It is said that Walt Disney managed his staff by making them part of his dream. One of his principles known as You Better Believe It was about everybody having a clear understanding of the basic beliefs and core values of the company.
Now, the days in school when you feel like dressing as a giant Mickey Mouse may be few, but you can build an environment in which people – staff, children, teachers, parents, governors – all feel valued and valuable. If you can work together to agree on what’s important you can get to the heart of what matters most. Then you’re ready to market your school.
Promoting a school is always going to be built on principles a long way from those of many businesses. Your purpose is to offer excellence for the benefit of the children who attend, not entice customers for the purpose of profit. Your starting point should be a clear, shared and well thought out product: vision, values, outcomes, mission, achievement and identity with a strategy for progress. As these are examined a little closer you can ask yourself: What is already in place and what needs development? How embedded is each concept in the school as a whole? How is adherence to the concept monitored and measured?
A school’s vision is a description of what the school will be like once it has reached its zenith. It should be ambitious but realistic. A vision is best worded as if being described in the present tense:
Bambi School is highly regarded, getting outstanding results, offering a wide-ranging curriculum. The school is supported within the community by parents and businesses and is in partnership with several local organisations.
Values are those fundamental principles and beliefs that underpin everything you do at the school and that determine your direction. They may already be reflected in your motto or strapline and are likely to drive you in your decision-making. Values should be known, shared and referred to frequently in the operation of the school’s policies and development plans. If you are a faith school, or based on another philosophy, then your Values may well reflect that understanding.
Snow White School values:
- The strengths, talents and qualities of all children
- Belief in the self and in others
- Fairness in all interactions
- Hard work and the reaching of potential
Like the Vision, Outcomes describe a picture of achievement as if it had been reached. There should be 4 – 10 Outcomes detailing specific goals that contribute to the realisation of the Vision:
- Offers specialist qualifications in Cartoon Drawing and Pirating
- Has a 99% attendance rate
- Gets 99% positive feedback from students
- Is known and recognised by 70% of the local community
Your school’s Mission is a description of how you will achieve your Outcomes and Vision by applying your Values. It forms the basis of any development or progress plan.
The Dalmatians School will provide excellent teaching in a happy and supportive environment through the employment of highly experienced teachers, the use of specialist classroom support and by providing frequent opportunities for pupils, staff and parents to input to the decision-making processes.
This example starts with a reminder of the Vision (‘excellent teaching in a happy and supportive environment’), which is a good way to help ensure the Mission directly arises from the Vision.
With these four concepts in place the school is able to build a strong identity and take pride as it measures its achievements. The school, of course, is its staff, its children, parents, volunteers, governors and other partners – these are the people who feel the pride and take that out of school with them at the end of the day. However clear the Headteacher or person with responsibility for promotions feels about the school’s workings and principles, you create that perfect marketing opportunity by involving everyone in building those bricks that shape the school. You also make it easier on the company you employ to design your materials – they will create your website or other promotional materials around what they understand to be your key priorities, your strengths and fundamental principles.
Just how you involve people will vary depending on your style, customs and history; questionnaires, awaydays and consultations are tried and tested methods. You might also look at ways to embed opportunities into your school year, week or day. For example, where do children get to say what they want from the school, what works (or doesn’t) for them? Perhaps you have, or could set up, a School Council or a simple Comments Book. Likewise, for staff you can create opportunities to comment, suggest and implement ideas, perhaps at the beginning of each day. Not all systems for contributing and sharing need to be long-winded; for example, you could offer 1-minute idea moments on a rota basis or have a one-word only ideas board. Once your Vision, Outcomes and Values are established you can measure any new developments against them and have reminders around the school.
Finding time to do any of this is a challenge in all schools and so it is certainly worth you considering external support. As all this activity is to support you raising the profile of the school, promoting it as a facility and attracting new students, the design company responsible for your marketing should be pleased to advise or provide direct support.
Once you have your Vision, Mission and Values in place you are ready for a perfect website and an impressive prospectus. You’ve built a school you’ll want to show off and you need to consider the best way to do that. Maybe the Mickey Mouse costume wasn’t such a bad idea after all!
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If you want to find out how Blue Apple Education can help you unearth the remarkable in your school you can call us on +44 (0) 330 223 0766 or email us [email protected]