Crafting a framework for Catholic schools

One of the most difficult tasks for leaders in schools today is to develop and work within a framework that gives precision, coherence, structure and direction for ongoing improvement. It is not so much a question of which framework is used as the fact that you have a framework. Far too much energy goes into stand alone, one off methods that ultimately absorb precious resources, overtax staff and under-deliver.  The result is that the school community is often left with a sense of frustration and a maintenance of the status quo.

I think Jim Collins’ work in “Good to Great” is an excellent example of what can be achieved by using a good planning framework. The common quality in the framework of Collins and others is a focus on Intent.

Understanding the core task is very important in Catholic schools which are both faith and educational communities; everything they do is in the context of a Catholic culture and worldview.  From this comes the school’s vision and mission. These are usually clearly expressed. What is often unclear, however, is the school’s understanding of what it actually intends to do – it’s intent.

Collins’ makes the point that successful organisations have a very clear understanding of their intent as well as their vision. Our ongoing challenge in Catholic schools is to clarify our purpose and strategies which will serve it.

To help us all address this challenge, we need to stimulate a wide discussion on the intent of Catholic schools.


4 thoughts on “Crafting a framework for Catholic schools

  1. I agree that a statement of intent, a well formed mission statement for example, is vital. Many difficulties however can be found in the next step. Having defined what you intend to achieve, how many “givens” do you assume in your search for options in how to achieve it? Just as Socrates said that “for man, the unexamined life is not worth living” (Plato, Apology 38a), so to for schools, the uncritically accepted solutions are not worth implementing.

  2. No difficulties at all with the proposition Tony. The answer lies in a precision around the principles and values which focus the intent. This is in my expeerience an oft ignored necessity. Not having this precision and alignment leads to pragmatic and flakey implementation processes. High energy and low return.
    The other key issue is the dialogue that has to take place around any robust framework. This is critical for success.

  3. I tend to agree with you that imprecision in mission statements or intended outcomes produces unnecessary work and confusion. The issue of implementation processes is another matter altogether.

    During the 1980s when school-based development was more common, there was a great deal of experience in change processes. Unfortunately, a good deal of that wisdom has been lost. This can have the unfortunate result that schools can define where they wish to go but have a poor grasp on how to get there.

  4. That’s the whole point I want to make. A robust framework firmly rooted in contemporary learning and change theory for implementation is a key to sustaining change in schooling. Too often schools embark on processes around talking about what their school is on about rather than how to deliver the intened change

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