John Pearce Co-Creator of iAbacus, explains how this simple tool:


  • pinpoints the issues in your school and then helps you plan what needs to be done
  • encourages colleagues to own and evaluate their own work,
  • provides self-evaluations you can trust, based on criteria and proper analysis
  • empowers sustainable progress through collaboration
  • produces powerful and impactful reports
  • can be up and working for you in 5 minutes

but above all:

  • strengthens your transformational leadership
Do  you think more like a leader than a manager?  Do you have a positive idea where your school is heading?  Are you and, most importantly, are your colleagues confident about what is being done to maintain and sustain improvement? I bet you wish you’d answered, “Yes, Yes, Yes!” If you did,  there is a strong chance that you are a Transformational Leader.    Either way, we designed The iAbacus Model and process to help you create and sustain your Transformational Leadership.


What is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational leaders transform organisations by developing people and identifying powerful systems and procedures to do good.   They inspire colleagues by describing a clear vision, together with the practical plans that make it a reality.  They best understand how to to build the organisation’s capacity for growth by motivating, maximising the potential and harnessing the commitment of all in the organisation. Alongside similar prefixes, “Distributed, Shared and Flat”, Transformational Leadership is a proven approach to sustainable improvement because it ensures improvement lasts and is self-generating.  

How does iAbacus support and develop my Transformational Leadership?

For those not yet familiar with the iAbacus process it might be a good idea to watch a short video of the iAbacus process in action  here  and, or read the iAbacus process described  here – I want to stress the phrase, Unusually and deliberately, iAbacus combines the emotional intelligence required in effective self-evaluation, coaching and mentoring with the rigours of criterion referenced inspection and review”.

The iAbacus Model

model2 You will notice that the start of the iAbacus process is its unique feature.  It respects and credits the your, the user’s, perspective as the most valid starting point.   It does this by first by requiring you to:

  • make a judgement by sliding a bead to indicate,  “Where I am now” on a scale of performance measures. This pinpoints your priorities for development.

This harnesses your professional nous, practical intelligence and considered view.  In doing so iAbacus is accepting, even bestowing, ownership for current and future performance in the hands of the professional in situ – you.  The next steps in the process follow logically as you, perhaps alongside and eventually in collaboration with colleagues, are coached through detailed work on your priorities:

  • a review of criteria. This double-checks and reviews your initial judgement by asking you to align it with established criteria for the area of work

The next step focuses on

  • providing key evidence to justify your judgement.  This comprises a commentary using selected documents, data, spreadsheets, audio/video files and hyperlinks.

For many years, in English schools, these first three stages comprised a required “Self-Evaluation Form” (SEF) and many came to see this as separate to their School Development Plan (SDP).  The feature of iAbacus, which makes it classic Transformational Leadership is the seamless way Self-Evaluation leads directly into Action Planning.   The iAbacus, links the SEF & SDP.  So, the next stages are:

  • analysing factors that helped and hindered progress and might help and hinder improvement in the future.  Prioritising those with most potential to make a positive difference leads to
  • planning and taking actions, the final stage.   Prompted by a detailed planning format the iAbacus process harnesses the helping and hindering forces, in order for the individual, team, or school to move closer to higher levels of performance.

These five simple steps complete the first cycle of school improvement and so, over time, you return to the first stage to make updated judgements about improvement.  The iAbacus faithfully, and automatically, records these both visually and evidentially,  tracking and demonstrating the effect of your leadership over time.  It can also generate reports detailing a range of this information. And what about the Transformational Leadership of my Middle Leaders and staff? Any description of Transformational Leadership must include attention to staff knowing, understanding and being able to carry out their role effectively.  “Staff Capacity” is a crucial driver of sustainable improvement.  So, how does iAbacus empower this?   First, merely by deploying iAbacus you are ensuring that all colleagues, especially new colleagues, are coached into a common language, common purpose and common approach to school improvement.  Everytime you share your own work and use The iAbacus process or disseminate the outcomes  (Reports, Printouts, Plans, Surveys etc) you are reinforcing one deceptively, simple model and process. Second, and uniquely, each Abacus Template and there are over 50 in the iAbacus software, is pre-populated with detailed success criteria. You can rely on the fact that all established criteria are updated within the system whenever required.  This is a huge piece of work and one less worry for you. I cannot stress enough the power of giving you and colleagues immediate access to precise measures related to the area of focus at the very point you need it.  Colleagues are reminded, or informed, about measures of  their success.  Criterion are check-points for the judgements colleagues make,  prompts for the evidence they will choose and, in the planning stage, key indicators of success.   The higher criterion are, in effect, vision statements.   Critically, for the Transformational Leader, who always wants more than standard, handed down, specifications, our software allows editing and modification of the criteria to suit local circumstances. Third and significantly, for Transformational Leaders, a key function in the iAbacus process is:

  • collaboration and dissemination.  This turbo-charges the community of practice within and across schools by making it easy to disseminate and discuss improvement measures.  One of the powers of the “anywhere, anytime, any-device” on-line  iAbacus is how reports, evidence and ideas can be sent across the school, across the world even, on touching “Send”.   Users can share, compare and edit their abacuses and reports using the unique collaboration feature.

So, there we have it.  Transformational Leadership and The iAbacus process have much in common.  They feed off each other.  Both are distinguished by key concepts recognisable in the modern literature of school improvement. Triptychs that leaders lustfor are built into iAbacus :  “success criteria, vision, objectivesinspiration, commitment, motivationcollaboration, sharing, involvement and, of course, confident, enhanced, performance”