Is your school a victim of the ‘Donut Effect’?


The term Donut Effect was conceived by American urban planners to describe the impact of suburbanisation on north american cities. Essentially, as cities grew outwards with newer, more wealthy suburbs, the inner cities were left behind to rot and decay, hence becoming the hole in the donut.

Schools too can become a victim of a similar donut effect with the outside of the donut representing new initiatives / programs and the hole in the donut representing the decline of core aspects of the school at their expense. Too many initiatives on the table in a school may not help it grow at all and the principles of teaching and learning that lie at its heart may become compromised. In a similar vein, some teachers may not be able to keep pace with change and become frustrated with what is happening, particularly if funding is taking away from key learning areas to support new initiatives.

To avoid the impacts of urban decay as a result of urban expansion and suburbanisation, city planners introduced urban consolidation projects alongside urban renewal of the inner city through redevelopment and gentrification. In the same way, schools must ensure that consolidation of its key strengths are guaranteed and repair, even overhaul, given to any weaknesses, particularly if they are marked as a distinguishing feature of the school upon which the school hangs its hat.

Of course, this post is not about preserving a school’s status quo, new initiatives must take place to both keep the school relevant but, most importantly, to better support student and staff learning. More in this case does not necessarily mean better. What matters most is that new projects and programs are carefully thought out and introduced and implemented in a measured way ensuring that there is a rich, jam filling in the donut as opposed to a hole that breeds cynicism and frustration.

photo credit: Txema Aguilar via photopin cc

Published by Richard Bruford

Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology. With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools. Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin. In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)

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