Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Use a Team-Centred Approach to Create a School's Vision

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Use a Team-Centred Approach to Create a School's Vision

Article excerpt

Use a 'historygram' team approach to creating a vision for your school

Developing the vision and values of a school is an essential task for any headteacher, but it is also one fraught with difficulties. Among the toughest challenges is how to get staff heavily involved to the extent that they take ownership of the vision and values and therefore buy into and uphold them.

Some leaders start by presenting their own vision and hoping that everyone agrees, but you may struggle for that to be seen as inclusive. And a half-hour carousel session during a Friday afternoon staff meeting may well be viewed as a token gesture.

Admittedly, getting up to 100 or more disparate souls to agree on what it means to be a part of a school takes thought and effort in the planning. There are no shortcuts: it needs to be a process that is inclusive of all staff - newcomers and old-timers, support assistants and teachers, office staff and caretakers.

A bridge from the past

I found a solution in Candi B McKay's book You Don't Have to be Bad to Get Better and her use of the "historygram" to "build a bridge from the past to the future".

Essentially, you allow time for staff to reflect on the past and to integrate how the collective values of the whole school have been built up. This is a powerful way of preparing them to redefine their vision for a better future.

We set aside a September inset day as the best time to look at our school values. The crucial bit (after bacon rolls) was to engage teachers by acknowledging and honouring, as McKay puts it, "the contributions and experiences of the past". This was done through a simple and effective exercise in which we examined our shared experiences by looking inwards within the school and looking outwards to the local community, wider society and national and international initiatives.

Staff were divided into groups according to how long they had been in the school. To save time this can be done beforehand or - for increased enjoyment, argument and hilarity - by getting everybody to line up in the order in which they joined the school.

Groups can then be formed according to eras or a certain span of years - being a medium-sized school, we ended up with six groups of up to 10 staff stretching back over almost 30 years. The groups sat at tables with big sheets of paper and lots of coloured pens and were set the task of historical reminiscing.

What themes you use in your discussions will depend on what you want to achieve, but we stayed reasonably close to McKay's guidelines and the groups considered:

major educational initiatives during their time in school;

events that were taking place in the local community;

events happening in the wider world;

values that were developed that are still relevant and should be taken forward. …

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