Archive for July, 2012

Implementing a school vision

July 23, 2012

In this 3rd and final blog in the current series on school vision, I turn my attention to implementing the vision.

So the vision is set and you know what you’re aiming for. What’s next? Let’s look at this in 4 parts:

1. Communicating the vision

How clear is it and how easy is it to communicate? A common response to this is to simplify it in the form of a strap line: e.g.

‘Excellence for all and from all’

Where do you display it, as part of your communication strategy? In the school vision survey I carried out last year, the most common place was the school entrance (40%), with the Head’s office second (33%) and in classrooms third (24%). Does this reflect your current practice? Other places included: the website, the staffroom and school headed paper.

Do you stick to displaying your vision in word format (73% of schools from the survey) or in pictorial format too? (22%). Could you get the pupils involved in this process, or even the wider school community?

2. Delivering the vision

A strap line is a useful concise way of stating the vision, but all stakeholders need to know what it means.

What does it actually mean on a daily basis?

Regardless of who is involved in the initial creation of the school vision, it needs to be owned by all stakeholders. This can be achieved by identifying how each group contributes to the overall vision.

I don’t think it’s necessarily about telling stakeholders what their roles are. You can ask them how they think their roles contribute to the overall vision; a useful group task as part of an INSET / staff meeting on this topic. It helps to encourage ownership and accountability. If they can’t see how their roles contribute, perhaps some guidance is needed or their roles need a revamp.

A good vision helps people at all levels make more informed decisions because it is clear and they know their part in it

3. Supporting the vision

A few questions to consider with this part:

  • What practices, if any, need to be different?
  • What role will the SLT have in driving and maintaining it?
  • What new teams need to be created?
  • How will the School Improvement Plan support the vision?

Part of supporting the vision may involve behaviour changes, which come from having different expectations (of pupils, the curriculum, each other …). It’s important that staff are supported in making sure this is a success.

How will you build this into your INSET / staff development strategy?

4. Monitoring the vision

As with anything that is implemented in school, some form of monitoring needs to take place. So who will be involved in monitoring the vision? What format will this take, and how often will it be done?

54% of respondents to the vision survey felt it should be reviewed annually. Do you agree?

Once you’ve decided on frequency and format for monitoring, a final couple of points to consider are:

  • How will the outcomes be shared / communicated?
  • What will your next steps be?

I’d love to hear your thoughts / experiences on revisiting, creating or implementing your school vision. It’s always useful to share good practice!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Creating a school vision

July 16, 2012

In a survey I carried out last year on creating a school vision, I asked the question: “How did your school vision come about?” The main responses were:

  • From the Head, in consultation with all staff (58% respondents)
  • From the Head and the Senior Leadership Team (23%)
  • From the Headteacher (12%)
  • From the Head and Governing Body (7%)

Other respondents, though not many, said they involve the pupils as well. Fewer still mentioned involving parents.

Where does your school fit here? Do these results surprise you?

A vision has to start somewhere, and as the results above support, it’s usually initiated by the Headteacher. The Head needs to be really clear about where their school is going. This can be informed by 3 things:

  • Experience – within the education sector; of school development; of working on a school vision previously; of having high aspirations …
  • Knowledge – of how the school works well; of the children and staff (and their strengths / areas for development); of the catchment area / community links …
  • Imagination – of what it could be like in the future; how it could be better for all concerned with the organisation, particularly the pupils …

In a previous blog, I quoted a Head I’ve worked with who said:

“I want the school to be outstanding, not for Ofsted, but for the children.”

As a school vision it is commendable and simple, and once you have a statement that sums up your vision, like this one – the next step is to be clear exactly what it means. Let’s explore this by posing a few questions:

  • What time scales are attached to this vision…. Is it a 1 year vision, a 2 year, or a 3 year vision?
  • If outstanding is the aim – what is the current status? Does everyone know this?
  • What are the outstanding success criteria for everyone’s role?
  • What will outstanding look, feel and sound like?
  • What resources will be put in place to help ensure this standard is met?

Putting the meat on the bones of the vision statement can take place during well planned INSET days or staff meetings. Some staff like to brainstorm and create web-type diagrams, some create pictorial representations. It’s a good idea to use staff strengths and expertise to maximise this time, and be creative. One school I’ve worked with has used CARES after its name (also beginning with a ‘C’!) to form their strapline … and CARES stands for:

Creative

Aspirational

Respectful

Enthusiastic

Successful

Their INSET time on vision included identifying what each word meant for their school and the pupils. From this came a list of 5 priorities for the next 3 years.

A final point on values

Don’t forget what’s important. The vision needs to be underpinned by a core set of values that are shared by all. Start off by looking at your own values, and listing those that are pertinent to your job. Then decide what the values of the school/organisation are. These 2 sets of values need to be similar, if not the same. If too opposed – there will be problems.

