One of the responsibilities of a school principal is to delicately navigate and oversee the implementation of school activities during the year.
Some activities are school-based while others originate from external stakeholders.
I will attempt to identify a few core activities which can pave the way for a smooth transition to the new academic year through a narrative checklist.
The first item is a school’s Navigating Map – the document comprising activities to be implemented in a specific year.
Some call it a School Academic Plan, Annual School Plan, School Year Programme or Calendar of Activities.
It is used as an overview of the most critical activities for a specific academic year.
The centre of this plan is the school’s core mandate, namely activities facilitating learning through teaching.
Preparation of this document must not be left to chance and cannot be completed haphazardly at the beginning of an academic year.
It should be well thought out and be compiled with painstaking attention.
It must be adopted by all, including the school board, before the end of an academic year.
Secondly, the school curriculum and the syllabi must be completed and assessment results documented during a specific year.
As all schools must issue end-of-year reports to pupils, report issuance must be on the checklists as schools move towards the end of each semester.
Similarly, the announcement of the results of the two national examinations, namely NSSCO and NSSCAS, by the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, well ahead of schools and institutions of higher learning reopening, underscores the importance of feedback to parents and pupils alike through school reports and exam certificates (dual accountability).
The announcement, including issuing school reports, must be appreciated.
Another item is the teaching load distribution among teachers. This must be initiated and completed way before schools get into the final examination period.
A number of factors may come into play when working on this task, some of which are beyond the control of schools.
The pace of recruitment of new teachers, the replacement of teachers who have been promoted, resigned or passed on during the last and first quarter of the preceding and new year, are some factors that may hamper the timely completion of this task.
Moreover, the subject qualifications, expertise and skills which new teachers bring may stifle the finalisation of the load distribution.
It is, however, possible to produce a tentative teaching load distribution list which is amenable to possible realignments.
Most importantly, the load distribution serves as a feeder into the preliminary school timetable.
Furthermore, the school timetable is the core instrument which facilitates the actual teaching and learning process of a school in a specific academic year.
A school without a timetable can be likened to a plane without a planned route. The timetable determines the amount of ‘active time input’ for each teacher, and sets the pace for active learning and mastering of competencies by pupils.
It also dictates the possible ‘output level’ of both pupils and teachers, depending on proper or improper utilisation.
It is imperative for the timetable (final or preliminary) to be ready by the first week of the new academic calendar.
Core teaching activities would start immediately, while other outstanding issues are systematically put in place.
Finally, a well-in-advance determination of class groups composition is critical.
It can be initiated and preliminarily completed during the year because it is a living document which can be adjusted, should there be any need.
Class groups, as a management tool, feed the timetable with individual class variables such as pupil numbers, individual and class subject choices, language options, pre-vocational and technical subject options, including grade specification and physical location.
An earlier determination of class groups is one of the measures which can ensure order and discipline during the first week, when both pupils and teachers are trying to find their way.
AT THE READY
If teachers and principals closed schools in December 2023 with the above items finalised and ready to be issued on the first day of the new school year, they are well prepared for the new academic year – in an orderly fashion and with a sense of normality, notwithstanding the potential admissions dynamics that may dent their plans.
- Harold KT Tjahikika has a keen interest in the planning and management of education.
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