Section 2: Identifying and negotiating development projects print

Wed 26. Oct 16 21:29

Module  1: Identifying and negotiating development projects

In this module, you will find a number of short videos designed to help you help you understand what you need to do to meet the module assessment requirements. In this first video, Ali provides an overview of what is expected.


Getting projects off to a good start is vital for their future success, and in unit one we discuss all those activities you will need to undertake before you actually start work on planning and delivering your project. The initial focus is upon identifying the need for the project – why is it necessary? How does if fit with the school's priorities? If you can't answer these questions adequately it may be that your project is on shaky ground.

Next we turn our attention to the need to persuade senior leaders of the value of your project and to gain their support. This will require you to develop high-level proposals for your project and to be able to communicate your ideas clearly and effectively. The unit provides guidance on how best to approach these activities and provides a step-by-step guide to this phase of your project work.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the key concepts and techniques related to the identification of school development projects
  • apply those concepts and techniques in practice
  • analyse the needs of the school to identify a potential school development project
  • present a clear and persuasive project proposal and secure the support of key stakeholders

Mission and vision statements

Why are we here?

Why are we here... or rather why do we work in schools? No doubt each individual will have their own personal response to this fundamental question, but it is important that we are all able to answer this question for 'our school'.

In order to provide a collective understanding of 'why we are here', many schools have developed mission and vision statements. The distinction between the two can sometimes be confusing, and some schools sometimes combine their mission and vision statements into one document, but in general:

You may be familiar with your school's vision and/or mission statement, but if you are not, now is an opportune moment for you to check what it says, and to remind yourself about the overall purpose of your school.

You may also find it interesting to see what other schools include in their mission and vision statements, and examples are provided on the links below (or you could search online with the term 'school vision statement' or 'school mission statement').

Understanding what your school is seeking to achieve will allow you to assess how the development project you are considering might contribute to the achievement of the school's vision.


1.1: Vision statements

Obtain a copy of your school's vision statement, and its mission statement if appropriate.

How will the development project you are considering contribute to the delivery of the school's vision

Try to be very specific in your response. You can do this by identifying one specific aim that the school has set itself, and briefly describing how your project will contribute to its achievement.

Try to describe this contribution in terms of the impact upon children's achievements, enjoyment, wellbeing and so on.

Where are we now?

School vision statements are a general guide to where a school wants to be, but they do not explain how the school will get there. To move the school forwards requires planning and action, but before deciding where you want to be, it's always useful to gain an understanding of where the school is now! Of course, there are many different ways of describing where a school 'is' now and most schools will have a number of documents which do this. Here are some examples:

  • the school profile
  • Ofsted report
  • self-evaluation documentation
  • school improvement plan
  • school prospectus
  • RAISEonline
  • school performance tables (league tables)
If you haven't seen these documents, you will find it useful to read some of them in order to refresh your knowledge and understanding of the key features of your school, its current stage of development, its achievements, and the key challenges it faces.

When reading them, remember that each document has been produced for a specific purpose, and that no single document will tell the full story of your school on its own. You may also refer/have referred to some of these documents in putting together your description of the school setting for unit 1 of Development Module 1: Understanding School Business Management.

A number of these documents provide interested parties – parents, staff, governors – with statistical data on the school, such as the number of pupils, their ethnic backgrounds, the standards they achieve, how well they attend and so on. Whilst this data is important, it needs enriching, and schools can do this by providing further information, such as a description of the neighbourhood where the school is situated; the age, condition and significant features of the school buildings; the backgrounds of the parents and their general attitudes towards the school and education; how the school is involved with its local community; the range of extracurricular opportunities available, and the take-up by pupils.

Below is an extract from the guidance to schools on what to include in the school profile.

School profile content (extract)

The profile was designed after extensive consultation with schools, local authorities, governors, parents and pupils, and has recently been improved in line with feedback received from those completing it. The profile contains, where relevant:

data provided and updated by the DfE on an annual basis
a summary of the latest Ofsted report provided by the DfE and updated at least every three years
narrative sections written by the school, updated at least once every academic year

The narrative sections include the following headings:

  • What have been our successes this year?
  • What are we trying to improve?
  • How have our results changed over time?
  • How are we making sure that every child receives teaching to meet their individual needs?
  • How do we make sure our pupils are healthy, safe and well supported?
  • What have we done in response to our Ofsted report?
  • How are we working with parents and the community?


