EDITORIAL, March 2024

What really sets your school apart is a good story

Too many years ago than I care to remember, I was sitting at the side of our little school hall for the weekly primary assembly. There must have been singing – there always was – and then a presentation or two. Certificates were being given out and then a Year 6 boy was called out to receive a medal he had won in an inter-school-sports meet the week before. He beamed as we applauded. At the end of the row where I was sitting a small boy turned to his friend:

“That’s my brother!”

His smile of pride was, if anything, broader than his brother’s. His friends smiled back and a girl in the row in front of him turned around:

“Isn’t that your brother??” Again, smiling, slightly incredulously.

Schools are full of stories. Here the headline story was on stage, but perhaps the real story was going on all around us. The whole community had created an amazing culture in which young people took enormous pride in themselves and each other without any kind of one-upmanship. We had our medals (there was some debate about that!) but most importantly, we had our friends.

Teachers are great story-tellers and, dare I say, yarn-spinners. And schools need their stories – it makes them what they are. However, schools don’t always do so well in sharing their stories. Writing the weekly newsletter piece becomes a chore and an exercise in beating the clock. And then there’s the website and social media: website content can be impressive but soulless. As Martin Skelton argues in this issue of ITM – can we really be that amazing?

So where are the real stories? The stories that will reach and engage different audiences of parents, teachers, visitors (and inspectors?). Stories that will tell them what the school is really all about? The answer is that a school’s stories are all around us. They are about the lesson that has had an unexpected impact and is then discussed in the staffroom. They are about the planning and achievement of an initiative that has worked and improved learning, perhaps in a small way, and not just on a grand scale. They are about the little acts of kindness, humanity and growth that happen every day in a school. The sort of story an enthusiastic member of staff or a student will tell off-the-cuff when I met them while showing a prospective family around the school.

Schools need these stories to be written and shared, on line, in print, in podcasts and on YouTube. It’s just good practice – a win for the school in defining what makes it a great place to be and an opportunity for a member of staff to reflect on something they care about and even learn to do better through the very process of writing things down. A link to a published piece also looks great on a CV!

Sharing these stories is really a form of ‘inbound marketing’ – the kind of marketing that a variety of audiences interested in education prefer and which educators actually enjoy writing, for a number of different reasons.

Even if someone thinks they can’t write this sort of story, they can. Like everything else we learn to do, they need a little time, a little space, someone to suggest what works and what doesn’t work and someone to listen to them.

Sound like anything you enjoy doing already?

ITM Editor, Andy Homden will be talking about ‘Finding your school’s stories’ in the latest Outstanding Schools Webinar on Thursday March 7th at 1:30 pm UK time. 

You can register here.

 

 

FEATURE IMAGE: Unsplash+In collaboration with Getty Images

Support Image  : https://www.istockphoto.com/en/portfolio/MakhbubakhonIsmatova?mediatype=photography

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