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What Is Your School’s Unique Mission?

Every school has at least one of these: a vision statement, a mission statement, a values statement.

You will find them displayed proudly on each school's website, on their prospectus, on display boards around the school, and sometimes on the school logo.

Do you know your school's vision, mission, or value statement? Do the teachers, support staff, pupils and parents know?

This isn’t to say, can you recite the statements? That’s easy enough to do. But what I really mean is, do you truly understand what the statements represent? Do these statements mean something to you? Do they resonate with your own beliefs, your own values and your own purpose? Can you pinpoint in your day-to-day work, how these statements influence the way you do things? Whether you are a teacher, support staff, senior leader, or even a pupil at the school. Can you find manifestations of these statements in action around your school? Are they truly delivered in the day-to-day provision? When you measure how well your school is doing, do you also measure how well these statements are fulfilled?

I’m just going to let those ten questions sink in.

Vision, Mission, Values, Defined

Although these statements are used interchangeably, there are clear differences between vision, mission, and values statements.

The vision statement is the big dream. Blue sky thinking. It’s what the school aspires to achieve, describing where you want to be as a school, in the future. In short, it defines the educational ideal you are striving to build as a school. This vision is the reason why prospective proprietors apply to the DFE to open an independent school in the first place. A vision statement is the ‘why’ of it all. It articulates the motivation behind the existence of the school.

Next up, is the values statement. Playing an integral role in achieving your vision for the school, your values statement describes the school’s shared beliefs about the way things should be done at the school. It defines what is important to you as a school. What is at the heart of the school. And what behaviours and characteristics the school promotes and holds dear. These values manifest as the culture of the school.

Now, how about that mission statement? As denoted by the word ‘mission’, it outlines what you are going to do and how you're going to it. Your mission statement describes the practical steps you are going to take and the path you will follow towards achieving the ‘big vision’. Your mission is what makes you different from others. It is specific to your school and your vision.

So, what is your school’s unique mission?

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. The focus of this article is the mission. Understanding your school’s unique mission, and making it clear to all stakeholders, is fundamental to driving school improvement and achieving your collective vision.

Throughout my various training workshops and school improvement visits, I have spoken to numerous school leaders about their schools’ mission statements.

These statements are not always clear. Nor are they always unique. Some of them are all-encompassing, describing everything that education should be, and not the specific mission of the school. Not the specific focus. Not the unique strategy that the school is going to follow to achieve its vision.

Conversely, some are brilliantly clear and unique, even quirky.

For example, a school I work with adopted a quote by Ignacio Estrada to form their mission statement:

“If they can’t learn the way we teach, then we have to teach the way they learn.”

And they do it too.

This school serves pupils with complex needs, some who are non-verbal, and boy do they live their mission statement!

They offer truly individualised learning. Using various resources and methods they reach pupils where they are and engage them in education according to how they learn, across multiple locations that enhance their learning experience.

This is why it’s important to have a clear mission statement. You have to deliver on it. You have to live it.

If your mission statement is unclear, how can you measure the work you do to fulfil it?

So, what is your school’s unique mission?

Is it clear? Is it unique? Because if it’s not, you can change it. You can conduct a thorough assessment on what your school's focus is and come up with a new mission statement.

Communicating Your Mission

Now, let's say your school has a clear mission statement. You know it. Your students know it. Their parents know it. How is it communicated to those who are new to your community?

Try asking yourself the following questions:

  • When pupils join the school and they go through the induction process, do you talk to them about your mission statement so they know what the school aims to do for them?

  • Do they know what the school is trying to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it?

  • What about parents? Apart from reading your mission statement from the website or the prospectus, do you tell them what this translates to in your day-to-day provision?

  • Is it clear how your mission will shape their child's experience at school?

  • When new staff members join, you might tell them what the mission statement is, but do you explain to them how this is supposed to manifest in their job role?

  • As a matter of fact, does the job description and person specification include wording, which describes this mission statement making it clear how teachers are going to play their part in achieving the mission?

In reality, here’s the crux of the matter.

As school leaders, when you compile your monitoring schedules or when you coordinate self-evaluation and improvement planning, you measure what Ofsted and the DfE are interested in. Because that prepares you for inspection. But do you also measure how your mission statement is delivered?

In fact, does your mission statement even have clear deliverables that you can measure?

If not, all your mission statement becomes is just a bunch of meaningless words on a website, on a prospectus, or on some school walls. If it means nothing in the day-to-day of the school, you might as well not have it.

A Mission to Drive Improvement

So, why the focus on a school's mission statement?

Everything I do is about school improvement and supporting school leaders; helping them to be consistently better at what they do. Having common values and an overarching strategy that drives the school is an important baseline for building school improvement systems that deliver long-term results.

Remember: a mission drives everyone. People who are driven by a mission are open to improvement.

So, what is your school’s unique mission?

Is it clear?

Is it deliverable?

Is it measurable?

Is it inducted into all your stakeholders?

Or, is it in need of some attention?

My mission is to help drive improvement in non-association independent schools, just like yours. Let’s make your mission a success, together.

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