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 School Improvement:  Other Frameworks
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There are many frameworks for organising your attention & efforts in the application of quality. The literature of the quality movement is rich in such frameworks. A useful framework would...

  • be both simple & rich
  • have several dimensions
  • have many levels
  • provide many starting points
  • be useful in present & future arrangements
  • allow both intuitive & rational approaches
  • attend to both tasks and people
  • assist analysis, and so on, .


The following framework meets these criteria and focuses attention on three things:


1. People i.e.., contributors (suppliers), operators (staff, students) & recipients (customers)

  • By working with suppliers/contributors, eg, families, previous teachers, students... we can minimise the initial variation
  • Training, equipping and supporting staff enables them to do their work easily and well
  • It is the recipients who ultimately determine the characteristic which they will label as quality 


2. Systems are the ways (processes) & means (resources, facilities, equipment) for getting things done, involving, 

 contributors + resources + processes + products/services + recipients

Timing and sequencing are often overlooked or underestimated elements of the processes. Even simple processes involve several steps each of which have a cumulative impact on all subsequent steps.  It is easy for a process to have an effectiveness of less than 10%. Similarly efficiency can be greatly reduced by  even partial failures in even one or two steps. Low effectiveness may require rework further reducing efficiency.


3. Variation in the processes & systems impedes people's capacity to do high quality work and thus reduces their capacity to satisfy their customers (the next person).

Problems are situations where the level of variation is unacceptable. Most problems need a prompt response (see Broken Windows). The unacceptable situation may need to be contained, damage repaired ...


In addition to 'fixing the immediate problem' there are often a range of other responses which can be chosen depending on whether 

  • the cause of the problem has come from the system itself (common cause), eg. as a absent teacher not replaced in the playground duty roster, or

  • the cause of the problem has come from outside the system (special cause), eg, an estranged parent is highly critical the school's reporting procedure


In real life problems which arise in schools may contain a bit of both causes. The correct approach is to

  • contain the problems which have come from outside (special causes) 

  • improve the system to prevent the reoccurrence of those things which have arisen from the system itself (common causes)

  • examine the chosen course of action to ensure that it is

    •  preventative (it will reduce effort and the likelihood that problems will arise) and 

    • not counter measures (extra efforts to overcome undesirable outcomes). Counter measures consume valuable resources and do not add value and are to be avoided if at all possible.


Macdonald's achieve very consistent quality (minimised variation) of their food and service world wide by attention to people, systems and at all times implementing ways to reduce variation. Market segmentation is another commercial (and independent school) strategy to reduce variation. Streaming, and course entry requirements, are similar examples of educational attempts to reduce variation. 

  • Cooperative learning strategies can reduce one of the greatest sources of variation in schools, viz, variation in students' involvement in learning itself. 
  • Behaviour management, policy, professional development, needs based resourcing, school or class rules, shared vision, ... are also attempts to contain &/or reduce variation and thus improve quality. 


We must manage schools and classrooms as systems so that they better serve the people involved. They should serve the people involved and not vice versa! This means 

  • Knowing, understanding and agreeing on the systems involved
  • Knowing and agreeing on who contributes and who benefits, eg, politically parents are the major 'customers' of schools however in terms of the day to day operations of schools parents are its major suppliers along with the Government. 
  • There is little understanding or agreement on who are the students beneficiaries (customers). See RPS.
  • Reducing variation of inputs and other causes impacting on the processes being used. 


Action: Change from good ideas to a systematic improvement