1.2: My school's challenges

Gather together some documents which describe current challenges in your school setting (use the list above to remind yourself of what might be available and/or refer back to any material you may have gathered for Development Module 1, unit 1).

Use these documents to produce a brief summary of:

the key challenges your school faces
the goals or targets the school has set itself
any goals or targets which impact directly upon your responsibilities or area of work

It is acceptable to include extracts from some of these documents, but if you do so you should acknowledge the source(s) of your information. When you reference sources of information, you should use appropriate referencing conventions.

Identifying needs

Choosing the right project is critical, so before you read any further listen to Ali's suggestions for ensuring that you are on the right track from the start

The school improvement plan

Once we have a reasonable understanding of the key features of the school and some of the challenges it currently faces, we can turn our attention to a more detailed consideration of how the school might improve in the future. Bringing about improvements in a school is not solely the responsibility of the teaching staff – every member of the school community can make a contribution to the school's development.

Most schools produce an annual school improvement plan (or school development plan) which outlines the school's key priorities for the future. These may be a mixture of:

  • short-term priorities (one year)
  • medium-term priorities (three years)
  • longer-term priorities (five years)
The school improvement plan may be a high-level document which identifies key issues but doesn't necessarily provide a lot of detail on what the school actually plans to do to achieve its goals. This document may then be supported by other documents, such as key stage plans or premises plans, which provide more specific detail.

As you start to consider possible ideas for your dvelopment project, you may wish to begin the process by reviewing your school's improvement plan. This will not only provide you with a possible source of ideas, but will also help to ensure that the focus of your project is aligned to your school's needs.

Let's see how you might go about this. Below is an extract from a fictional school improvement plan showing some of the targets the school has set itself.

School improvement plan (extract)

Target 4: To improve Year 5 attendance by 2%

Target 5: To improve the level of parental involvement with the school

Target 6: To raise the average reading age of boys from ethnic minority backgrounds
One of the targets is to 'improve the level of parental involvement in the school' but the high level plan doesn't tell us how this will be achieved, nor does it suggest ways in which different sections of the school can contribute to achieving this target.

As SBM you might decide that you can contribute to this goal through the premises improvement plan as shown below:#

P remises improvement plan (extract)

Whole School Target 5: To improve the level of parental involvement with the school

Strategy: Improve the experience of parents when they visit the school by enhancing the reception are

Initially, you may only have a general strategy, for example, you believe that parents will engage better with the school if their first impressions and experiences of the school are positive, and at this stage you may not know precisely how you will put your strategy into practice.

To help us decide what needs doing there are a number of tools we can use and in the following paragraphs we explore some of them.

SWOT analysis

You may already have come across SWOT analyses in Development Module 1, but they are also relevant here.

The acronym SWOT refers to Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

This is a tool that many organisations use to evaluate the quality of service they are providing. A SWOT analysis looks internally at what is happening in the organisation now.

If we continue with our example of an SBM considering changes to the school's reception arrangements, a SWOT analysis might highlight the issues shown in the table opposite.

The value of a SWOT analysis is that it identifies those things organisations are currently doing well, and therefore should continue with (and indeed learn from), as well as identifying areas of weakness which need improving. By looking ahead (opportunities and threats) it focuses attention on possibilities for change, as well as identifying some of the possible risks associated with any changes we might plan. You may find that a SWOT analysis is a useful tool for both stimulating thinking about your Development Project, and sharpening the focus of your project. You could conduct a SWOT analysis on your own, but it may be more powerful to ask several members of staff to carry out the exercise and to collect a range of opinions.


An alternative method of gathering the opinions of colleagues is through a brainstorming exercise. The benefit of using this tool is that it can be an engaging way of stimulating thinking and ensures that those mostly affected by any future changes will have had an opportunity to present their opinions.

This tool was mentioned in the problem-solving activity in Development Module 1 Unit 3, 'Setting the problem statement'. It is a powerful and productive tool if used as described in the earlier activity. The brainstorming tool is easy to use, flexible and non-threatening. It encourages all members of the team to express their views and contribute ideas.

Gaining support for projects

Reviewing external policy drivers

The drivers for developments in schools can come from a number of sources. Some initiatives are externally driven, brought about by the requirements of government policy or pressure from parents, while others may be internally driven, arising from staff ideas of how the school might be improved for the benefit of children.

