Schools without a HOW

When you go into McDonalds, anywhere in the world, you know what it’s going to be like. This is the same with Tesco, anywhere in the UK. It is the same with Kwik Fit. They all have their agreed way of doing things, their ‘how’.

Schools need to have a culture. A way of doing things. The way that they orchestrate great learning. Schools need a ‘how’.

As important as what this ‘how’ is, is actually having it. Schools that don’t have it, have something else, they have a vacuum. Staff then compete to fill this vacuum with ideas and philosophies, they will become known as ‘initiatives’.

These initiatives will come and they will go, sometimes they will even come round again. A few will follow them whole heartedly, most will pay them lip service to them and some won’t bother at all. A few will say what the most know, that they won’t last. There will be resentment because of the sheer number of them and because no one really knows why they exist. The result will be a lack of consistency, of confusion and no real improvement in the quality of learning.

Schools need to think hard about their how because creating culture is difficult and changing it even harder. In fact creating culture take 66 days.

However just having a ‘how’ is not enough. It will lead to a lack of empowerment, a feeling that you cannot contribute new ideas, a sense that strategy is not something of your concern.

As well as the how, people in schools need to know ‘why’ they do what they do. This is because people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  We bought iPhones because apple asked to ‘think different’ and watched Sky TV because they asked us to ‘believe in better’. We didn’t buy them because of a detailed explanation of all their features. Virgin with TIVO should have been the best in it’s field long before SKY, because they had the best technology. But they weren’t, they sold what they did and not why they do it.

School’s need a ‘why’. Why do they do what they do? Why should their teachers get out of bed and turn up in the morning? Teachers will buy into this ‘why’, they will work for it, they will give blood, sweat and tears for it and then the desired ‘how’ will follow.

Good schools have a how.

The best schools have a how and a why.

The not so good have neither.

What do you have?


  1. Kostis Christodoulou - February 8, 2017 reply

    A very interesting article- and thank you for this.

    I am a bit confused, however. You say that “The best schools have a how and a why”.

    I can think of cult-like schools like Montessori or Waldorf that have the most clear and demanding ‘how’ and ‘why’, but does that make them the best schools? Research seems to suggest otherwise.

    • I believe the ‘how’ and ‘why’ are not sufficient for a school to be great but they are fundamentally necessary

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