The past year has seen a record number of schools being rated outstanding by the inspection authorities. This is fantastic news for the hardworking school leaders, teachers, students and parents who have contributed to these results.

Perhaps your school was rated outstanding because your leadership is inspirational in providing clear vision and direction. Maybe there are high expectations of all the students. It could be that your curriculum engages and supports students and is personalised to accommodate individual aptitudes and needs. It is likely that all your teachers and school leaders insist on excellence in the quality of classroom teaching, and you have rigorous systems in place, which means that leaders know the strengths and weaknesses of all the members of staff. You set challenging targets and make good use of pupil tracking systems.

Your school has been awarded the coveted outstanding rating. Now what? What can you do to become even better?

Below are four suggestions for things that outstanding schools can do to move from outstanding to exceptional.

Offer genuine support to other schools

The KHDA Dubai has recognised the value in outstanding schools supporting other schools. They have developed a programme to help them do so. Outstanding schools may now be able to avoid external inspections by offering genuine help to other schools. Good practice is shared among schools and the entire city or country benefits. The value of offering help to other schools is not only of benefit to the recipient school, but also to your school. This is a good way to help develop the leadership, coaching and mentoring skills of your staff members. This is not an opportunity to show how much better than other schools you are, but rather an opportunity to have a vested interest in the success of another school.

Focus on people

When a school is already outstanding, it normally does not have the same level of pressure to improve. This gives it a little bit more space to breathe. Use this space and freedom to focus on the people in your school. Offer training, incentives and opportunities to ALL members of staff. Allow them to explore other areas of learning and interest that is not typical. The results could be amazing in building morale and staff retention.

Challenge the status quo

Having been rated outstanding means that you have been doing something right. Now is the time to do something different. Allow your members of staff to do things differently. Conduct more research into what works in teaching and learning. Be an example and challenge the status quo. You now have the space to not have ‘school as usual’. Try shorter hours, extended hours, no textbooks, or no technology in some classes. Do whatever it is that you believe will work for your students, then publish your results and make changes. Become a centre of research and excellence in education.

Identify your school’s unique strengths and share them

This is not the same as sharing good practice. This is superficial but still necessary. Many schools have very unique strengths but no one knows about them. Now that you have been rated outstanding start sharing your strengths with the world. Encourage your leaders and staff members to write articles for education magazines like Teach Middle East Magazine, participate in chats on Twitter and other social media channels. Write and publish press releases on your school’s strengths. Yes, exceptional schools make a deliberate effort in building their public profile. No, you do not need a public relations company to help you in this endeavour. Good publicity is good for your school.

By Leisa Wilson

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