2019 - 2020: A New School Year

Tuesday 20 August 2019

A new school year is about to begin in the northern hemisphere. What needs to happen from Day 1?

The beginning of a new school year is a good opportunity to remind all the school community what your big idea(s) are, not least because you will have new staff, pupils and parents joining the school who need to be inducted into your story.

I am not a great jigsaw maker but when I used to make them I needed to look at the jigsaw box cover to get me started. It helped to have the big picture laid out before I started to sort the pieces into corners and colours. Articulating the big picture is important for leading any organisation, schools being no exception.

In this blog we explore three key questions:

  • Who are we?
  • Where are we going?
  • How do we do things?

MISSION: who are we?

Can you remember your mission statement, or is it so long that you have to look it up? I am surprised when leading school leaders workshops (IB Administrators, IB Leadership Pathway) how many heads of school cannot remember their school mission statement. It is often too long and slides into a list of aims and objectives. If it is too long for the Head of School it is unlikely that many staff, students or parents can remember it. Consider the short mission statements of some well-known companies:

  • Facebook: Connecting friends and families

  • Google:  To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful

  • Ryanair: to offer the lowest fares possible on all routes

What are the key words in your mission statement? Make each word count.

Why not hand the re-crafting of the mission statement over to staff and pupils to see if they can make it as succinct and meaningful as possible? You could use the following activities to do this: Six word memoir, Elevator Pitch, Cover Story or Headlines.

Tips on writing good mission statements and an example from a school can be found at How to write a mission statement.

VISION: where are you going?

Is your vision clear to all? Where is your vision statement to be found – posted on the walls of the school or hidden in a strategic plan or staff handbook?

A clear compelling vision is important to corporately catch the imagination and passion of all.  It helps set the agenda for the year, creating priorities on what you will and will not focus on. Furthermore, a compelling vision instils enthusiasm in the fact that you are making a difference to peoples’ lives.

Tips on writing good vision statements can be found at How to write a vision statement.

CULTURE: how do we do things?

One way of defining culture is that ‘it’s the way we do things around here’. But how do you do things?

What about writing your own 'Culture Book', which can be used for inducting new staff and students into the school community. See School Culture where an example is provided.

One way of defining this is to create an Essential Agreement. You could consider modelling this around the IB Learner Profile.

One way organisations articulate their culture is through the use of mantras – those oft-repeated phrases which together articulate the way we do things around here. What mantras do you have? What mantras do you think students, staff and parents hear? Are they the same?


Here are some of my favourite quotes about education, which reflect my philosophy of leading, learning and teaching. Which quotes reflect your philosophy?

Is this a good way of starting the year with your staff – collecting a wall of favourite quotes? An example can be found on the page What is the purpose of schools? .

“The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways” (Russell Barkley)

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” (Henry Adams)

“If you've told a child a thousand times and he still doesn't understand, then it is not the child who is a slow learner.” (Walter B. Barbe)

“It is vital that when educating our children’s brains that we do not neglect to educate their hearts.” (Dalai Lama)

"Education is soul crafting." (Cornel West).

Tags: mission, vision, culture


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