In your central role as head of your school you need to be clear
in your mind about what factors will most likely result in the
success of your administration. One of the key factors will
be the clarity of your understanding of the various needs and
requirements of the different sections or groups that make up
the school. This clarity will depend on your understanding of
your position in the school community.
The aim of this unit is to assist you, as the head, in the
difficult task of identifying the needs of the school. To
enable you to do this, you first should be able to identify
the needs of the various components which, together, make
up the sum total of the school's needs.
Individual study time: 6 hours
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
explain the meaning of the title of this unit
identify the various sections or groups whose needs
constitute the needs of the school overall
identify the needs of each of these groups and relate
them to the school's overall needs
suggest strategies that you could utilise to identify
the needs of these groups
attempt to work out evaluation strategies that can
be used to check whether the various needs have been adequately
identified and satisfied.
Consider the meaning of the title of this unit 'needs identification'
and briefly explain what you understand by it and why it may
be difficult to do.
In considering the above activity you may have looked up in
a dictionary where various meanings of the root words 'need'
and 'identify' and their derivatives are given. The remarks
made in the introduction to this unit may also have helped.
Thus you should have deduced that 'needs identification'
refers to what you require to enable you to do your work more
But to say this is easier than doing it for various reasons.
Firstly, your own needs as an individual are forever changing
as you grow older and more mature; secondly, the nature of
your job, whether as teacher or head, continues to evolve,
partly because of the results of the development of your own
country, but also because of new inventions and the changing
relationship of the human race to planet earth. Thus to identify
and satisfy both our personal and professional needs is a
The needs of the head and the school
You no doubt noted that there is a lot of common ground between
the head's needs and those of the school. However, it must
be made clear that the head has needs of his or her own, over
and above those that are purely the needs of the school.
(1) List and briefly describe five of your own individual needs
as a school head.
(2) In a second list write down five needs of your school.
(3) What differences do you notice between these two sets of
Among the needs you may have as head of a school are:
adequate academic and professional qualifications
a full knowledge of the methods and techniques of educational
an ability to provide professional leadership to all
sections of the school community
an understanding of the interdependence of the various
sections of the school community
sound knowledge of school finance, including accounting
an ability to understand each part of the school curriculum
and how each part relates to the learning programme as a whole
an ability to plan ahead, and to bring such plans to
an ability to communicate with, motivate and harmonise
the various sections of the school community to work in the
interests of the school
a capacity for sound public relations with those sections
of the public with an interest in the school
a capacity to work effectively and efficiently with,
and through, other people, singly and in groups
a full understanding of both the national goals in
education as well as the mission of the school.
In your consideration of the needs of the school you may
have included the following:
adequate infrastructure and equipment
adequate funding to meet capital and running costs
a caring, helpful and involved community and parent
central government's support, funding and assistance
in line with what other similar schools receive
a committed head to manage the school effectively
a suitably qualified, experienced and devoted staff,
capable of delivering the curriculum
a pupil population that is committed to making full
use of the educational facilities provided, and obtaining
an education that enables them to realise their fullest potential
a sound, acceptable purpose or mission to guide the
school towards worthwhile objectives and targets.
These comments should make it clear that, as the school head,
you need to identify and satisfy both your own needs and those
of the school. Fig 2 helps to illustrate this point.
Fig 2 A school's needs
As the head you will have to identify the school's needs,
your own needs, as well as the needs of all the other sections
and groups involved in the school. How this should be done
should become clearer as you proceed with this unit.
You will need to base your school's mission and objectives
on a sound understanding of national policy statements made
by the central government which affect education at school
level. Apart from such documents as Education Acts, there
may be such statements of intent as:
education for self-reliance
education for development
education for affirmative action (to redress disadvantaged
commitment to policies for providing certain types
of education, such as a polytechnic education.
It is absolutely necessary that you fully understand, after
debate where necessary, and implement national policies in
education as spelt out by your government. Thus you will need
to ensure that your own school mission statement is in line
with central government policy statements. No head should
consider operating against the grain of a government's policies.
Identify and list the main needs in education as spelt out in
your national education policies.
The earlier discussion will have given you some ideas on the
types of needs you may identify in your government's policy
statements. As school head you will need to discuss your list
with your deputy and senior teachers to verify your understanding
of the key needs.
Imagine yourself as a relatively new and inexperienced member
of staff. What would you identify as your six main needs?
The needs of the pupils
Clearly, as school head, you must fully appreciate that you
can only accomplish the educational goals and mission of your
school by working with and through others, especially your
staff. Thus, you must understand your staff's needs both as
individuals and as a group. For practical reasons much of
the time their needs will be looked at from your point of
view, rather than their own. However, from time to time it
is necessary for you to ask them what they see as their needs.
