WARNING: THERE WILL BE ANGRY CAPITALS IN THIS BLOG… Sorry.
This will probably be a controversial blog. I imagine that I may upset someone. I have a habit of stumbling into awkward or controversial moments. On my first induction meeting as a new head to Bristol I told a long and (I thought) very funny story about a previous headteacher of my new school. About how terrified some of the staff were of him and how ‘Old Skool’ he was. I pulled no punches. After I had finished one of the other new heads looked up and said to me, “That was my dad…” He was not joking. So, though I may be critical I have thought about this and none of it’s personal.
I HATE YOUR VISION STATEMENT… I HATE YOUR STUPID MISSION STATEMENT… I HATE IT!
It’s rubbish. In fact ALL visions and missions are flights of fancy that have nothing to do with educating children into the real world. They are wordy educational dick (Or other appendages of your choice) waving. I don’t care if you are going to make all your students World Class Citizens (The poor things!). I don’t care how you have got the acronym for RESPECT into your oh so clever vision. I don’t care that all the words for your vision start with A… Atmosphere, Attitude. Autonomy, Achievement, All Rounder, Action… AAAAAAAAHHHHHH! I do not care that your Nursery children are all ‘flowers of promise…’ I do not care because it is meaningless drivel pushed upon schools by consultants because they do it in the corporate world. You just as well write:
“Oh how about making the best of today and making an even better future?” …
“No, no no! How about Learning to Learn… Living TODAY … and TO MORROW?”
It’s party politics done badly through schools. Who has the cleverest vision? Who’s vision has history? Who’s vision sounds like poetry? Surely the question is what is the purpose of education in this school/society/country? And… Are we any good at it? How do we know? Does anyone review their vision to see how successful it has been?
“Oh look, Gregory is now a World Class Citizen” *pat on the back for us!
I recently read one that mentioned a ‘Disney Land’ curriculum… *shudders What is this? Does it involve people dressed up in freakish costumes?
Worse still these visions are plastered over websites in colorful graphs with ‘high achievers’ written in a lovely script. I despair because I am sure that new heads and aspiring heads are still being told how important it is to have vision. Of course we have to have a vision… but what is ignored is the fact that by writing it down it becomes a goal (usually one you’ll never be able to measure – a school of happy children? Pass me the happy counter! How do you know your children’s happy is the same as my children’s happy?) and is no longer a dream but a weight around your neck.
You forget that each and every child needs a vision for them. They need you to believe in them and challenge them. Not turn them into a one size fits all buzz word because it’ll impress the SIP, or Mrs Munchkin the Governor or a bunch of middle class parents. A vision is nothing without substance (I seem obsessed with this at the moment). But maybe we need to be realistic here. How about:
To have more children passing English and Maths SATs than the school up the road…
To not get RI in the next Ofsted…
To not lose any more children because they like the trendy new school up the road…
To have a roof that does not leak…
To not get spat at the next time I walk out onto the playground
Here lies the root of my hatred of vision statements. They are written and praised as though Mandela himself wrote them and they hide away the hard cold facts of school life. They talk BIG but ignore small. They are not inclusive because they ignore the reality of life for so many ordinary people who are happy not being world class, are happy with their roots and history, are happy knowing what they want in life and who they are becoming… Therefore it demeans the porters, the cleaners and the taxi driver because these visions ignore REAL life. They say that becoming anything but the best, most confident or greatest is to fail. We have to make you the best… but we can not therefore we will lie to you.. in rhyming couplets.
Oh, and I know all this because as a head I have always had a vision statement and shoved it down the poor staffs throats. It’s very likely I’ll do it again in my new school… BUT I PROMISE YOU ONE THING… I will really think hard about what it says and how we will know we are doing it.
INSPIRE LEARNERS! Does it? All Learners?
CELEBRATE ACHIEVEMENT! Do we? All Achievement? Is that even possible?
STRENGTHEN COMMUNITIES! How?
That’s all I am asking… So when you go back into school on Monday. Take a look at that plaque on the wall or the words writ large across your building and ask… Do we? How do we know?