1 The importance of having a clear vision for your school

The purpose of these School Leadership units is to help you to become a more effective leader in your school. Four behaviours that characterise an effective school leader (Rutherford, 1985) are to:

  • have clear, informed visions of what they want their schools to become; visions that focus on students and their needs
  • translate these visions into goals for their schools and expectations for their teachers, students and administrators
  • not stand back and wait for things to happen, but continuously monitor progress
  • intervene, when necessary,in a supportive or corrective manner.

So developing a vision for your school is an important part of being an effective school leader. In a report that examined a number of educational systems across the world to see what factors led to improvement, it was found that ‘almost all school leaders say that setting vision and direction’ are among ‘the biggest contributors to their success’ (McKinsey & Co., 2010).

A ‘vision’ is a clear statement of what the school is trying to achieve so that all stakeholders – teachers, students, their families and community members – are working together. It is about looking forward and seeking to motivate and unify everyone to achieve the very best for the students. The vision needs to capture the aims of a school in its particular context, and guide and inform the preparation of a school development plan.

A vision is important for schools (West-Burnham, 2010) because it:

  • provides the focus for all aspects of organisational life
  • informs planning and the development of policies
  • clarifies and prioritises the work of individuals
  • helps to articulate shared beliefs and develop a common language,thereby securing alignment and effective communication
  • characterises the organisation to the rest of the world.

The vision is much more than a few words of vague intention; it embodies the values of the community and is the foundation for actions that will lead to school improvement.

Pause for thought

  • Does your school have a vision statement? If so, how was it formed? Who was involved?
  • If your school has a vision statement, what values does the statement embody?
  • If you don’t yet have a vision statement, what values do you think are important?

What school leaders will learn in this unit

2 What is a vision statement?