When people speak about leaving a legacy, they’re usually thinking in terms of what they can do at the end of their lives to make a long lasting impact. They are thinking about the difference they make that lasts beyond their own lifetime. The most influential people, the ones who leave behind incredible legacies, live on in the hearts of the people they’ve touched along the way. Schools leave a legacy in such powerful ways and more than most organisations.
When we open a new school we plan for our future legacy. We know the impact of what we do will live on and that is what makes our role in setting up schools so meaningful. We do this by “beginning with the end in mind.”
A school needs a heart! It needs to lead with spirit and emotion. It needs to change lives. These ideas are driven by human relationships and they sit outside the “business of schools.” But they are essential and integral to a school’s success.
Vision and Mission will drive your legacy
It is important to prioritise the creation of a meaningful Vision and Mission that is not just a marketing or public relations exercise. Let passion drive this!
Brainstorm, be creative, unleash your unmeasured passion for something that has not yet been invented. Be traditional if that is your vision but break rules and do things that will make a difference. There will never be another school just like this one. Make sure it is unique and it has its own voice.
Schools should be driven by a a guiding question in all that it does. “Will this idea, project, decision or plan…… help us achieve the vision or mission of the school.” Arguably, if it does not pass this test then it is not relevant or aligned to core values and beliefs.
“My first school, as Principal, had a motto (Latin) but to be honest it was not meaningful to students or staff. The school did not have a clear vision or mission that was alive. As part of a school renewal process and through a long consultative and collaborative process we created the Vision “Valuing Our Future – Maximising Potential.” This vision statement drove all decisions and became a core driver of future planning. Its life, long or short, depended on its relevance. When asked “Will this Vision and Mission be permanent and last forever?” My reply was always “Only time will tell. If it lives it lives. A vision needs to be alive and have its own spirit. It should not just be words on a wall.”(Greg Parry , GSE CEO)
Values and Beliefs
What do you believe?
“I believe that all men/women are created equal….” “I believe that all cultures are equal.” “We are preparing students for a future world, not yet invented.” “I believe that all children can learn given the time and support necessary” ” I believe that exercise, a healthy body and mind are essential.” “We care about academic achievement as well as holistic development of children.”
There will be important conversations about business planning, budgets and facility design but at the end of the day school founders “believe things”. They must share what they believe and value and it must drive the school planning process. A school is not a shopping mall! When a founder creates a school they are most likely driven by passion and a vision that if harnessed can truly make the school come alive. Rarely is a school “just a business.” A school makes a long lasting difference and school founders, management, investors and developers who understand and embrace this develop outstanding schools.
I am sure you have had this experience. You walk into a business, restaurant, hotel or school and you get this special and unique feeling that leaves a lasting impression. “Wow, this is a unique and amazing place!” It might be the service, the decor, the smells, the tone, the climate and a feelings that feed your value of what is important. In a school this is what we call the “Signature School Experiences.” Your vision and mission will come to life through behaviours, routines, procedures and a sense of quality, driven and underpinned by it. If your vision is in no way reflected in the behaviours of staff and students then it is not a true vision at all. Signature experiences are powerful and they prove that a Vision and Mission is not just a marketing platform.
“Your school’s signature experience is what you do especially well; it’s the unique method, skill, event, practice or process that makes your school stand out in people’s minds. If you describe yourself in an elevator pitch then we are all likely to see that in some form and in some way, each and every day ”(Greg Parry , GSE CEO)
Be careful about contradictions.
“We believe in healthy mind and healthy body” but coke and candy are staples in the school canteen and vending machines.
“We value everyone as individuals” but everyone actually gets treated the same and policy is almost legislation in the way it is enforced with no flexibility or differentiation.”
“We are a highly focussed academic school, however teaching time is constantly disrupted by less important side activities.”
Schools must commit to their vision, their mission and their passion. Leadership and achievement is fuelled by focus.
Artefacts and Symbols
Interior designers make beautiful spaces but they, themselves, will never live and work there. Leave walls, spaces and areas for students and staff to develop. Murals, art work and other artefacts can grow over time. Ownership makes things meaningful.
Eton College “was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as “Kynge’s College of Our Ladye of Eton besyde Windesore” to provide free education to 70 poor boys who would then go on to King’s College, Cambridge, which he founded 1441.” Arguably the most famous school in the world, it has a collection of artefacts that are distinctive and reflect who it is. We can not all be Eton but we can capture, collect and plan to create artefacts and symbols that reflect the a school’s identity. Unpolished, natural, incomplete and relevant artefacts and symbols will last and reflect genuine school culture and identity.
“I was once the Principal of a school that had a very old fire bell located in its central courtyard. Students walked past it day by day and although they could reach the chain they never pulled it. This special tradition was saved for the final day of school year for graduating seniors. as the final minutes of school ended, one by one each student sounded the bell as they exited for the last time. It brought tears to my eyes and left an indelible memory on my mind.”(Greg Parry , GSE CEO)
These traditions cannot be manufactured but it is important to “leave room for them.” Don’t manufacture traditions. Encourage students to bring these traditions to life themselves.
This may seem a little child-like but to be honest we all need to put aside some time to dream a little. As adults we have forgotten how to dream, or in many ways it has been beaten out of us.
Start by removing all the barriers and excuses. Condition based thinking is self limiting. Our past does not predict our future and conventions within schools may or may not represent best practice.
“If time and money were unrestricted, what would you do?”
If there were no rules or restrictions and you could choose any staff, any resources, any facility you wanted…. what would that look like.”
“I once had the honour of working with Perkins and Will Architects on an incredible school project with a “practically open budget.” Our brief was to design and create the greatest school ever built. What fun we had! We brainstormed for months on the programs, the facilities, the systems and the procedures. We came up with extraordinary solutions to current educational obstacles and designed new innovations that even we had never seen before in a school. I woke up every morning with a smile and had more energy than I had have ever had in my career! Were there ever obstacles? Of course! We eventually reached a point when we had to make adjustments and compromises in certain areas, however the process allowed us to unleash our passions and creativity. That is where things should begin. Not with the obstacles, rules and barriers.”(Greg Parry , GSE CEO)
Every leader needs to invest time in dreaming. Plan without barriers. If you start with the gates and doors closed you will remain restricted and do things the same way everyone else has. Start with an assumption that you will not allow yourself to do things the way they always have been done. Make that the barrier! Not tried and true methods. There is another way!
Why Make a School Your Legacy?
How many industries can you truly say make as much difference as education does for now and into the future. International schools are very profitable, but they also make an invaluable contribution to global advancement. Without money there is no mission. Without mission there is no money. Our international schools develop young people who will go on and make a significant change in the world through their perspective, their international mindedness, their skills and abilities. What an incredible thing to be a part of!
We became involved in international education because we truly wanted to make a difference. We see the power in developing young people for the future and felt that some schools could refine, define and implement their vision even better. We understood the balance between “business” and “education” and felt there was a way to align both to maximise potential. By harnessing the passion of an amazing legacy plan and aligning that to a strategic business plan, incredible schools can truly redefine international education worldwide. We don’t believe in just doing things the same way again. We believe in changing the paradigm. We believe in being the very best in international education.(Greg Parry , GSE CEO)
Check out this video by Greg Parry that discusses this topic.
Global Services in Education is a full service education management company led by education experts. They are proven education and business leaders who know how to set up and manage international schools in unique cultural contexts. GSE lead education projects from the initial idea to set up and full management. Kindergarten, Primary, Middle and High School, Universities and Adult education.
School Acquisition: GSE represents investors looking to acquire schools or evaluate potential of school group expansion.