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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

My Advancement Quest and the Myth of More

As another school year begins, the memory of long summer days in far off places, where life took on a simpler form, has already begun to fade.

September is hardly upon us, but our gaze has already inevitably turned to the far horizon of the end of the 2018-19 school year and we find ourselves mentally preparing for the 300-day marathon that is only just beginning. Our heart rate is already up. We are sleeping less. And we've perhaps even experienced enough to suggest that this is going to be anything but plain sailing to the finish line.

Photograph of a man standing in front of a mountain with the sun setting behind
Where will your Advancement Quest take you this year?

Of course we know that the best way to reach our goal is to plan. So we state our ambition and carve the year into milestones. We allocate people into teams and we double check that there is still enough money in the bank to purchase all of the necessary resources.

Alongside our teaching and other administrative colleagues, those of us who carry the title of Advancement are charged with moving things forward. So maybe this will be the year in which we finally get our story straight, engage others like never before, and maybe even discover a secret passage through the deadly mazes of GDPR or data integration.

As we set out upon our Quest, however, I find myself reflecting on the way in which schools so often fall into the trap of believing in the Myth of More.

More students. More buildings. More technology. More events. More course options. More social media.

The list goes on. And the longer the list becomes, the more it appears we turn our schools into educational hypermarkets. We do everything. We sell everything. We are trying to be everything, to everybody.

If I've learned one thing, however, it's that higher enrolment doesn't necessarily mean a better or even a more profitable school. More donations don't necessarily lead to greater impact on student learning. An all-singing, all dancing website, doesn't necessarily mean better communication.

Someone once said, "Minimalism is not subtraction for the sake of subtraction. Minimalism is subtraction for the sake of focus."

This year, as we set off on our Advancement Quest, I'm wondering what we can do to rediscover this much needed focus for the sake of really moving things forward.


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