (1996), Changing Our Schools: Linking School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Buckingham: Open University Press
  • Tuohy, David (1997), School Leadership and Strategic Planning, Dublin: ASTI
  • UCC Education Department (2004), Bridging the Gap: Evaluation Report 2004, Cork: UCC
  • Wall, Eugene (2000), Promoting Literacy in Children and Families: A Review of Research, Limerick: Mary Immaculate College
  • Westwood, Peter (1997), Commonsense Methods for Children with Special Needs, London: Routledge BACK TO TOP