In November, many of us as administrators were knee deep in preparing our schools for inspections. We were also working hard on setting up staff performance evaluations, and monitoring teaching and learning along with all the other mundane administrative tasks that come with the role.
Do you recall all the new policies and initiatives that greeted you in late august upon your return from summer holidays? I would guess that you are able to mention only the ones, which have a direct bearing on your school or those, which may be new to everyone else but not to your school, as you were already doing those things.
For a long time, the implementation of education policies has been considered as a rather mechanistic task. Administrators often view them as a series of mundane decisions and interactions unworthy of their attention. This is because many policies and initiatives were often initiated by decision makers, who are far removed from the reality of running a school on a daily basis.
Decision and policymakers are often of the impression that the process of policy implementation in schools is a top-down process: administrators were expected to carry out the policies as formulated without any questions or choice. However, insights need to change, as it has become clear that implementation cannot happen unless the entire school staff, led by the administrators commit to policy implementation.
How to connect the dots
Nowadays, policy makers are becoming increasingly aware that implementation is not an easy task. For one, it has no clear starting point for each school, and no clear ending. Below are three suggestions that education policy makers and administrators should consider to ensure successful policy implementation.
Start with the teacher and the classroom in mind
The fundamental purpose of school, is teaching and learning. Therefore, any policy that is being put in place should be for the improvement of the teaching and learning process. Policymakers should first outline how it will be implemented at the classroom level. Providing as many examples or even lesson plan samples would be very useful.
Every policy needs a champion
When the school year gets going, there is almost a frenzy of activities, which take place on a daily basis. New policies or initiatives can get lost in this frenzy. Each new policy needs someone to champion its cause. Someone who is constantly working on keeping it at the forefront of the minds of the stakeholders. Implementation is not always a well-organised rational or unidirectional process. It is often messy and circular, therefore there is a great need for someone or even a team of people, to manage that process as conditions can change midway and may need redirection.
Monitor the effectiveness of each policy and initiative throughout the year
Monitoring can provide vital feedback, which can help to keep new policies and/or initiatives on track. Vital feedback can even be passed up to the policymakers themselves.
It is easiest to implement policies and initiatives if they are well designed and relevant to the needs and goals of your school. Sometimes, you may have to adjust and amend policies to make them relevant to your school. Seek permission before doing this, in case it has repercussions. Truly effective policies and procedures address genuine needs within a school.