4 Involving stakeholders in building a vision for your school
In most cases, the development of the school vison will be led by the school leader. This is not always the case: a new school leader may come to a school and find that the community has a clear vision for the school, based on their understanding of the school and community over time. It is important that the vision unites stakeholders around the school’s journey of improvement. A school where community members and the school leader (the paid professional) are in disagreement will be an unhappy place where much energy is wasted rather than focusing on the key purpose of improving learning for the students.
All local communities are different. The key stakeholders around the school and its community will include:
- the teachers
- the students
- the parents and families of the students
- community leaders, including local businesses.
If stakeholders are to support the school’s development, they need to be involved in understanding and developing the school’s vision. Among the stakeholders will be people with varying degrees of education and understanding of what is required of modern schools. It is the responsibility of the school leader to inform and support their development. This may be challenging, especially if the vision involves improvement that is different from what has been historically provided. In one context, it may be right for the school leader to be quite directive and this may be appreciated by the school community; in a different context, such an approach may be resented and lead to problems.
Case Study 3: Mr Singh continues his work
Mr Singh continued to engage teachers, the SMC and community leaders in conversations about the school. He instinctively began by telling them about some of the things he had found that made him proud, and only then did he identify something that he was certain everyone knew needed to improve. He encouraged a similar approach from everyone. This was an important first step in the visioning process.
Mr Singh also continued to spend time walking around school and talking to students and staff, and to parents when they came to school. This information was valuable and he added this to the information he had already gathered. Here are some of his observations:
- Some teaching is strong. There are two very talented female teachers who are respected by staff and students.
- There are other teachers whose practice is poor, some of whom also are frequently absent.
- Enrolment and attendance of female students in the local middle school is very high. In the upper secondary school the enrolment figure drops to only 25% of the school roll.
- Female students are consistently the highest performing in state examinations.
- The toilets are poorly maintained and unhygienic. There is only one toilet for female students and this is located in the male students’ block.
- Some of the new teachers who joined this year are popular, but struggle with teaching and behaviour.
- Parents and the local community are very supportive.
Mr Singh was struck by what the school lost through the drop-out of female students before upper secondary, and the impact this had on the life chances of girls and young women from the local community. It had been the stench from the toilets that had finally got him thinking about the plight of the female students, something parents and the local community representatives had mentioned. His regular visits to lessons alerted him to the potential of role models for students and staff being demonstrated by the stronger female teachers.
He was convinced that the school’s vision needed to be about inclusion for all students, giving them access to the school and to high-quality teaching.
A few weeks after the training course, Mr Singh held a joint meeting of the staff (six teachers) and the SMC (four parents, two community leaders and local businessman). By this time everyone had heard about his course and had seen him around the school, talking about what they did well and what needed changing. Mr Singh divided the meeting into groups of four or five and asked each group to write down three ‘values’ – principles that they felt should underpin the work of the school. They gathered up all the suggestions and found there was considerable overlap. Mr Singh agreed to write up their ideas ready for the next meeting.
A week later, they had another meeting. This time, each group started from the set of agreed principles and devised a vision statement. After much discussion, they came up with: ‘This is a school in which all children are valued and cared for, and have the opportunity to fulfil their positive potential.’
Notice how key stakeholders worked together in order to produce a vision statement. But in the time between his course and the two meetings, Mr Singh had spoken to a great number of different people, including parents and students. He had listened to their views and encouraged them to think about the core purpose of the school. In this way, the statement was a true reflection of the whole community.
Activity 3: Devising a vision statement in your school
In this activity you are going to make a plan that will enable you create a vision statement for your school.
- Spend two weeks doing as Mr Singh did, gathering information about your school and engaging teachers, parents, student and community leaders in conversations about what they think the school does well and what needs to improve. (The unit Perspective on leadership: leading the school’s self-review might give you some ideas.)
- In your Learning Diary, plan two joint meetings for the SMC and your teachers in order to identify your core values and create a vision statement.