At times it is not easy to decide whether the impetus for a new development was external or internal and, in practice, the two drivers will sometimes come together. If we take our example of seeking to improve the school's reception area, we have seen that this arose from the school's desire to increase the quality of its engagement with parents. If we dig deeper, however, we might trace this desire back further to earlier government policy initiatives – in this instance the Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda.

When you have decided upon the focus for your development project, you should investigate how this project will make a contribution to either a national or a local government education policy. This may not be an area you are familiar with, and if this is the case it will be advantageous to discuss your interests with your school mentor and/or your module tutor.

Whichever strategy you adopt, you may find the following websites useful starting places:

  • Department for Education
  • National College for Teaching and Leadership
  • National Association of School Business Management
  • Times Educational Supplement (TES)
You are not expected to research policy in fine detail, but you should aim to develop your understanding of relevant policies, and what they seek to achieve.

PESTLE analysis
A SWOT analysis can tell us a good deal about what is happening internally to the school, but it also useful to know and understand the external factors that are impacting upon the school. Many school's will engage in 'horizon scanning' exercises to help them decide upon their development priorities, and to ensure that any projects they may consider are in step with external trends and influences.

A useful tool for this is a PESTLE analysis, which identifies six types of external influence upon a school, and how these might bring pressure upon the school to change:

  • Political
  • Economic
  • Social
  • Technological
  • Environmental
  • Legal

Consider our example school

We can illustrate how the PESTLE tool might be applied by once again referring to our SBM who is considering how to develop the school's reception facilities.
On reviewing developments and trends outside the school, the SBM might discover the following, each of which might influence his/her decisions.

A parliamentary report 'Early Intervention: the next steps' published in 2011, emphasises the importance of engaging parents as partners with the school in the development of their children.

The school's budget may be under pressure because of cuts in central government spending. The school may wish to attract more pupils to counter this. An uninviting reception area will be a potential drawback.

The school may be drawing pupils from a much broader range of ethnic backgrounds than was previously the case. It may be that the school needs to acknowledge this by having more signage in the reception area in languages other than English.

How can the latest technological developments help? For example, what is the potential for using TV monitors to display key messages? Can monitors be used to improve safety and security?

The drive to introduce more environmentally sustainable practices may lead to considerations such as the potential for using low-energy lighting, heating systems and so on in the reception area

The Equality Act 2010 (EA) gives disabled people important rights of access to everyday services. Service providers have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to premises or to the way they provide a service. Any proposed changes to the reception area would need to be evaluated to ensure they are compliant with this legislation


1.3: PESTLE analysis

Before you embark on your development project, you may find it both informative and beneficial to carry out a PESTLE analysis.

You may find that your project is more strongly affected by some of the six factors than others, but it is probable that you will find a number of external developments that you must take account of in your planning.

How is school business management organised in your school?

Engaging and persuading stakeholders

Many projects that fail, in both schools and other organisations, do so because they lacked the support of key individuals or groups affected by the changes. We refer to those individuals or groups that have an interest in the output of an organisation as 'stakeholders'.

In schools, there are many stakeholders. Some, such as parents, pupils and teachers, may be obvious. Others such as local industry, who will be interested in the skills children are developing, may be less obvious.

Before embarking on any project it is useful to carry out a stakeholder mapping exercise to determine who will be most affected by the project, whose support you will need to ensure that the project flows smoothly and who might be opposed to the project and how you will deal with any concerns they may have.

You may have completed a stakeholder mapping exercise as part of Development Module 1, Unit 1 and you may find it useful to refer back to this at this point.

Access our example of a stakeholder mapping exercise carried out by a school that was reviewing its travel arrangements. You will see that it identified a very large number of potential stakeholders.


1.5: Stakeholder mapping

You may find it beneficial if you carry out a stakeholder mapping exercise for your development project before you proceed too far.

Your map may not have as many stakeholders as the one in our example, but you may find it useful to use as a checklist of who has an interest in your project and who you need to keep informedcm-CSBM-DM2-stakeholder-map-template.docx

Persuading others

Once you have identified the stakeholders with an interest in your project, you can turn your attention to persuading them of the merits of your project. It may not be necessary to directly persuade all the stakeholders you identify, but there will probably be a small number of key stakeholders without whose support your project may fail.

Once you have identified these key stakeholders, you should put forward your proposals to them. This could be in the form of a document or you might wish to hold a discussion with them.

At this stage, you are seeking their general approval, so you do not need to provide a detailed project plan. This will come later if your project proposal is approved.