Some of their needs may include:
a clear job description in writing
provision for professional development and growth for
all staff, including temporaries, probationers, senior teachers,
heads of departments, and office, ground and hostel staff
adequate supervision of their teaching
sound deployment of both teaching and non-teaching
a clear statement of the school's mission and objectives,
and agreed targets
adequate support materials and infrastructure
a positive, supportive school climate.
Using one of your classes ( at any level), ask the students,
perhaps working in pairs, to list what they want from their
If the above activity was clearly understood by the pupils,
it should have generated a useful basis for identifying the
Which of the following needs did your pupils identify:
a relaxation of discipline by either the staff or prefects
good exam results, which will enable them to go for
further training or get a job
more funds for co-curricular activities
the removal of some teachers and/or the demotion of
more learning materials and equipment
longer or shorter school holidays?
It may be that the pupils' answers may be incomplete, or
perhaps focus too much on their immediate needs, rather than
on larger, longer-term needs. Perhaps, then, you could add
to the items they have identified.
The needs of the school authority
In most countries schools may be established, owned and run
by individuals, local communities, private companies, parastatal
organisations, religious bodies, or local or central governments.
Whatever or whoever such an authority is, each one had a purpose
when their school was founded. As a school head you must understand
and identify with the needs of the authority which established
and owns your school.
The needs of the authority which owns your school may be very
specific to it. Identify up to three needs of the authority
of your school.
The needs of the community and parents
The majority of owners of schools have the intention of providing
educational opportunities for more children. They will wish
their schools to produce well-qualified and responsible graduates
who achieve, according to their capacities, in their chosen
field and in society at large, and thus bring credit and benefits
to the owner. Each authority may have more specific needs.
Thus companies and parastatals seek to provide 'fringe benefits'
which help to keep their workforce motivated. Religious bodies
are clearly concerned with the moral and spiritual qualities
of the pupils and how these feed back to the community as
Next time you organise a meeting of the Parent-Teacher Association,
or have a meeting with leading community members, ask them to
identify for you some of the things which they seek or need
from the school of which you are the head. Don't make it too
difficult by asking them to list everything; just ask them for,
say, six ideas.
There are likely to be differences in the types of response
you get from both parents and communities according to their
own levels of education. Where these are relatively low, where,
maybe, a significant proportion of the parents are illiterate,
the parents may be surprised to be asked such a question.
They may feel as though this is something the school head
should know, indeed be one reason why he or she was employed.
Their lack of experience in articulating their needs should
not be used by you as an excuse for not pursuing this question
More literate parents and communities are likely to be more
demanding, as, of course, is their right. By involving parents
and community members more, the school staff and pupils will
be made much more aware of the fact that they are accountable
for the content and the processes of the curriculum, and for
the standards of achievement reached by the pupils.
Strategies for identifying needs
Explain what you understand by the meaning of the word 'strategies'.
The meaning of 'strategy' hinges on plans or approaches towards
accomplishing desired goals. There is the implication here
that the school mission and objectives are not easy to accomplish
because many alternative paths are available, each of which
requires careful consideration before a choice is made.
The discussion on needs identification so far has concentrated
on identifying what the needs are likely to be rather than
on the strategies required to be able to find out what these
Strategies for the head and the school
Summarise five main strategies that you might use to enable
you as the head to identify your own needs and those of your
school. (You may find it helpful to go over the needs you identified
in the section 'The needs of the head and the school'.)
Which of the following strategies did you come up with?
1 Study management, organisational, behavioural and educational
Strategies for the nation
2 Attend staff development courses, seminars and workshops
for heads in particular, and managers in general.
3 Through informal discussion, draw from the professional
experience and advice of your fellow heads.
4 Join and participate fully in professional associations,
unions or organisations for heads (and managers).
5 Visit an industrial or commercial organisation to learn
about how they set about identifying needs.
6 Analyse the responses given by individual teachers during
their annual appraisal or evaluation interviews.
7 Utilise inputs from your staff obtained during staff meetings,
and informal discussions with individuals or groups.
8 Note the needs identified by parents during Parent-Teacher
Association meetings, as well as those obtained in informal
discussions with individuals or groups of parents.
9 Draw from, and directly request, inputs from your deputy,
senior teachers, heads of departments, and other promoted
10 Your pupils can contribute through channelling information
through the prefects and directly during contact lessons with
form teachers and the head.
11 Study current educational and professional journals and
magazines to gather ideas about your needs.
