Keeping quality in check

Maybe you are fortunate to be in such a place. If a meeting is scheduled to start at 2pm, it starts precisely on time. If a document is to be ready for collection on Friday afternoon before the office closes, it is available at the agreed-on time. Usually it is a pleasure to work in such a well-organised institution.

A school is very different to the flight deck of a plane. Yet the personnel in both have similar duties. They use their professional skills in service to the people entrusted to their care. To be successful, both educators and pilots need to be organised. An hour before take-off, for example, pilots go through a long checklist. They make sure that everything is in working order. Corrective action can be taken before the plane takes off. A quality airline strives to ensure that its planes are safe and punctual.

The typical school has many different activities happening during the day and on some evenings. A quality school has checklists to ensure that activities proceed safely and smoothly. Punctuality is important. If checklists are comprehensive and carried out properly, the school functions superbly. Some checklists follow a particular order: do this first ... then that ... followed by ... and so on.

Examples of checklists that help to ensure an excellently managed school are:

  • Enrolment procedure for a new pupil;

  • Selection process for badge or scroll awards, councillors, monitors or prefects;

  • Organisation of a pupils’ farewell function, prize-giving or sports day;

  • Sequence list of what needs to be done before an annual general meeting;

  • Process to be followed when ordering new textbooks;

  • Disciplinary procedure when a pupil defies school rules;

  • Dealing with classroom and staff room bullying; and

  • Procedure for organising day trips and educational tours.


Huge advantages await every institution that uses checklists.


The five obvious ones are:

A checklist allocates tasks to be done by whom and by when. The most suitable people are chosen, thereby reducing the amount of time wasted. Also, once a checklist has been compiled, a routine has been set for the future. So, for example, when the checklist has been drawn up for a prize-giving event in one year, it can be used with minor alterations in future years.

When drawing up a checklist, the team can make sure that the financial and human resources are spent sensibly and that things are not left to chance. Last-minute changes or planning often involve spending extra money and a demand on people’s time.

Reduction in stress levels:
When everyone knows what to do and when, a routine is in place. Stress levels drop. Higher levels of stress occur when there are sudden last-minute changes because someone or something has been forgotten.

Improvement in morale:
We get a sense of personal satisfaction when we work in a place that is efficient and organised. Our work tempo improves and we are usually pleased to have our name linked to such a well-run place.

Positive image of the institution:
There are 28 000 schools, 81 district offices, nine provincial offices and one head office in South African education. Each one has a unique reputation. Some are a pleasure to interact with; others are a pain to be endured. Much of the reputation of these places rests on how they are managed. Quality organisations are efficient and adhere to their in-house checklists.

Richard Hayward is a former principal of two public schools. He facilitates workshops and edits Quality ­Education News, an online newsletter. Website: or

How to draw up a checklist

Get those directly responsible for an activity to draw up the checklist together. As a team they can spot possible hiccups.

  • Put the checklist in writing and make it readily available.

  • Give simple and clear instructions.

  • Follow a logical sequence where appropriate with date and time deadlines.

  • Review and revise the checklist from time to time. A quality organisation is in a state of continuous improvement.

Paul Haigh, director of the Hallam Teaching School Alliance, gives a caution about checklists, “... what we often find is that the problems come when staff don’t follow the procedure.

“Consistency is the key.” When a checklist is agreed on, everyone should abide by it.

Quality does not simply happen. It is the end result of much thought, sound plans and hard work. By using checklists, you will be able to help in getting your classroom or institution a huge “yes” tick for quality management.



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