Identifying key risks and rewards

Collecting high-level information

At this stage of project planning, it is much too early for you to analyse the risks and benefits associated with the project in depth, but it is useful to collect some high-level information about the risks and rewards and include this in your proposal. This could be important in winning the support of key stakeholders.

In terms of rewards, consider whether each of the following statements is true, and indicate this with a 'yes' or 'no':

  • This project is important in terms of the school's vision and values.
  • This project is related directly to the school's current development plans.
  • This project is needed to comply with external regulations or legal requirement.
  • There are potential financial benefits through this project.
  • The outcomes of this project will be seen as valuable by school stakeholders.
  • The outcomes of this project will be seen as valuable by the people who work at the school.
  • The project has a 'wow' factor.
In terms of risks, consider whether each of the following statements is true, and indicate this with a 'yes' or 'no':

  • The project presents significant technical challenges.
  • It requires significant change to systems and processes.
  • It involves new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things.
  • The implementation costs of the project are high.
  • The project cannot be implemented in the short- to medium-term.
  • There is little general support and enthusiasm for the project.
  • The project will impact on and disrupt the daily work of the school.
Each statement with a 'yes' is given a score of 1. Once the project has been measured against these statements it is possible to assess the overall balance of risk and reward inherent in the proposal. A matrix of projects is shown in the table opposite. You will be able to locate your proposed project in one of the cells. What does this tell you about the viability of your proposed project?

This kind of analysis should make it easier for leaders and stakeholders to debate the merits of the project.

Low hanging Fruit
Make or Break
Empty vessels
Money Pit

Empty vessels
These projects can be pursued easily but will not deliver much reward. They may appear attractive because of their relative ease of implementation, but if they fail to deliver real benefits to the school, they will tie up the resources that could have been invested elsewhere.

Money pit
Projects that are high in risk and low in reward may appear unattractive, but they may be necessary. Like empty vessels, they deserve discussion to avoid the danger of their being discounted merely because of their risk profile.

Low-hanging fruit
These are preferable to empty vessels. Not only are they relatively low risk projects, but they also appear to promise high rewards. The ideal project?

Make or break
Projects in this category will be the ones people in the organisation know about already. They will be controversial and challenging and may divide opinion. They will make or break this aspect of the school's work, and may even have wider implications for the future of the school. If any projects deserve further examination and fuller discussion in terms of their costs and rewards, these do.

The project proposal

Securing commitment
You should provide key stakeholders with a project proposal.

This will give them a summary of the:

  • purpose of the project – what you are trying to achieve
  • focus of the project – how will you achieve it
  • scope of the project – how long will it last, who will be involved, what is covered by the project (and what is not)
  • benefits of the project – try to be specific, explain what will be better as a result of the project
  • risks of the project – all projects carry some risks, and you should identify any major ones at this stage
Your summary should provide stakeholders with information about the project but this alone will not persuade them of its worth. In order to gain commitment, you may find it useful to follow this advice provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Although this advice refers to gaining commitment for health and safety initiatives, the general approach can be applied to other types of initiative.

The first piece of advice refers to gaining the commitment of senior managers.

How can we secure management commitment?

It is often said there are three types of arguments that are used to persuade management to commit to a particular issue:

  • Business case: this typically looks at the current cost related to an issue along with the costs associated with the proposed initiative for tackling the issue and of course the financial benefits as an outcome.
  • Moral case: many organisations using the Management Standards approach have initially started at this point. That is there has been a realisation, based on occupational health data that work is making people ill. This data has also been used in the preparation of the business case.
  • Legal case: there is a clear legal requirement laid out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and take reasonably practicable steps to address the risk identified in the risk assessment.
The second piece of advice refers to gaining the commitment of employees or individuals you manage:

How can we secure commitment from employees and their representatives?

You could try to:
Involve employee representatives (for example trade union and health and safety representatives) at the beginning of the process.
Involve employees and their representatives in any groups you set up to take the work forward.
If you decide to confine your efforts to a limited section of your organisation, consider how best to inform other employees.


1.6: Gaining the commitment of senior managers

Reflect on the outcomes of any analyses you have carried out during this unit (for example SWOT, PESTLE, research and so on) and consider how you will use this information to persuade senior managers of the merits of your project.

You may find it useful to organise your arguments using the three categories suggested by the Health and Safety Executive, which are the:

business case
moral case
legal case

Note: It may be that not all three categories apply to your particular project.


Bookmark and Share