Terms we discuss in the "Developing Policies" course





What are values?


Values are the principles by which the school sets its strategies, plans and policies. They are often broad statements which begin "we believe…", e.g., "we believe in giving pupils another chance' or 'we believe in equality of access", or "we believe individuals are stronger in communities". 


Mission statements.


What are mission statements?


A school will typically have just one of these mission statements. It can be anything from a slogan such as "Working together for success" to a page of text saying much the same thing, but embellished with phrases like "respecting the worth of every individual' and 'the full range of opportunities". If it's carefully and concisely written, it can be a statement of the values that you share and want to develop in your students.




What are aims?


Aims are broad statements of intent, e.g., "Our aim is to significantly improve attainment in science". They don't give numerical detail, nor do they say how you're going to get there.




What are objectives ?


Objectives are more focused statements of intent, e.g., "Our objective is to increase by 50 percent the number of Grade 10 science lessons where pupils undertake practical work".




What are targets?


We're all very familiar with targets. Targets specify desired improvement in close numerical terms. E.g., 'our target is to achieve 75 percent "five A to Cs" within two years'. They're often externally imposed (or at least the requirement to have them is externally imposed) - e.g., from management to department, - and they can be individual to a pupil or group of pupils as well as to a school or department.




What are goals?


Goals are often not a separate category. They might be the same as "aims", or might fit somewhere between "aims" and "targets".




What are programs? 


Programs are structured educational activities over a specific time-scale with a subject focus. E.g., we have a strong program of exchanges with partner schools abroad, to support cultural understanding and enhance language learning.




What are procedures? 


Procedures tell you what to do in very specific circumstances. E.g., the procedure for getting children in from the playground or the procedure for circulating the minutes of meetings.




What are policies? 

Policies are the pivotal statements of intent that drive the work of the school. A policy defines a significant area of school life, briefly states what is to be achieved in that area and then sets guidelines - but not detailed instructions - on how to get there. It is, in one classic definition (Caldwell and Spinks 1992): "A set of guidelines which provide a framework for action." (p.8)


The word "action" is important. A policy isn't passive. It doesn't describe what you're like or how you look, or what you believe. So a statement such as 'ISE is a school in which children behave themselves' isn't a behavior policy. An effective behavior policy would tell us in broad terms how ISE was going to achieve this state.


A policy, therefore, speaks of what you will do. It may not set out the fine detail - that's what the procedures are for - but it's clearly about taking action. So the health and safety policy sets out the framework for actions which will make the school a safer place. A behavior policy sets out a framework for actions that will bring about a higher standard of behavior.




What are syllabuses?

A syllabus sets out what children are expected to learn in a particular subject, usually year by year. There's normally one for each subject.




What are plans?


The most significant use of the word in school is in the 'school development plan' (SDP). The term 'school improvement plan' is increasingly used, because it seems more focused and purposeful, but we'll stick with the school development plan, because it's very widely recognized.


The SDP sets out aims and actions in all significant areas of school life over a defined period of time. Properly written, it's a marker, a reference point for everything that happens. Any idea, brainwave, project, program or policy will only get the go-ahead if it falls within the framework of the SDP. In that sense it's both a summary of all the other statements of value and intent, and also the wellspring that inspires them.


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