However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
Sir Winston Churchill 1
It is in many ways an invidious task to steer such a well established, high performing and much-loved institution as Brisbane Girls Grammar School into new waters. But it is certainly not an option to allow this vessel to ride the fast-running waters without carefully planning the journey.
Over the past year, the Board of Trustees, Principal and senior management team have been working through a comprehensive strategic planning process, building upon the School’s fine reputation and leadership in education for teenage girls. In May 2010, Professor Erica McWilliam presented a provocation at the Board’s strategic planning day foreshadowing changes in education owing to new ways of learning, workforce expectations and the impact of emerging technologies. This, along with her work with the staff as resident Education Futurist, challenged us all to think expansively about where the School needed to focus its energies in the coming years—especially with our introduction of Year 7 in 2015.
Three main areas emerged from Professor McWilliam’s provocation and subsequent discussion:
- Teaching and learning leadership—focussing on knowledge building, critical thinking, complex problem solving and a disposition of innovation for its students and staff;
- Education of young women—where student readiness and preparedness for the world beyond Girls Grammar would promote optimal engagement with future challenges;
- International perspective—which will positively position the School, its work and its people on the global landscape.
May 2011 marked the next annual Board strategy retreat. At this meeting, the Board and Dr Bell and her senior management team discussed in detail some of the truths which have emerged for us from the methodical and creative discussions which have taken place over the intervening 12 months. We collectively agreed on our aim to creatively maintain a top performing, highly motivated school culture, where all our stakeholders can be optimistic about the School’s capacity to deliver its Intent 2 (which is prominently featured on the Level 4 wall of the Cherrell Hirst Creative Learning Centre)—a statement endorsed by all as still relevant for Girls Grammar and embraced by our stakeholders enthusiastically 3. In continuing to embrace this intent, Dr Bell and the Board recognise that it is of paramount importance that we are not blinkered in our view of ourselves as a School and thus that we vigilantly reflect on, and evaluate, our performance as a School in the interests of its continual improvement. This in part reflects the Board’s role: challenging management on their strategic ideas to ensure we remain robust and relevant.
However, as Churchill so eloquently stated, it doesn’t matter how beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. It became apparent to Dr Bell’s management team late last year following the May 2010 strategy retreat and consequent scrutiny of the School’s current Aspiration 4 that in many ways this previous ambitious assertion had been achieved over the past eight years. Indeed it has created an inspiring professional appetite amongst the staff to take the School into a new phase of development. With the assistance of an experienced and most effective facilitator, Ms Chris Franklin, over the twelve months senior management explored numerous ideas for a new Aspiration. The Board submitted the resulting ideas to rigorous testing in April/May this year.
The result: a new and exciting Aspiration, clear, concise and dynamic, for the Board and management team to deliver to our School community:
Brisbane Girls Grammar School aspires to be a leader in exceptional scholarship.
Three key words underpin our new aspirational statement—in order that it be evolutionary rather than revolutionary:
- Leader—this is the driver, the motivator and the quality control measure for the School;
- Exceptional—is the qualifier and by definition relates to the unique, individual and/or extraordinary in people and achievements, underpinned by quality;
- Scholarship—is a traditional term linking us to an extensive world history in knowledge development, but also lending itself to reinterpretation in a contemporary context.
The words ‘leader’, ‘exceptional’ and ‘scholarship’ do not exist in isolation. They are interdependent, combining to form an aspiration with depth and breadth. Our new Aspiration will be a catalyst for change as well as an anchor for quality initiatives. Its success will be reliant on our continuing culture, and long tradition, of optimism, enquiry and intellectual rigour, as encapsulated by our motto Nil sine labore. Being strategic by implication is about taking a risk. The Board believes real risk lies in not being courageous—where comfort, complacency and safe decisions may result in organisational atrophy. The Board believes the new Aspiration will be the impetus to challenge the School to extend its reach in education—animating all aspects of its endeavours.
Brisbane Girls Grammar School does not have a strategic plan, rather it has a design. A design by definition is more than a plan; it is something which takes an idea or purpose and fashions it artfully into an innovative blueprint. One of the Board’s key governance roles is to set the strategic direction of the School. The new Brisbane Girls Grammar School Design 2012-2015 now has its strategic parameters endorsed and over the next six months will conceptually unfold to our School community and expand to incorporate the initiatives of staff, which will ultimately benefit the educational outcomes for our students and lift the School in the future to the next level of influence in education.
Ms E Jameson
1. http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/40178.html retrieved 15 June, 2011
2. Proud of our Grammar tradition, we are a secondary school that establishes the educational foundation for young women to contribute to their world with wisdom, imagination and integrity.
3. 2010 Stakeholder Surveys (Ardjuna Consulting) and 2011 Focus Groups (Niche Consulting)
4. To be respected internationally as a leader in the education of young women and professional teaching practice.