What do you think is the most important element to consider when creating your vision?

Next week’s blog will focus on Implementing the Vision. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic so far, or about your experiences on creating a vision.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Revisiting your school vision this autumn?

July 13, 2012

Thinking of re-connecting with or revising your school vision next term?

    

I realise that it’s a few weeks off as I write this, but the start of a new term is a great time to look again at your school vision.

Here are 3 key reasons why:

  1. It helps to remind staff why they are doing the job (it’s not just for OFSTED!!)
  2. It can give more clarity to everyone’s roles and responsibilities
  3. It helps to give a school its individual identity

Let’s look at these in more detail …

Re 1 – Reminding staff why they are doing the job

Whilst working with some Heads this year who’ve recently been through an Ofsted inspection, they’ve commented that staff are deflated and there’s been an anti-climax after Ofsted have left. There has been an element of “Is that what we’ve been working for? So what’s next?”

I’m not reducing the importance of Ofsted here, but surely the Ofsted process should form part of school life, not totally consume it. Before Ofsted came along (and they weren’t doing their thing when I started my teaching career!) teachers had a purpose for going to work which didn’t involve the Big ‘O’.

One Head I’ve been working with summed up her thoughts on this: “I want the school to be outstanding, not for Ofsted, but for the children.”

How can staff re-connect with the greater purpose?

This can be achieved in part by finding out what each member of staff’s own vision is for their role. Try discussing / exploring this at staff meetings, key stage meetings, INSETs or during 1-1s (e.g. performance management sessions).

Re 2 – Giving greater clarity to roles and responsibilities

Once you’ve identified your school’s vision then useful discussions can take place with staff about how their roles and responsibilities support the vision. (More on this in a forthcoming blog.) Making the link between what staff do on a daily basis and the bigger picture is often missing from professional discussions.

Do you link your vision to your School Improvement Plan?

In a survey I carried out last year on creating a school vision, only 40% of respondents said their school improvement plan reflected the school vision. Slightly more positively – 54% were clear that an effective school vision states how & why it is relevant to all stakeholders, although didn’t state that’s what they currently do.

Re 3 – Giving a school its individual identity

All schools are different, and what makes them so are a combination of factors including:

  • staffing (staff strengths, skills and resources they offer, etc)
  • leadership of the school
  • pupils (including type of catchment area)
  • general school ethos
  • school environment (internal and external)
  • how individual school issues / challenges are dealt with

The school vision should reflect, or at least take account of, all these things and more.

In the vision survey I mentioned earlier, I asked schools to share their vision strap lines. Here are a few:

  • “Your future, your dreams, our challenge”
  • “The highest expectations, inspirational teaching and a therapeutic environment”
  • “Building tomorrow’s future one day at a time”
  • “Excellence for all and from all”

Strap lines, by their nature, tend to be general statements and should summarise the essence or highlights of the vision.

Do you have a favourite from those above? 

What’s your school strap line?

I will continue this theme in next week’s blog, when I’ll look in more detail at creating a school vision, and share some of the things schools I’ve worked with have done. In the meantime, would love to hear your thoughts on the topic so far!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How’s your resilience holding up?

July 2, 2012

During periods of constant change or excessive pressure, what often keeps us going is our resilience.

Resilience = the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, or having a level of toughness.

So how do you top up your resilience levels?

… By celebrating all your ‘wins’ – even the smallest?

… By keeping up with regular exercise to reduce stress levels?

… Or by giving yourself something to look forward to?

A recent publication from the University of Nottingham states that rather than focusing on managing stress, it would be more productive to work on fostering resilience. They suggest that context is important and would account for why some teachers suffer stress as a result of the demands of the job, whilst others don’t.

Whilst coaching a Head Teacher recently, resilience came up in our discussion. She commented that resilience for her was about deflecting unwanted situations, and being able to bounce back when you couldn’t deflect them. Deflecting unwanted situations (particularly potentially stressful ones) can be dealt with using assertive responses. Things you can’t deflect are often things you have no control over.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change …” (Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr)

Here are my Top 3 Tips for Building resilience for things you can’t change …

Build good focus

Focusing on the negative stuff and the things you can’t do anything about is counter-productive. Don’t drain your already depleted energy levels this way. Focus on the things you can do something about. Focus on what you do well, and do these things at every opportunity!

Build optimism

Find a positive perspective from which to view the situation (e.g. I can’t change the new OFSTED framework, but I can use it to help refine and improve elements of my practice). Look for opportunities to create a positive outcome; remind yourself of your strengths and resources to help you do this. Tell any negative thoughts that work their way into your mind that you haven’t got time for them!

Build flexibility

See things you cannot change as a positive challenge, and use flexibility to find a range of options that are potential solutions to the challenge. The more flexible you are, the more in control you will feel.

So how do you build and maintain your resilience?

Images: FreeDigitalPhotos.net