Julian Astle explains why change is coming to the way government holds schools to account.
- As an expression of shared values, a mission sharpens a school’s identity, increasing teachers' and pupils' motivation and sense of belonging.
- As an expression of shared aims, a mission provides school leaders with a lodestar – a constant point on the horizon to aim for – that prevents them being blown off course by external forces and pressures.
- And as an articulation of an educational philosophy and approach, a mission provides school leaders with a set of design principles for developing the school’s culture and curriculum, protocols and practices, rituals and routines.
Crucially, a strong sense of mission acts as an antidote to the accountability system which distorts professional priorities and practices, undermines teachers’ agency and morale, and narrows and hollows out the education children and young people receive. Good leaders and dedicated staff are never going to be energised by the challenge of meeting crude and easily gamed numerical targets backed by the threat of sanction. Only when educators are liberated to work towards their own mission will excellence be unleashed across the system.
Building on The Ideal School Exhibition which set out how some pioneering school leaders are challenging the fear-driven, compliance-based culture created by our punitive system of accountability, the RSA now intends to work with the sector to create a new educational settlement that is based on trust rather than sanction and that doesn’t pit the interests of schools and pupils against each other.
And in doing so, we hope to move decisively beyond 'education by numbers' and to elevate and expand the public and political conversation about what schools exist to do.
We are currently looking for partners to support and help shape this programme to achieve maximum impact. Please contact Olivia Finn, Buisness Development and Partnerships Manager, at Olivia.Finn@rsa.org.uk to find out more.