I do know that school policies can be a headache but they are an essential aspect of any school. They provide a framework for decision-making, ensure consistency in operations, and promote a safe and productive learning environment for students, teachers, and staff. Writing effective school policies can be a daunting task, but with the right approach, it can be a manageable and rewarding process that pays dividends in the end! In this article, we’ll provide some guidance on how to write school policies that are clear, concise, and effective.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Identify the need for the policy
There are a number of statutory policies schools must have but outside these, the choice really is yours. The first step then in writing a school policy is to identify the need for it. School policies should be developed to set out agree working practices or in response to a specific issue or concern that the school is facing. For example, most schools have subject policies, an Assessment Policy, a Homework Policy etc but then may have more school specific policies like an External Lettings Policy if they make the school available to external sports providers or a Therapy Dog Policy if you have one! The key is to identify where there needs to be consistency (e.g. subject policies) or the problem or need that the policy is intended to address.
Step 2: Define the purpose and scope of the policy
Once you have identified the need for the policy, the next step is to define its purpose and scope. The purpose of the policy should be clear and concise. It should explain why the policy is necessary and what it is intended to achieve. The scope of the policy should also be clearly defined. This includes the individuals or groups that the policy applies to, the specific activities or situations that it covers, and any limitations or exceptions that may apply.
Step 3: Research and gather information
To develop an effective policy, it’s important to research and gather information about the issue or concern that the policy is intended to address. This may involve reviewing existing policies and best practices, conducting surveys or interviews with stakeholders, and consulting with subject matter experts. If it’s a curriculum policy and you use a commercial scheme, they made have a template policy for you as a starting point. Sites like the Education Endowment Foundation are really useful for schools when looking for research based evidence to support and inform their approach. It’s also important to consider any legal or regulatory requirements that may apply to the policy.
Step 4: Draft the policy
Once you have identified the need for the policy, defined its purpose and scope, and gathered relevant information, it’s time to start drafting the policy. The policy should be written in clear and concise language that is easy to understand. Think about your audience, is it school staff who will understand certain terminology or is it for parents so would need some clarification? It should be organised logically, with a clear structure that makes it easy to navigate.
When drafting the policy, it’s important to include the following elements:
- Policy statement: This should be a clear and concise statement of the policy’s purpose and scope.
- Definitions: If there are any terms or concepts that are unique to the policy, they should be defined clearly.
- Responsibilities: This section should outline the responsibilities of individuals or groups that are affected by the policy. For example, a policy on school trips might outline the responsibilities of teachers, students, volunteers and parents.
- Procedures: This section should provide step-by-step instructions for implementing the policy. It should be clear and easy to follow, with any required forms or documents included as appendices.
- Consequences: This section should outline the consequences of non-compliance with the policy. It should be clear and consistent, and the consequences should be proportionate to the severity of the violation.
- Legislation and links to other policies: This section should include any links to other relevant documents. For example, your SEND Policy would link to the SEND Code of Practice; your Equalities Policy would link to the public sector equality duty.
Step 5: Review and revise the policy
Once the policy has been drafted, it’s important to review and revise it as needed. This may involve consulting with stakeholders to get their input, conducting a pilot test of the policy to see how it works in practice, or seeking legal advice to ensure that the policy is compliant with relevant laws and regulations.
Step 6: Approve and implement the policy
Once the policy has been reviewed and revised, it’s time to get it approved and implemented. This may involve presenting the policy to the school governors or a sub-committee for approval, communicating the policy to stakeholders, and providing training or other support to ensure that the policy is implemented.
Step 7: Monitor the impact of the policy
Once in place, monitoring the impact of your policy is really important. Is it having the desired impact? Is there consistency of practice? Is everyone following it correctly? There is no point in having a policy for the sake of having a policy and it will cause bigger issues if you have a poorly written policy or one that isn’t followed consistently. This will inevitably lead to tweaks and improvements as part of your continued self-evaluation.
Writing effective school policies is an important part of school leadership and a process that requires careful consideration and planning. By following these steps, school leaders can develop policies that are clear, concise and effective in addressing the specific needs and concerns of their community. Moreover, implementing and monitoring these policies can create a safe and productive learning environment that supports the success of students, teachers, and staff. While it may be a challenging process, the benefits of having well-written policies are invaluable and can contribute to the overall success of the school.