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Cotswold School – Developing our vision

Is our vision for our students and their learning clear and shared? Does it express what we want for our young people? How might our vision be reflected in the design of our school's curriculum? Principal Stephen Harrison discusses the process the Cotswold School Community went through to develop the Cotswold Way and the way they are continuing this development while implementing the new curriculum.

Our philosophy - The Cotswold way


Our plan was to develop a vision statement that identified our school and community. After extensive discussion, consultation and visits to other schools (which was part of our ICTPD programme) we decided to represent our vision by calling it the Cotswold Way. We wanted our representation to emphasise a caring culture, and to incorporate our other key values.

Once we had made the decision to use the slogan ‘the Cotswold Way’ we needed to work together as a community to draw up a list of words we all felt would represent us. We worked on finding other words that would sit alongside caring, to truly represent the core values and beliefs of this community. We tried to keep the idea of having a Cotswold Way at the centre of all our discussions. We talked about the concept informally with parents and relatives who came to the school, and at staff and board meetings.

We wanted our school message to be understood and accepted by our students. We wanted them to take part in decisions concerning what it said. At the beginning of 2007 the students took part in brainstorming words they would associate with caring. From this we developed a list as a staff then sent this home asking for feedback from the community.

When we had developed a draft we consulted the community and asked for feedback. We then reworked the draft and drew up a document with the five key words representing our vision.

Image of a Cotswold learner.

Caring | Community | Communication | Creativity | Challenge

These words would be the Cotswold Cs and would represent The Cotswold Way.

At the conclusion of this process we held an assembly to celebrate our model of The Cotswold Way.

Development of the vision documentation

Key words:

Confident, connected, committed and self managed learners.

We are trying to give teachers a tool kit for the students in the way we are wording our documentation.

We ask ourselves questions regarding the statements we make, for example we talk about caring, creativity or self managed learner, but how does this idea translate into classroom teaching?

We workshop our ideas as a staff and then take them to the community for their contributions and feedback.

This is part of our decision making process and even though it works slowly it’s important that everybody has an opportunity to contribute.

Discussion about the Cotswold way has led us all to reevaluate and think about our vision for the school and think about the way we want learning to occur for us in this community. Following on from this has been our work on the curriculum and how our vision works in relation to the key areas in the curriculum document.

We also wanted whole school and community involvement in the process of curriculum development. Every time we are in the position to revisit an existing statement or develop a new idea we make sure everyone is part of the process.

We begin with staff development, and then we may discuss this with our students, send a version home in the newsletter and take it to Board meetings. We encourage feedback and discussion, both formal and informal, and whenever we can we share our ideas with other schools.

Our evolving vision and developing the curriculum

We particularly wanted to represent the Key Competencies in our model and we decided that we wanted the language in the Cotswold Way to represent action; we wanted the Cotswold Way to be part of a tool kit that students and teachers could put into practice.

We are currently in the process of changing some of our concepts. For example although we want to have community as part of our vision statement the word community doesn’t translate into action so we’ve decided to rewrite this as community participation.

This process of discussing and thinking about the relevancy of the Cotswold Way is ongoing and evolving and we expect that there will be changes as our needs and goals change.

We are constantly reflecting and asking ourselves questions about what our school is like now and what we all want our school to be like. During the implementation of our vision we discussed the practicalities of turning our vision statements into classroom practice.

How do we show that we are teaching our vision? How is our vision going to show evidence of this community’s needs and aspirations? How are our values going to be reflected in the every day life of the school? Our documentation is beginning to reflect our responses to these and other questions.

We were also mindful of the fact that the changes we were discussing needed to be underpinned by research and sound educational thought. Our staff development and professional development is often based around a professional reading. Sometimes this is something one of the staff has read and wants to share and sometimes, senior staff will choose a reading.

We knew we wanted the new curriculum to be at the centre of our vision and values but we also knew that anything we wrote would evolve and change as our needs changed.

More recent developments have included the trialing of the Cotswold Inquiry Model, incorporating E4E actions into Inquiry units and developing a values rubric.

What we are aiming to do with our vision statement

We want our children to be self-managed learners. To be challenged and to challenge.

Our challenge is to write statements containing the key ideas so they become teachable and so that students understand the concept and can then turn them into their own action plan. What we're trying to do is to write our values as tools.

ICTPD and the way this has contributed to the development of our vision

Our staff consider their ICTPD some of the best PD they’ve ever done. Our Board Of Trustees and community have a commitment to fund ICT programmes. Our role in our ICTPD cluster has enabled us to plan professional development around ICT involving visits to other schools, and this has also enabled us to observe first hand the way other schools are developing curriculum changes.

We are currently involved in discussions with other schools from our cluster about how to maintain this level of engagement when our cluster finishes at the end of 2009.

Our visits to other schools have generated some important discussions about pedagogy. One of our key findings for our school visits related to our observations of other schools work on self-managed learners. Discussing this in our staff room naturally generated lots of questions and comments from other staff. We then carried out our own research and continued the discussions at our staff meetings, and subsequently made a decision to incorporate the concept of the self-managed learner into our own classroom practice.

In our discussions about the new curriculum the focus was often on developing our vision and values and the Key Competencies. The visits have also been valuable because they have enabled us to see other schools on similar journeys.

We consider all our programmes to be part of an evolving journey. We reflect on everything we do-asking ourselves why they work, or don’t work, and whether our students are benefiting from the way we are teaching. Our goal here is to have a school that reflects our vision statement, where people can see that the Cotswold Way is not just a statement of intent but is part of the way we all live our lives.


Updated on: 02 Sep 2012