While much of the debate centres on some specific output measures – exam results of course but also employment prospects and even students’ future earnings – my contention is that it would be far better if we took a marketing approach to schools and realised that coasting schools are simply those who are failing to listen to the needs of their stakeholders and innovating in response.
This way of thinking brings together all the types of school that have been described as coasting – from the schools in deprived areas that are accused of having low expectations of their students to the selective grammar schools that apparently are relying for success on their highly able and affluent intakes.
It follows that the best way to measure school success is therefore not to focus on just one easily-gamed measurement such as external exam performance. Schools should be encouraged to work out who their stakeholders are and what success looks like for each of them, as well as developing ways of measuring this success over time. The table below gives a few possible examples.
A final thought – using this approach, what should happen to schools that are seen to be ‘coasting’ - failing to meet the needs of stakeholders? The first thing that can be done is to support current leadership in developing the ability to truly listen to their communities and innovate in return – perhaps through the support of an academy trust or other external agency. This would be easier and quicker than the draconian replacement of the school’s leadership team - which of course would remain an option for the future.
If you’d like help working out your school’s stakeholders and what they need from you, Marketing Advice for Schools is delivering a workshop on stakeholders at ISBI’s Marketing & Admissions Conference in September.