School Improvement

Ladders can be applied to school improvement in lots of ways.  I have used the following two methods successfully in many schools.

  1. Teacher Project Ladders – These are extremely effective at getting ALL staff engaged in projects with the same focus.  Click this link to find out how to create and use such ladders for teachers.  They are great for building learner and teacher competencies.
  2. REORDER ladders – These are used to describe the whole school vision at different levels across every aspect of the school.  They provide a way for the school to keep school development aligned to the school vision.  REORDER ladders are described below.


REORDER ladders

Imagine that your vision of your school is to ‘Create the Leaders of Tomorrow’.

  • Clearly your school would need to promote RELATIONSHIPS involving colaboration and encourage responsible risk taking.
  • You would require ENVIRONMENTS that enabled students work independently as well as collaboratively to lead services and manage areas of the building such as student led services.
  • You would need to provide curricular and extra-curricular OPPORTUNITIES for learners to practice the skills of leadership and learn techniques.
  • You would need the right human and physical RESOURCES as well as…
  • …a leadership structure in which you DISTRIBUTED LEADERSHIP to all levels so that there were chances for as many people as possible to experience the reality of leadership.
  • You would need to EVALUATE if your strategy was working: did you have greater capacity for leadership this year compared to next and if so why?
  • Finally you need to provide RECOGNITION for learners who achieve improvements in leadership so that it is given the status and fuels greater engagement in the future.

The REORDER process has proved to be so popular that I have created a site devoted to explaining it and applying it.  This site can be viewed by clicking this link or visiting

One set of schools I was working with wanted PERSONALISATION as the vision so I developed a set of ladders for personalisation that can be viewed here.  Alternately you can go straight to the ladders I created for each of the REORDER categories by clicking on the titles below

  • Relationships:  Personalising who you learn with and what range of learning relationships you can access.
  • Environments:  Personalising where you learn best
  • Opportunities: Personalising which activities extend how you learn
  • Resources:  Personalising what you use to help you learn
  • Distributed Leadership Active engagement in why and what you learn
  • Evaluation: Personalising the pace of your learning based on evidence
  • Recognition:  Personalising how your achievements are recognised

The strength of REORDER is that it can be applied to most contexts not just the personalisation of schools.  In the microsoft innovative schools workshops I used REORDER to describe all of the case studies.  These can be seen at

Further Examples

For the vision and direction of a school to make sense to all of the community and especially the learners, it has to be consistent.  A school whose central vision is around trust, respect and responsibility could not, for example, lock learners out of the building during lunchtime if it is raining.  People pick up the vision of the school from the ‘everyday life’ of the school not from a vision document so great care must be taken to ensure that the vision is ‘lived’ in all aspects.  I devised the REORDER framework as a way of defining what all the aspects of an effective organisation or project are.  The REORDER aspects are as follows

  1. Relationships – between all stakeholder groups
  2. Environments – classrooms, social areas, toilets, virtual spaces, clubs etc
  3. Opportunities – the curriculum, extra curricular and leisure time
  4. Resources – human, physical, virtual and electronic
  5. Distribution of Leadership – between teachers, managers and learners
  6. Evaluation – systems and processes to ensure progression is occurring
  7. Recognition – examinations, certificates, praise, earned opportunities etc

As an example, think about how you would introduce laptops to your school.  You clearly need to plan the resourcing, prepare the learning environments and open up opportunities in the curriculum to make use of them but what about the other aspects?

Teachers are often expected to be the expert in the classroom yet most feel that the students know much more than they do about ICT.  As the learning relationships change, how can you support teacher development?  How can you distribute some of the leadership of the scheme to the learners so that they can take the responsibility of working in partnership with teachers and how can you recognize both the teacher and the learner for these achievements.  Finally, how will you evaluate if the whole strategy is working?


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