The National Governance Association (NGA) has for a long time been clear that a vision statement should include what the school or trust’s ambitions are for the next three to five years, and that these ambitions should relate to both what pupils will learn, and how they will be prepared for the next stage of their education or for adult life. NGA has also often quoted the stock phrase that it is all too easy to value what you measure and not so easy to measure what you value. However, in practice, making this happen is not as simple as it sounds.
Most schools and trusts publish their vision statement on their websites; nearly all include a statement of their values. Many schools and trusts use their vision as their starting point for determining the strategy they need to adopt to achieve their vision. And some also use their stated values to define their way of working, expressing them in the organisation’s policies and procedures. An example of this would be when a statement is made about valuing creativity, and curriculum policies ensure that the curriculum offer includes a range of arts subjects. Another example would be when inclusion is a value, and behaviour policies are clear how this is supported in the day-to-day running of the school or trust.
With the new Ofsted framework, the time is right for schools and trusts to review how their vision and values can scaffold their strategy. Realising ambitions which extend beyond pupils being just performance statistics, but also learning how to get the most from life’s opportunities (and coping with the next stage of their life) means ensuring that the organisation’s values are more than just nice words, and both define and drive organisational culture. By shifting the focus from simply measuring levels achievement to measuring how those levels of achievement are reached, should also enable schools and trusts to test if their values are being lived, and that the result is a positive working climate which benefits staff, volunteers and parents too.
Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos, and strategic direction is the governing body or trust board’s first core function. It is critical that boards work together with senior leaders on determining values and developing a vision as it is the senior leaders who will use their knowledge of the sector to advise on what is possible and what the limitations and constraints might be. And importantly, they are the ones who will have to deliver the agreed vision and work within the stated values and so must be able to commit to these.
I will be leading a workshop at ASCL Annual Conference which covers these issues, and will seek to move the discussion from the theoretical to the reality. There will be examples to discuss, and the opportunity to share how schools and trusts can make more explicit what it is they value - and how they seek to use their values to define the culture in which they will drive forward their vision and strategy.
Measuring What You Value: Connecting governance and leadership to promote a positive culture in your organisation is at ASCL Annual Conference 2019 on Saturday 16 March at 11.30am.