Sarah Armitage describes how her school moved from theory to practice.
High trust relationships lie at the heart of a successful school vision and strategy.
Vision and strategy are abstract concepts; it is the people working together who are inspired by them and have the drive to implement them that really matter.
I began working with our current headteacher, Matthew Crawford, in 2011. In Matt’s first term, we held a shared vision workshop. This involved all governors, staff and other key stakeholders discussing and shaping
Big and important questions were asked and answered. These included: “Why are we here?”, “What is our purpose?” and “What does our ideal school look like?” It felt a little uncomfortable, yet it established a key principle for how governors were going to drive the future success of the school.
The vision now sits at the forefront of our strategic plan, which sets out our goals and ambitions for the next three to five years. We’ve continued to grow our governance by refreshing our shared vision with a wide group of stakeholders every year since. Governors have been heavily involved in developing the vision and recognising its importance in fulfilling our strategic role.
We’ve also created a visual map to help keep us on track and each year’s map is proudly displayed in our school hall as a way to engage the school community in what we’re doing.
There is something quite mysterious in the power of a shared school vision. The very act of clarifying your intent and direction helps people contribute to it. This could be as simple as offering expertise and ideas to enrich the curriculum, such as with gardening skills, art, music, chicken-keeping and much more. The visioning session is also good fun and allows for the very important activity of celebrating and recognising success.
Governors are now very comfortable debating long-term strategic options for the school, and then acting on these aims by creating shorter-term goals (which could be researching opportunities, drawing up options or a business case). The needs of children are firmly at the heart of the decision-making and, in order to make good decisions, we prioritise personal development and horizon scanning. For example, governors have attended the Academies Show for the last four years to get to know the major issues facing the education sector.
Most importantly, our approach to having a shared vision has contributed to some brilliant outcomes for children. In 2014, we were rated 149th in the country for progress.
Sharing our story
A key element of NGA’s Growing Governance campaign is telling others about what governors and trustees are doing. This is essential if we are to improve understanding about the work that we do, the challenges we face and the difference we can make as volunteers.
We’ve shared our story across Derbyshire and in my role as a National Leader of Governance and professional facilitator; I’ve supported many schools in bringing their wonderful visions for their schools alive. To come back to my first point, the power of this process is not in the snazzy mission statement or pretty vision picture, it’s in teams of people working creatively, collaboratively and productively together to enact the dreams they have for children’s success in school and beyond.
Sarah Armitage is chair of governors at Richardson Endowed Primary School, Derbyshire