Many Minds, One Mission

“The academy ensured that all students succeeded at university, or a real alternative, thrived in a top job and had a great life.”

At Dixons Trinity Academy, our mission is ambitious; so ambitious, we will not be able to measure our success until long into the future – until our students come back and tell us they are living truly great lives. Our mission is our fundamental reason for getting up in the morning, it is our core belief. Everyone who works at Trinity is compellingly committed to this mission – but we didn’t come up with it by committee. As a start-up, our mission came directly from our Principal, Luke Sparkes; it is the pure, undiluted, crisp vision of one person whose moral purpose sets the highest expectations every day. When Ofsted came to inspect the school in January 2014, they could see the impact of such clarity, “the vision of the headteacher combined with the unrelenting commitment of other leaders and teachers, are crucial elements in the academy’s success.” It is because of Luke’s clarity that others are able to wholly commit.

Some may raise an eyebrow at the vow to ensure all students succeed at university, or a real alternative, – but this is a vision; this is where it is absolutely imperative to be brave. Ultimately, the only people who have ever taken issue with us setting such high expectations are those who have been privileged enough to go to university themselves. We will not make apology for believing in our students and their families are 100% in support. University is a tangible goal, higher level apprenticeships are tangible goals; this is about raising aspirations. Our mission is clear and unpretentious – grounded in really, really hard work.

Lots of organisations agonise over the exact wording of a mission statement culminating in big thinking squashed into academic language. At Trinity, we say it simply – but we spend a lot of time saying it. The best organisations concentrate on alignment to the mission not the constant drafting of the mission.

The big thinking needs to be made real by the clarity of the language. Our mission is about what we honestly want for our students, put simply. And we are willing to be punished for it. A truly inspiring mission should make it worth doing whatever it takes.

We have no doubt that the achievement-oriented culture at Trinity is the main driver of our success. As Peter Drucker says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Of course, no school is better than the quality of its teachers; however, there is only so much that even the best teacher can do with students who have low aspirations and poor learning habits. Conversely, create a truly aspirational culture with extremely high expectations and all teachers can secure exceptional outcomes for all students. What we have learnt from the best schools is the power of a vision-led culture – it is not a means to an end, but an end in itself.

Being wholly committed to our mission is not that intellectually sophisticated, it is just common sense and we, as a team, need to have the persistence and humility to return to it every day; to sustain our routines and live our values over and over – the humility to commit is critical. As a team, we return frequently to the work of Patrick Lencioni; this year, we were talking with a group of American visitors about our systems and they made reference to ‘The Advantage’. The visitors thought we had based some of our systems on the logic laid out in the text. We hadn’t. We hadn’t, at that stage, even read it – but, when we did, it felt like a better explanation of what we strive for than we could ever have articulated. Indeed, the commentary on clarity felt written for us:

“alignment and clarity cannot be achieved in one fell swoop with a series of generic buzzwords and aspirational phrases crammed together… Clarity requires a much more rigorous and unpretentious approach.”

So, why is our mission in the past tense? In ‘Drive’, Dan Pink talks about how we generate intrinsic motivation; our mission is expressed as a single sentence; it is the lasting impression we want to leave on the world and it orients each one of us towards a greater purpose. Our mission is our motivation for every student, every day.

Jenny Thompson
Head of Secondary

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