12 Obtain documents on national policy and statements by the
school authority on its mission and current targets.
What strategies might you use to identify the national needs
in education? (First, re-read 'National needs' above and your
responses to Activity 3.3.)
You may have come up with the following strategies:
the thorough study and understanding of the Education
Acts, policy statements, and central government's position
papers on education - it is likely that these will also be
described and debated fully in the press and the broadcasting
wherever and whenever possible, direct consultation
with national policy makers and senior staff in your ministry.
Having identified the needs at national level you will need
to blend these into the mission statement, objectives and
targets of your school.
Strategies for the staff
What strategies might you use to identify the needs of your
staff? (First, re-read 'Staff needs' above and your responses
to Activity 3.4.)
Of particular importance in this regard is the crucial role
of the staff in the delivery of the curriculum. For them to
perform this function effectively they, in turn, need your
professional guidance. You can only give meaningful support
in this regard if you first establish strategies to identify,
as far as possible, the needs of each and every one of your
teachers. In particular both you and your staff will wish
to identify the performance gaps of each of them.
The strategies you may have identified include:
1 You appraise each teacher, through a formal cycle of contact
once a year, to establish their strengths and weaknesses,
likes and dislikes. Most countries have an appraisal (or evaluation)
system which is applied to all civil servants. Such systems
must, of course, be especially adapted for use with teachers.
A fuller discussion about appraisal procedures is covered
in Unit 4 of Module
3, Personnel Management.
2 You supervise all your staff every day, as well as meeting
with them on both formal and informal occasions.
3 You study the subject evaluation reports compiled by inspectors.
4 You require your staff to complete carefully designed questionnaires
that identify staff, pupil and school needs.
5 You check schemes of work, lesson plan books, and other
school records at regular intervals. The pupils' exercise
books should be regularly monitored in every subject and at
Once you have established the needs of individual teachers
and groups, or categories of teachers or departments, then
your duty becomes one of finding ways of closing the performance
gaps. These might include:
purposeful programmes of school-based and school-managed
staff meetings which are centred on professional topics
closer positive supervision of those members of staff
whose performance gaps require it
more direct assistance by you, the head, to individual
teachers and groups who require any assistance: you should
also utilise those of your staff whose good performance is
such that they may give assistance to their colleagues, since
peer support amongst teachers is always to be encouraged.
Strategies for the pupils
We have already suggested in Activity 3.5 that you might be
able to identify the needs of the pupils by asking them directly.
What other strategies might be used?
Strategies for the school authority
Which of the following did you suggest?
1 As the head you should involve yourself in all teaching/learning
programmes - in and out of the classroom - to enable you to
gain insights into the needs of your pupils on a first-hand
2 Use your contact periods with various classes to learn about
3 Use the prefect and monitor systems to channel information
about pupils' needs to both yourself as the head and to your
4 Invite your staff individually and in groups to discuss
and report on pupils' needs to you regularly.
5 Utilise a suggestions/needs box to collect information,
confidentially, from the pupils.
6 Undertake audits and physical checks on all school supplies:
this may indicate areas of deficiency.
7 You and your staff - particularly your senior staff - should
regularly audit and check the curriculum for relevance and
balance, and for the effectiveness of delivery.
What strategies might you use to identify the needs of your
school authority? (First, re-read 'The needs of the school authority'
and your answers to Activity 3.6.)
Strategies for the community and parents
Appropriate strategies might include:
holding regular meetings and consultations with the
school authority to ensure that you fully identify with their
needs for the school
involving yourself in formal and informal get-togethers
with representatives of the authority
requesting information directly from the authority
involving the more articulate of the authority's representatives
to directly identify their needs to the staff and pupils.
We have already suggested in Activity 3.7 that you might be
able to identify the needs of the community and of parents by
asking them directly. What other strategies might be used?
Appropriate strategies might include:
1 You could seek to develop and maintain sound communication
and good public relations with both the community and more
especially the parents. This will assist you in identifying
their needs and expectations for the school.
2 You could involve parents more directly in relevant school
programmes, for example, special school functions, sporting
competitions, etc. Such involvement should enable a less formal
relationship to develop.
3 Parent-Teacher meetings involving representatives of the
community should be used to identify needs.
4 Pay close attention to school-related information and ideas
in the local and national press and other media, for example,
letters to the editor and editorials, as well as anonymous
letters or telephone calls received in the school.
The purpose of this unit has been to help you recognise the
importance of finding out from others what they want from
your school. Different people need different things, and the
nature and balance of these will vary with time. Knowing how
to find out what people want is one key to enable you, as
the school head, to provide effective leadership.