The shift from a good school to a great school is people

Jo had a problem that a lot of headteachers will be familiar with. 

She had a good team, who worked hard and were mostly fully onboard with her goal of delivering excellence to all her children (though some of them ‘didn’t get it’, most did).

They didn’t have the easiest of contexts, being a large (3-form entry) primary school, with a higher than average number of pupils eligible for free school meals and a higher than average number of pupils with an EHCP; yet Jo was convinced they could provide excellent education with the right plans, resources and attitudes.

But try as they might, the school struggled to reach the levels they were aiming for. The school went on a bumpy journey; with ups and downs as reflected in their Ofsted history:

2005 – good

2009 – satisfactory

2011 – good, with outstanding features

2014 – requires improvement

2016 – good

In 2018 though, something shifted. Jo came to our training workshop Breaking the Glass Ceiling of Good and got asked a question:

‘How much of a difference would it make if everyone in your team was on board with what you’re trying to do?’.

Jo instinctively knew immediately that that was the shift that was needed – to change the description of her team from ‘‘some of my team don’t get it’ to ‘everyone is fully committed to reaching our goals’.

Because the shift from a good school to a great school is people.

Great schools give the team cultural clarity:

Those who want to be part of the journey jump in with both feet, and are fully committed in word and deed.
And cultural clarity lets others decide if they’re not up for it and to leave with love.

How do you get cultural clarity?

From a strong cultural eco-system, made up of vision, values and strategy.

They let your team buy-in to where you want your school to be.

This moves a good team, to a great team.

The problem is most visions are boring!

They might say what we want them to say, but they don’t inspire anyone.

Why does this matter?

Because we need our team aligned with us. 

On board, and passionate about where the school is going, and what needs to be done to get there.

And a boring vision just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Jo realised this and got to work with her SLT to clarify their values, redefine their vision and map out their strategy; so they could be crystal clear with their team where they were going, who they were as a school and what the journey was going to look like.

Those who were excited to be a part of this journey were fired up and committed. Those who thought it was impossible now knew this was not for them and could leave.

The clarity of vision enabled Jo to build a team that was100% on board and fired up for delivering the great school she knew was possible.

Since 2018 Osted have visited twice:

Inspection 2020 –  good – ‘there is enough evidence of improved performance to suggest that the school could be judged outstanding if we were to carry out a section 5 inspection now’.

Inspection 2023 – outstanding

Jo and the team wanted to be outstanding for their children, despite the tough national context and the local challenges they face. Ofsted just so happened to agree.

I had the privilege of working with Jo, to help get the vision and their whole culture eco-system in place. 

This helped the team take all the good work that was going on and take it to another level.

It’s transformed their performance management.

Is it perfect? Of course not, schools are complex and there are always challenges. But when visitors go to Jo’s school, they see what a genuinely outstanding school is.

Meet Jo and hear about the difference this made to her school:

Jo Savidge, Headteacher, shares the impact of the Journey to Outstanding programme

Spotlight Resource

Most visions are boring.
So here’s an example of a great one, from Jo and the team at Clockhouse Primary School.

Check out my free ‘Create a great vision’ e-course:

You’ll learn:

  1. Is your vision working? A simple acid test to find out.
  2. Why is a vision so important (why you can’t just ‘tick the box’ of having one)
  3. Who should write your vision
  4. The difference between a vision and mission
  5. The most common mistakes made in visions