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How To Write a Vision Statement for Schools

What is a school vision statement?

In an education setting, a vision statement outlines to pupils, staff and parents what the school wants to achieve in the future, based on the school’s core values and ambitions.

In this blog, John Rees draws on over 25 years’ educational leadership experience to guide schools and settings through the process of creating a meaningful and inspirational vision statement.

The concepts of corporate branding and identity are well established in business, and increasingly, for those in the business of education, their importance is no less. For schools, academy trusts, and education settings, having a simple, powerful statement, which describes what they are about and what they wish for their people, contributes to a positive school culture.

As the fashion for a Latin motto, once so prevalent, has faded, it becomes increasingly important for settings to consider how to write or refresh a vision statement. In times of worrying attendance and a national crisis in recruitment, education settings need to capture the imagination and provide a vision for what they are really about.

This has long been recognised in industry. Disney, one of the most successful global companies, launched a new theme park with: “Be the leader in the delivery of profitable for family entertainment experiences” - and the park failed! When Disney reverted to “Make people happy”, its vision was summarised in a short phrase, and the success was measurable.

Crafting a compelling vision statement for schools

A vision statement for a MAT or school should encapsulate an ambition for the future and should include a sense of purpose for pupils and staff. Is your vision simply about attainment or is it about lifelong learning and progress, not just in academic terms but also enabling all members of the school community to flourish?

It's important to clarify some terminology:

  • Vision: a statement that clearly and simply states the aspirations that setting(s) have for their people, young and older; the overarching statement of where you want pupils to be when they leave your setting. 
  • Mission: a statement about what you’re doing right now to achieve that vision. 
  • Strategy: the specific actions that will be taken to achieve your vision. 
  • Values: the overarching principles that provide a moral compass for your setting. They underpin the core beliefs, guide decision-making, and demonstrate what your setting is, when it’s at its best. When reviewing the vision, it’s important to simultaneously reflect on your setting’s values. 
  • Culture: “The way we do things here”. It's how people feel when they're in, or thinking about the setting, and the shared beliefs that stakeholders declare. It's the environment you create to make sure all the children and adults can achieve the vision, live the values, and implement the strategy.

The DfE ‘Governance handbook and competency framework’ was superseded in March 2024 by the ‘Academy trust governance guide’ and the ‘Maintained schools governance guide’. The guidance suggests that a vision statement should be a 'clear and explicit vision for the future' and have 'pupil progress and achievement at its heart'.

If everyone in the setting, including pupils, parents and staff, adopts the vision, then decisions should all be congruent to improve outcomes for all members of the community.

Collaborative process

School governors and academy trustees are responsible for strategic direction, but the headteacher/principal and senior leadership team (SLT) must be involved in collaboratively establishing, maintaining and, when appropriate, reviewing the vision.

This collaborative process should ensure that everyone responsible for leadership of the school ‘buys into’ the vision. Collaboration also:

  • provides opportunities to establish, maintain or strengthen existing relationships 
  • ensures that the vision is grounded in reality 
  • shows that different perspectives are included, given the diverse experiences that all those involved bring to the process

Inevitably, the headteacher’s or CEO’s educational philosophy makes a significant contribution to the vision, and this will include their perspective on the purpose of education, what your setting wants for its pupils and community, and what it has to offer parents, carers and prospective staff. Although leaders may seek to explain their values, these are, or should be obvious from their actions.

Writing your school’s vision statement

Before the visioning process can begin, there needs to be some clarification of the objectives which probably centre around three key questions: 

  • Where are we now? 
  • What do we want to achieve by the end of the visioning session?
  • What do we want people to feel about the vision?

Most settings will already have some sort of ‘strapline’ or description of values, but these may need to be refreshed and, depending on where you are now, you may wish to create a completely new vision, you may need to update the existing words and phrases, or to find a way to (re)define the core business of the setting.

It’s important to involve all stakeholders, including staff, parents, and pupils in the visioning process. Some preliminary discussions may be held at staff and governor/trustee meetings, but discussions with parents and pupils must be part of the process.

