We were facilitating the Succeeding in Senior Leadership module for NPQSL when discussion switched to the experience of the participants in regard to school mission statements. Those experiences broke down into the following clusters:
Mission statements that have remained unchanged for years.
Mission statements introduced by a new head teacher.
Mission statements used as a tool to rebrand a school.
The range of participation in forming and embedding the statement was very wide. Some teachers had experienced a straight imposition, where a new head teacher had written the statement and used it essentially as a declaration of intent: This is how my school is. Others had participated in the process of forming the statement, in some cases with parents and students, and in other cases as a purely staff driven process.
The discussion centred around the value of the statement in different circumstances. Essentially, those teachers from schools that were secure in their identity as outstanding placed less emphasis on the creation of the statement and more on its implementation in school life. Those teachers from schools in different categories emphasised more the sense that how the statement was created set a tone for other aspects of the school leadership. One pointed out that the language of mission statements varies little from school to school and so the creation and embedding of them is the differentiator.
As a topic of discussion it revealed sometimes strong emotional currency and it was interesting to hear how this sometimes overwhelmed a more theoretical understanding of the role. It goes to show that words do carry weight, in their creation, content and implementation.