Strategic planning for unique school contexts

Small schools, schools for specific purposes (SSPs) and newly opened schools should consult the following adjusted guidelines, as they relate specifically to the strategic directions or improvement measures for their unique contexts.

Small schools

Small schools set a minimum of 2 strategic directions in their Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP), less than the 3 strategic directions required for schools with larger cohorts.

Strategic direction 1: 'Student growth and attainment' will have a strong focus on the individual growth of each student.

Like all schools, small schools should select the improvement measures that will support them to track progress in student growth and attainment.

Mandatory improvement measures for small schools will be established through consultation between the principal and the Director, Educational Leadership. Contribution to the network improvement measures may be direct, with students sitting NAPLAN in the cohort, or indirect. When contributions to mandatory improvement measures are indirect, small schools are encouraged to work within the network, sharing common academic goals and approaches to build improved outcomes.

Due to the nature of small schools, the current cohort can change quickly. Small schools support the achievement of network targets by sharing and building pedagogical practice with a focus on individual students within the network.

New schools

Mandatory and other improvement measures help school leaders to better understand and describe the current state of school improvement, and to look forwards.

For at least the first 6 months of operation, newly opened schools are able to use an ‘establishment plan’, before they develop their first SIP. This ‘establishment plan’ should use improvement measures relevant to the school’s overall plans for that year with respect to student growth and attainment, using available student data.

The decision to move from the establishment plan to the first Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) is context based and will be negotiated and agreed between the principal and their Director, Educational Leadership.

Improvement measures do not need to be included in the SIP until the school has been in operation for one year, and has established some baseline data, and more importantly, a deep understanding of student and staff learning needs.

CESE (Centre for Educational Statistics and Evaluation) can assist schools in their second year of operation to analyse their student cohort, identify relevant FOEI, and determine potential system-negotiated targets.

The process and support for new schools with school planning is adapted to the school’s unique context, with ongoing guidance and consultation with their Director, Educational Leadership.

The duration of a Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) for new schools is flexibly developed in the first year of establishment to support each context.

Each new school participates in an external validation process within the first 4 years of opening. When the school opens, the year of external validation will be negotiated and agreed between the principal and their Director, Educational Leadership.

Following the year of external validation, the school will reflect and develop a 4 year Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP).

Schools for specific purposes (SSPs)

Schools for specific purposes (SSPs) are some of our most unique and specialised settings in NSW education with professional and highly trained teachers, support staff and committed leaders.

In many SSPs individual student performance and growth is used to guide school directions and set targets and other improvement measures. Evidence for school improvement is based on a range of sources including performance data, teacher professional judgement, professional observation, and student and community feedback. Improvement measures are used to track the impact of the interventions to continually improve the outcomes for students.

All aspects of strategic planning in SSPs, including setting improvement measures, is context driven. Improvement measures will be carefully constructed to focus on measures based on an aggregate of individual student performance and growth. Schools may identify measures of improvement such as wellbeing, engagement, communication and academic attainment. Consistent teacher judgement is imperative for successful planning, implementation and assessment of school improvement.

In preparation for the new planning cycle, your school will work with your Director, Educational Leadership to set appropriate and realistic improvement measures based on school-determined baseline data.

Learn more

Find out more about School Excellence in Action.


  • Teaching and learning


  • Educational accountability
  • High performance
  • Leadership and management
  • Planning
  • Planning, budgeting and forecasting
  • School Excellence Framework
  • Teaching
  • performance

Business Unit:

  • Public Schools
Return to top of page Back to top