Before the visioning meeting, stakeholders should focus on how they would like the setting(s) to be in an ideal world. You may wish to start with questions about what people like about the setting, the benefits, history, traditions, and any ‘unique selling points’.

When and where

Once these questions have been addressed and understood, a date can be identified to complete the visioning process. Creating, and then communicating, a vision statement takes time and preparation is crucial. As with everything in life, timing is important.

The summer term is probably the best time to plan a vision and strategy development session. There is no such thing as a quiet time in schools, but a day in July, after the exams and before the summer holidays, is probably optimal.

Some settings book an ‘away day’, which means that the SLT may be out of school, but it also means that people are less likely to be distracted by everyday interruptions.

Involving governors and/or trustees is important, but people from outside the setting will need notice well in advance.

Some settings may be tempted to hold the visioning session remotely, although there is probably no substitute here for a face-to-face meeting. A conversation over a cup of tea can significantly influence people’s thinking and awareness, or perhaps unlock a crucial phrase that might be so illuminating.

Choosing a facilitator

Some settings prefer to manage the visioning day themselves, whereas others see benefits in engaging an external facilitator. If the chair of governors or trustees, CEO or headteacher feels that everybody can contribute and that their philosophy will not bulldoze everybody else’s, they may be the best person to facilitate the discussions.

An external facilitator will probably cost, but can bring a more objective, dispassionate, or perhaps appropriately challenging perspective.

Whoever facilitates the session must ensure that everyone has the chance for meaningful contribution, that their thoughts and comments are appreciated, even if they are subsequently not followed up, and that a consensus of hearts and minds is achieved.

The inevitable power dynamics of education settings can mean that this is hard to achieve with an internal facilitator, but if an external facilitator is engaged, the agreed form of words must be those of the setting, not the facilitator!

Reviewing and refining your vision statement

To ensure that the visioning session is purposeful and creative, a clear agenda needs to be set which should make time to clarify the intentions of the day, generate ideas, refine a strategy and agree a final form of words. This last phase can be postponed, allowing people to think and reflect, and then achieve a consensus.

Some settings have listed the values that underpin the vision statement and then ranked them to identify what is important to the setting but also to keep the statement short.

A vision statement must be aspirational and reflect the best of what you collectively seek to achieve. It needs to reflect a commitment to academic excellence, personal growth, community engagement, inclusivity, innovation, and character development. It should be ‘owned’ by all stakeholders, and be short and memorable so that everyone in the setting can not only memorise it, but use it to inform their behaviour.

Examples of school vision statements

The examples below aim to inspire pupils, parents, staff and other stakeholders to work together towards a shared vision of educational success and positive impact on society. One of the simplest is from Barrowford Primary School, where the vision statement is “Learn to love, love to learn”.

Others include:

  • "Empowering every student to reach their full potential and become lifelong learners”
  • "Fostering a culture of excellence, innovation, and compassion where every student thrives academically, socially, and emotionally"
  • "Creating a safe and inclusive learning environment that celebrates diversity, nurtures creativity, and promotes critical thinking" 
  • "Inspiring a passion for learning, leadership, and service that prepares students to make a difference in their communities and beyond"
  • "Equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and values to become responsible global citizens and leaders of tomorrow"
  • "Building a collaborative community of learners committed to excellence, equity, and continuous improvement for all"
  • "Championing a culture of respect, resilience, and integrity that empowers students to overcome challenges and achieve success"
  • "Promoting a growth mindset, curiosity, and perseverance to cultivate a love for learning and a thirst for knowledge"
  • "Embracing innovation, creativity, and adaptability to prepare students for an ever-changing world and workforce"

If you’re concerned about keeping up to date with the latest education policy, practice and research, consider a membership with The National College. Not only does it provide access to thousands of professional development resources for all staff, but also enables leaders to create training programmes precisely tailored to individual and collective needs, to help ensure compliance and drive up standards.