When we were asked whether it would be possible to use ICFP methodology to address the current logistical challenges facing schools at the moment, Sam and I put out thinking caps on.  Whilst Sam has worked on a tool for secondary schools, the first version of which is available through ASCL, I turned my attention to primary schools.    Initial feedback has been good and so without further ado, let me explain what I have done.

How do you combine safe groups of children, available rooms, teaching and support staff to deliver the very best educational provision you can?

Instead of a white board or a pile of sticky notes, I have put together a spreadsheet that should help you make sure all the children are provided for, with space in school or support for their learning at home.

It has a place to record the key details and assumptions, the risks and the costs, so that once you have pulled together a plan, it is easy to take a summary to the Board for approval.

You can use it to plan the next two weeks, the rest of term, or even next year.  It can be a plan you put into action or one you keep on standby in case things change.  It can help you prepare for a couple of members of staff becoming ill, or a second wave sweeping across the country.

In more normal times, it could even form the business continuity plan should part of the school get damaged and be unusable.  If it ever happened, you would be ready.

So, start with a broad brush….

Once you have some initial parameters, the planning tool should help to model a number of options – different group sizes, different patterns of provision, etc.

If should help you answer the “what if” questions and be ready to respond when things change.

Could we do more? What would make a difference?

What does any manager do when the demand exceeds capacity?  Reduce the service and/or increase the capacity.  And some of this might cost money.  And some might have unacceptable educational consequences or place a demand on staff that is too great.  The questions to ask could include:

  • Do we need more space?  Is there anywhere we could use safely?  What would it cost?
  • Do we need to alter the curriculum plan?  What are we hoping for in terms of impact and outcomes?
  • What about different group sizes?  What are the risks?
  • Are there any resources or equipment that would make this easier or better for staff and/or children?  What would it cost?
  • How do we support children and families within this plan?  Who will struggle the most?  Have we responded as best we can for the vulnerable, disadvantaged and those who need more?
  • What wriggle room do we have?  What could go wrong and how do we reduce the impact?

This won’t be for everyone.  I know that not everyone loves a spreadsheet like I do, but there is usually someone on the senior team who gets a buzz when it all fits together.

But if you have been struggling to balance pupils, staff and rooms, or you a fearful of the work involved with the next change in the rules or expectations, then give it a try.

  • It should make it easier to be sure that everything is in place.
  • It will help you adapt faster and with more confidence.
  • And the format provides a simple report for Trustees or Governors.

Risks assessed.  Costs quantified.  Pupils safe.  Staff clear on what is expected.  Headteacher can sleep a little better.

You can download the spreadsheet here. 

If you would like me to let you know of any updates to this tool, please get in touch and I will keep you posted.  If you find any gremlins or have suggestions for improvements, let me know.