How Ysgol Gwynedd became a LEAN school.

Context and background

Ysgol Gwynedd is a County Primary School in Flintshire. There are 516 learners on roll between 3 and 11 years of age.

Around 28 per cent of learners are eligible for free school meals, which is above the Welsh average of 19 per cent. The school identifies around 27 per cent of learners as having additional learning needs, which is above the national average of 21 per cent.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

A LEAN organisation streamlines its key processes to remove unnecessary waste to increase productivity. A two-day LEAN course was designed to be delivered by Toyota members, with the first day in the engine plant and the second day in Ysgol Gwynedd. The aim was to demonstrate and allow links to be made between the processes in manufacturing and those of a LEAN school. A course was launched called ‘LEAN Principles in Education’. A group of 15 forward-looking and innovative headteachers attended. This group were highly enthused by what they learned across the two days, especially having had the opportunity to see the impact these principles had on Ysgol Gwynedd. The feedback was excellent and experienced headteachers have since been heard to say that ‘this was the best course they had ever been on’, and that it had made them completely rethink the way they manage and lead their schools. The course gave them practical ideas and strategies to reduce workload while adding greater value.

Following on from the course the headteacher of Ysgol Gywnedd and members of Toyota visited and supported several schools to understand the impact of the training. Schools were also ‘buddied up’ from the outset to support each other. A six-month review with headteachers to share what progress they had made was part of the course. Toyota members were always amazed by the vast amount that had been achieved by schools in a short time. Some examples were significant in either the amount of time saved or the improvement in educational outcomes that had been gained by this approach.

Since the initial course, five further cohorts of school leaders have completed the course over the last five years.

Ysgol Gwynedd has become a LEAN school. Over the years most staff have attended a Toyota course and they have learned something new each time. The headteacher recently attended a week-long residency at Toyota working alongside a global car-making company and one of the UK’s largest retailers. With this training, the headteacher has agreed to coach all newly qualified headteachers in the region and those undertaking the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH). Welsh Government are working with the OECD to develop all schools in Wales as learning organisations. Much of the thinking around this has come from proven LEAN principles and stands Ysgol Gwynedd in good stead for the future implementation of Successful Futures (Welsh Government, 2015).

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

Ysgol Gwynedd is able to identify hundreds if not thousands of improvements made as a consequence of LEAN. This year the school has been assessed by Investors in People for their Health and Wellbeing Award and has received Platinum Accreditation, rarely achieved by organisations across the world. The report said:

‘Everyone spoken with at Ysgol Gwynedd understands the organisation’s values and associated behaviours. People are also clear that the values underpin achievement of the strategic objectives, namely pupil well-being and pupil outcomes.’

The school believes strongly in collaboration rather than competition. Although elements of competition are healthy in driving up standards the benefits gained by one school should be shared widely to impact as many learners as possible. This creates a win-win situation where schools learn from each other. Ysgol Gwynedd gives freely of time, knowledge and skill to anyone who needs or asks for it.