mother handing key to daughter inheritance concept

When people speak about leaving a legacy, they usually think about 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 and educational leaders leave a legacy in such powerful ways and more than most organisations.

School Legacy

When we open a new school, we plan for our future legacy. We know the impact of what we do will live on, making 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.

Vision and Mission Will Drive Your Legacy

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)
Open a school

Values and Beliefs

“I believe…….”

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 and 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, which 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.

Signature Experiences

Signature Experience

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 the feelings that feed your value of what is important. In a school, this is what we call the “Signature School Experience.” 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 a healthy mind and a healthy body,” but coke and candy are staples in the school canteen and vending machines.

“We value everyone as individuals,” but everyone is actually treated the same, and policy is almost legislation in the way it is enforced, with no flexibility or differentiation.

“We are a highly focused academic school; however, teaching time is constantly disrupted by less important side activities.”

Schools must commit to their vision, mission, and passion. Focus fuels leadership and achievement.

Artefacts and Symbols Represent Legacy

Interior designers create beautiful spaces, but they will never live and work there. Leave walls, spaces, and areas for students and staff to develop. Murals, artwork, and other artefacts can grow over time. Ownership makes things meaningful.

leave a legacy
Eton College, UK

Eton College “was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as “Kynge’s College of Our Lady of Eton beside Windesore” to provide free education to 70 poor boys who would then go on to King’s College, Cambridge, which he founded in 1441.” Arguably the most famous school in the world, it has a collection of distinctive artefacts that 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 school’s identity. Unpolished, natural, incomplete and relevant artefacts and symbols will last and reflect genuine school culture and identity.

Traditions are Symbols of Legacy

“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 them to life themselves.

Dream – The legacy that comes to life

Leave a legacy
Dream Big!

This may seem a little childish, 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, we have been beaten out of it.

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 practices.

“If time and money were unrestricted, what would you do?”

If there were no rules or restrictions and you could choose any staff, resources, or 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 as they always have been. Make that the barrier! Not tried and true methods. There is another way!

Why Makes a School Your Legacy?

How many industries can you truly say make as much of a difference as education does for now and into the future? International schools are very profitable, but they also contribute to global advancement. Without money, there is no mission. Without a 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, international mindedness, 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.
Greg Parry

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 leads education projects from the initial idea to set up and full management, including kindergarten, Primary, Middle, and High School, Universities, and Adult education.

School Acquisition: GSE represents investors looking to acquire schools or evaluate the potential of school group expansion.

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