Vision matters. In a complex organisation with multiple stakeholders, everyone needs to know what the overarching goals are. When things are difficult and messy, it’s very powerful to keep the long-term vision in mind so that the journey feels worthwhile and the problems seem solvable – in the long-run, if you give yourself enough time. I’ve written about this before: Great School Leadership: Vision
In a more recent Course Correction post, the map images always have Port Jefferson as the destination, the analogy being that, as long as we know where we’re heading, changing course is usually necessary and healthy. At Highbury Grove the more fundamental question we’ve been asking is: What’s our Port Jefferson? The last 18 months have been dominated by exploration and change. It takes a good year to really get to know your school – and the first set of exam results certainly gives you a dose of reality to puncture any hype. Part of the exploration has been to affirm those aspects of the school that everyone loves: its inclusive ethos; the prominence of music; the community school identity. But there’s also been a wave of change: new Headteacher, new Chair of Governors, new Governing Body and, as of April this year, a completely new team of Head and Deputies (our new Heads of School.)
Along the way, we’ve been preparing the ground for the long-term with a revised curriculum structure, a new behaviour system and numerous revisions to policies that shape the professional culture we’re trying to create. We’ve also been exploring elements of pedagogy and curriculum planning taking on board ideas from the Trivium and various strands of contemporary educational thinking. With this exploratory work well underway, the challenge has been to articulate the long-term vision to everyone connected to the school. We made an attempt last year to write a Vision Statement; it hit the buffers of ‘being all things to all people’, bogged down in lofty language and details of our ambitious goals for everything we could think of, spilling over onto too many pages. Partly this was because we were in transition between governing bodies; there were different views of what constituted ‘the way we do things here’. We were losing sight of the audience too; people want a simple message; not a complicated one.
After a term of further internal examination, I was tasked by the new governors with producing a Core Purpose statement building on all I’ve gathered from my 18 months of exploration; capturing but cutting through the complexity of demands from all the school’s stakeholders and firmly putting my stamp on it as the leader. The brief was to produce something clear, simple and powerful.
Here it is. Ambition for All.
The concept is that there is one core purpose: Ambition for All. This is our attempt to capture everything Highbury Grove is about in one phrase. It echoes our motto but has a different emphasis: Ambition for All applies to all students and to all six areas – the hexagons. The focus on ALL is the key; we’re an inclusive comprehensive school that has to deliver for everyone; no exceptions. If could have been ‘Excellence’ instead of ‘Ambition’ – but that didn’t feel like our phrase; it felt borrowed and possibly over-used. Ambition does a better job of suggesting that sense of being on a journey from where we are to where we want to be; ambition has no limits.
The diagram places the three core elements of our provision for students at the top: Academic Learning, Personal Development, Broad Curriculum; these are supported either side by Community and Behaviour – elements that provide the facilitating environment in which the other elements take place. The whole thing is underpinned by Leadership – from staff and from students.
Academic Learning is firmly at the top. If pushed for one central priority, this is it. We’re deliberately and explicitly saying that all students should focus on academic learning as the key driver of their educational experience. We opted for Academic Learning – as opposed to Academic Outcomes or Academic Success – because we wanted to capture the process of learning, the journey, as well as the end point. The rest is self-explanatory – hopefully!
After some initial consultation with a core group of governors and the SLT, we discussed an early version on the first INSET day in January. We are in the process of a consultation with parents and students on the detail. We’ll edit the details as necessary after the Student Council and Parents’ Forum meetings this month but the key concepts are unlikely to change too much because we’ve taken stock of what people have been telling us over the last 18 months all along.