Blog: Your First 100 Days – Establish Your Visionary Purpose

In this blog series, you’ll hear from the author of ‘The First 100 Days’, Phil Denton, about the steps you can take to give yourself the best chance of success in the first 100 days of the new school year.

Regardless of whether you are taking over a new leadership role or looking to develop an existing one, this series will detail the steps that will help you start from an informed, confident and strategic place.

Phil developed his knowledge of best practice in this area through his own experiences of being a Headteacher, Deputy, Assistant, Year Lead and Head of Department. He enhanced this understanding by working with football managers who have had successful 100 days in the English Premier League. He has also worked with successful manager Micky Mellon and spoke with business leaders from the world of accounts, travel and industry. All of this experience and these lessons will be condensed and shared with you at regular intervals to provoke thought, reflection and action.

Provoking thought, reflection and generating action is the core purpose of Evaluate-Ed. Follow this series and take a free trial to see how you can improve your school and everyone in it through an informed and strategic approach. Click here for your free trial.

Establish Your Visionary Purpose  

Your purpose as a department, school, college or collection of institutions should be central to all you do, both operationally and strategically. Where to start in establishing a meaningful purpose that resonates with your team ,pupils and community can be challenging. It is easy to fall into the traps of cliché statements, forgotten mission statements or simply thinking that what you do is why you do it.  

A great start to your thinking on this matter can be the work of Simon Sinek. Sinek’s book, ‘Start with Why’, is really well captured in his seminal TED talk which has had millions of views. His simple ‘Golden Circle’ can help you and your team focus on why you do what you do. This might relate to social justice, religious calling or simply making the world a better place. Whatever it is, it needs discussion and effective articulation that is as easily communicated to an eight-year-old as it is to a board of trustees. I would really recommend you start your vision work with why and working out from there.  

When you consider ‘how’, this should take into account your core values as an organisation. Values can be part of a philosophy, but they must be a lived reality in the way that everyone is expected to treat each other across your school. Whether that is teachers greeting every class as they arrive, leaders being mental health ambassadors or reward systems that celebrate kindness, your systems and process should reinforce the values of your team and institution in a consistent manner.  

Finally, your ‘why’ and ‘how’ must lead to a ‘what’ which is purposeful and focussed. If your ‘why’ is social mobility then your ‘what’ should be strong outcomes, a broad futures programme and links with employers.  

The stronger your ‘why’ to ‘how’ to ‘what’ threads, the better chance you give your team of achieving their goals, which in turn offers your pupils the best education you can provide.  

So, start with ‘why’, reach into the core of your institution and the individuals within it. This is also not forgetting our earlier blog around starting points. Refer back to the STARS model and remember to consider how your ‘how’ and ‘what’ will be influenced in the short term by the starting point your team finds itself in.  


  1. Why does your school exist? 
  1. What makes your school distinct when compared with the schools around you? 
  1. Ideally, what behaviours would your pupils display? 
  1. How can these be translated into a set of values? 
  1. To your why, using your how methods, what will you need to do practically? 


Phil is a Headteacher as well as an author, having written ‘The First 100 Days’, a story about what we can learn from Premier League managers about being successful over your first 100 days in a role and beyond. Phil has had several articles published in the SecEd magazine.

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