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6 ways to streamline annual planning

Rob Clarke

Rob is the co-founder and CEO of Learning Architects. He supports leaders and organisations to thrive in the future through coaching, development, technology and learning design. He is a Ministry of Education accredited PLD facilitator. He is also a Dad and volunteers as Special Officer - Education for the United Nations Association of NZ.

For more information please visit: or get in touch via +64 21 590 572

Annual Planning Reporting Hourglass

This post, with associated resources, will help you with 6 ways to streamline your annual planning. In the leadership work we do in schools, we see a real need for leaders to develop skills to make annual planning and reporting more efficient. This also becomes clear when we support Boards of Trustees and principals with strategic planning. Our aim is to help you reduce the amount of time spent throughout the year by reducing the amount of time spent throughout the year by giving you 6 ways to streamline annual planning and reporting process – enabling you to focus on the doing rather than the reporting.

The Annual Plan is a critical part of the School Charter in all New Zealand schools. The Annual Plan shows how the big goals in the Charter and Strategic Plan will be turned into action – or operationalised. Charters can become unwieldy and cumbersome documents that consume countless hours of time for principals – how might we make this more efficient and free leaders up from the burden of administration?

When I was a principal, I often found writing board reports somewhat tedious and mundane. In fact, in some research we conducted recently confirmed this suspicion – school leaders rated report writing as one of the tasks they dislike the most.

To accompany this post, we have a free online course with accompanying resources which are aimed at helping you to make this important process more efficient, while enabling you to streamline and link everything together.

Once you have implemented your own, newly improved Annual Plan, our short online course will provide you with additional tips to help make document management easier and more effective.

We hope you find these tips really useful.

1. Use a key and a rubric to facilitate evaluation

Putting a key into your planning template automatically incorporates some measure of quality.

It also gives you the ability to link items to other aspects, while providing an evaluative tool to help you and your team when you need to report on progress.

The template that accompanies this post shows you that the simple act of putting a key into the Annual Plan document can make a huge difference in a number of ways:

  1. Important external review items, such as Education Review Office (ERO) recommendations, can be linked to your plan. This keeps them ‘top of mind’ so that you and your team know you are always focussed on improving those aspects.
  2. A rubric can be developed to help you and your team to ascertain how effectively you have achieved certain goals or focus areas as you report. This can make a huge difference to your reporting and will help you identify areas at risk of not being achieved, or areas where the school has exceeded the goal. Our free online course discusses this and provides suggestions for getting started.
  3. Items in the plan that are related to the regular review cycle of the Board of Trustees can be easily identified. This creates a strong link between your strategic intent and the operational delivery of the plan.

2. Always include a review and future focus section

There is a section to the right of the template titled ‘Review and Future Focus’ aimed at helping you when reporting. As you report to your Board of Trustees, simply put the highlights of the report into this section of the Annual Plan.

The advantage of this is that it creates a checklist as you progress through the year, allowing you to easily see what you have reported on and what is still pending. Come to the end of the year, this will make it really quick to identify the area(s) that are most important for your Annual Report – you might even treat this document as your Annual Report!

3. Share the Annual Plan with your entire staff

What might you gain from sharing the Annual Plan with the entire staff team?

Sharing your Annual Plan with your team means they can be involved in it, whatever stage it might be at. This is ideal when you are wanting to create a new plan for the following year and is a great opportunity for you to build commitment to whatever the school priorities might be for the year ahead.

We view this as a key tactic for smart leaders because you allow staff to be more involved in the goals of the school, therefore improving transparency, building trust and developing commitment to your processes


4. Number each item on the Annual Plan

This might seem rather obvious and simple, but you would be amazed at how difficult one of these documents can be to read by a non-educator such as a Board of Trustees member. Plus, if items are numbered, it will enable people to quickly locate those items you are reporting on.

If you do this, then your team leaders will find it easy to locate items they might have a direct input to; thus, you create more ownership for the plan amongst your team. Click here if you could like this template and a FREE online course to help you implement and customise it quickly.

5. Use a colour code

You will see on the template that some of the example items are bolded. This indicates they are new.

You might decide to use a different method to identify new items, or even have a couple of ways of identifying different items.

For example: bold = new this year, italics = ERO recommendations, etc. it is really up to you. Whatever you decide to do, we suggest keeping it simple for your team to follow and contribute to.

Colour Code

6. Use your Annual Plan during leadership and staff meetings

Using your Annual Plan during meetings is a great way to make it become a living, breathing document that drives your organisation forward.

Why not make sure everyone who has a focus area within the Annual Plan can record progress onto the document during each meeting?

For example, many school leaders have their annual plans enlarged and displayed on the walls of their office or in the staff room so that everyone who comes in can refer to it and use it.

During each meeting, if you refer to the specific aspect(s) of the Annual Plan you are working towards, then this will ensure staff will be more involved in what the school is aiming for. It might also be worthwhile for team leaders to use the aspect(s) their team is working on at team meetings.

Building these sorts of simple tactics into your everyday workflow can make a big difference to the quality of the overall process, as well as keep the aims of the school more in the forefront of people’s minds. Just think of the ownership your leadership and wider staff team will have for the success of the plan when they are constantly using it!


More Information…

These are some relevant links for school and Kāhui ako leaders to refer to showing Ministry of Education guidance:

  1. Schools planning and reporting – overview page with links to other areas and resources.
  2. Develop and prepare your planning and reporting documents – information about requirements including templates.
  3. Planning and reporting section from the Educational Leaders website – gives clear guidance which describes the purpose of various parts of the Charter and Annual Plan.

Get a FREE template and online course to help you with Annual Planning and Reporting…

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