The Culture Canvas

Creating the Culture for Success has never been more important in all working environments and none more so as in our schools. Leading and managing schools has never been as difficult as it is right now. Our leaders have never been put under the pressure and strain they are currently.

The seemingly never ending advice, regulation and statute from the government has changed the way we do things significantly. We have to recognise, much more than we do, that our school leaders are doing an unbelievably fantastic job making sure our schools are as safe as they can be whilst also working extremely hard to make sure the children ‘catch up’. The pressure to do all of this work whilst also looking after the well being of all staff is a heavy burden indeed.

In our MAT the schools have an enhanced security blanket through the fantastic support of the central team but even then, they are still feeling the immense weight of the burden of responsibility and expectation, so I can only imagine what schools without such a comprehensive support network, are going through. There is evidence to suggest many Head Teachers are considering leaving the profession once they have guided their schools through this current crisis. I can only hope that once things have calmed down they rethink and stay on as we need them.

A recent poll of Birmingham Headteachers showed that Heads are further burdened by the re introduction of Ofsted in the spring term and even more so by the expectation of end of year assessments when they are sending whole year groups home for weeks at a time. It could be described as the perfect storm.

One way we are supporting our leaders and all of our staff is our relentless focus on the importance and development of school culture. We firmly believe that the development of an effective organisation and individual school culture is not only the key to surviving this very difficult time but also our long term success. One of our current KPIs is to be an employer of choice and we are looking at in many different ways to do this but one key tools we have used to develop culture is the Culture Design Canvass championed by Gustavo Razzetti. He identifies that:

The Culture Design Canvas is more than just a tool; it’s the framework we use for helping schools, teachers and teams build a positive workplace culture.



You can download a Blank Culture Design Canvas here

We have worked on this framework during the lockdown earlier in the year as a trust and have found the tool so powerful that we are working with each of our schools to do the same. Here are 5 top tips to do it well from our point of view:


  1. Prioritise its importance– this isn’t a gimmick, culture dictates success so you have to prioritise culture and the creation of a great culture as central to all you do.
  2. Give it the time it deserves– do not be tempted to rush, it took us approximately 20 hours to complete our first draft. The power we found is in the discussion. Also follow the procedure set out in the guidance found at It really does make a difference.
  3. Be open and honest– ensure you include all parties in the creation of the culture canvass. People have to have ownership of it, it is not a top down process.
  4. Be precise about the wording– really work hard to ensure you are all happy with the words you use as they can really make a difference to the meaning and perception of what you are trying to achieve.
  5. Reach for the stars– this is not a reflection of what the culture is now but rather a reflection of what it needs to be. Really think about what the very best culture is to your school or organisation.

If you would like to discuss what we do as a trust please feel free to contact me via email at


Written by Jonathan Smart, Deputy CEO Excelsior MAT

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