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Standard Operating Procedures versus flexibility

Headteacher's secretary door QR code

Last week I became an associate member of our school’s senior leadership team.  More on that later.  During the interview, we got talking about the idea of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).  A definition of which is:


The discussion started with the idea that practitioners in ‘high risk’ jobs, where deviating from the SOP may result in death, they are followed.  A good example are checklists when flying an aircraft – the checklist approach ensures that vital steps aren’t missed.

SOPs are attractive to schools.  For example, taking the register, greeting students, filling out a lesson planning preforma, dealing with positive and poor behaviour, the three part lesson, the mini plenary…... 

The problem is, where is the room for serendipity?

My view is that SOPs and a flexible approach coexist.

I’ll give an example from when I flew Bulldog aircraft with Bristol University Air Squadron.  The checklist changed and a vital step was missed from the update.  A step that would result in engine failure during aerobatics and likely end in the aircraft cashing.  The checklist was quickly updated, but what happened in the air?  As highly trained professionals, we spotted the error and adapted. 

My point?  We do need SOPs in school in order to set expectations and encourage greater consistency, however as highly trained professionals, we are able to think outside the box.


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