Rosses Community School Take a new approach to school improvement planning

The Rosses Community School launched its 3 year school improvement plan in January and Pinta are delighted to showcase the successful approach and outcome of the planning process and what difference this has made to the school.

In January 2013, the Rosses Community School launched its 3 year school improvement plan.  School self-evaluation and school improvement plans are not unusual in the secondary school sector in 2013. 

What was unusual about this approach was that an external expert was used to do this.  Another unusual aspect of this plan was that a comprehensive three year plan, with the input of almost 700 people, was completed in a 6 week period.  The school based personnel were involved in a maximum of 4 x 2 hour workshops.  Most school personnel had a maximum of 2 x 2 hour workshops.  180 hours of work was supplied by the contracted planning specialist team, a company called Pinta, who are development planning specialists.(

Why this approach?  A number of years ago Dame Geraldine Keegan, former Principal of St Mary’s in Derry City, had given a presentation to post primary school principals.  She talked of how she used an external management team to assess where the school was at and to advise how it should progress in the future.  This was a very powerful process, as it brought the school into the top 20% of schools in the UK.

The  Rosses Community School, for the last 6 years, has used reflective mechanisms to progress school issues. However in order to produce a comprehensive plan for school, a process like this involves between 150 to 180 hours of work.In light of all the cutbacks, in terms of middle management structures in school abd operating budgets, this task was just too ambitious for a school based team.

For a number of years Rosses have been looking for a vehicle that would take an independent look at school, help to  capture the voices of all education partners and who had the expertise in this area, using the current reflective approach.  In April 2012, we approached Pinta in relation to this type of approach in schools.  The Board of Management in the school endorsed the approach.In September and October 2012, an 8 week process began.

A steering committee with representation from all the partners and local community, plus some third level input, set the terms of reference for the project.  The steering committee met on 4 occasions during the process.  They set the terms of reference, edited and agreed various drafts and finally presented the final plan to all the partners.  All stakeholders attended a 2 hour workshop to put forward their ideas, over a two week period.  Online surveys were also available to capture the thoughts of the various stakeholders.  The  comprehensive improvement plan was then launched in Jan 2013, to run from 2013 to 2016.

A comprehensive plan, capturing 7 critical operating themes was agreed.  All of these are in keeping with circular 0040/2012, School Self-Evaluation.  The themes and committees were as follows: 1.Communications,2. Leadership and Management,3.Financial planning and Advancement, 4.Facilities and Infrastructure, 5.Teaching and Learning, 6.Health and Lifestyle and 7.Connecting with our Community.

Each theme has a committee, which oversees the action items agreed over the three years.  Regular meetings and action planning take place, to review and prepare action plans, to advance the agreed action items for each committee.  All members of teaching staff are members of the various committees and these are currently chaired by the senior management team.

The plan has led to major success to date, some 9 months later.

1.Communications, all staff have transitioned to using internal email and sharing and editing documents online, having attended various in school workshops, using Google docs.  this has led to a reduction in the amount of face to face meetings. Reducing time away from the classroom.

2.Leadership and management has seen a redefining of various management roles and a review of middle management roles and processes. Senior management and middle management have a well-established meeting schedule and reporting mechanism.

3. Financial planning and advancement has seen savings of €60,000 to school budget, advancement plans to add an additional €70,000 to school budget. Net gain €130,000

4. Facility development has seen the completion and progression of projects worth in excess of €500,000, with a school library, running track and additional classroom accommodation.

5. Teaching and Learning has led to the introduction of Spanish, best practice workshops in relation to AFL and a school standardised approach to subject plans and schemes of work.

6. Health and Lifestyle has led to community and school based initiatives in cycling, running, spinning TRX and nutrition.

7. Connecting with the Community has led to major advancement in terms of utilising the schools Alumni expertise. A greater connection with various community based clubs and organisations, to utilise school facilities and programmes.

The school now has a comprehensive roadmap for the next 3 years. All education partners have a clear and comprehensive view of the direction that the school wishes to take and are informed of its progress. For further detail contact