Larkmead brand workshop


This article outlines the steps we took, working together with a group of ninety 11–15yr olds over a 10 month period, to define the school's brand – its big idea, point of difference, values and mission. This is a good read for anyone interested in understanding the early stages of brand development.


about larkmead

Larkmead School is a secondary school in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Whilst specialising in the Visual and Performing Arts, Larkmead offers a balanced programme of studies across all disciplines, age groups and abilities. Larkmead achieves very good results by traditional standards.

Uniquely it champions the individual and creates a secure community in which those individuals can thrive. The trust, accessibility and calmness of this community provides a firm launch pad to allow the pupils a fully informed participation in shaping the school’s future.


As part of the government's School Changes Programme, Connnexxions was invited to help Larkmead school discover its unique brand identity. At first glance this seemed like any other project, however, in this case the requirement was to enrol ninety 11 to 15 year olds as agents, to involve everyone, to make it fun and interesting, and to educate through discovery rather than simply 'teaching from the front'. 

Ultimately, our task was to create a brief for the future implementation for the development of the school's visual brand – its logo, colours, signage, uniform and website – and its aural narrative – its mission, key messaging and tone of voice.   

This was a valuable exercise for us to undertake as it required a massive rethink of how one goes about communicating the full meaning behind this powerful idea in such a way that was entertaining, understandable and memorable. As such, the insights gained from this foundational programme in branding helps inform that way any business might choose to conduct the development of its own brand. If a bunch of year seven to nine students get it, so can we. 

To achieve this, the Connexxions team – led by Arthur op den Brouw working with community artist, Christine Wilkinson and actor and scriptwriter, Edmund Harcourt, brother-in-law to Kate Winslet – developed a programme that introduced the school to a way of understanding brand, techniques for discovering and then defining the full breadth of the communities identity and finally a plan for implementation. 

STAGE 1: CONTEXT AND GOAL SETTING – What is A brand? Why create a brand?


The aim was to educate the children about 'brand'. This would then enable them to, through a series of activities, define the core brand principles of the school. 


To begin with, it helps to think about brand in the following way:

  • The object – in this case it's the school as a community
  • The purpose – as in reason for its existence
  • What you stand for – some call this the mission
  • Core values – the priorities that are unique to this community
  • The big idea – similar to purpose, expressed in a visionary manner

Brand helps us to communicate our differences
as well as our similarities.


It is not a question of if you should because you already do! ... for better and for worse. It follows that if a community – in this case a school – can understand and articulate its identity in precise and definitive terms it will be in a better position to take control of how the outside world perceives it too. 

A clearly defined brand can offer the following benefits: 

  • Achieve a higher degree of focus for a community
  • Make it easier to communicate both internally and externally
  • Binds your community by developing common values
  • Make the most of what you’ve naturally good at
  • Helps to stand out from the crowd and attract positive relationships
  • Being articulate in the principles of identity and brand is a great life skill

Define what you want to be.


We introduced this group of ninety young people to the concept that brand is a term that represents things we are all familiar with and is part of our psychological makeup. It is to do with things we can touch or see, and things that are stories and culture.

It is something you already know and it is inside your head.



  • To research and understand what we anticipate and want from Larkmead
  • To discover attitudes and beliefs of teachers, parents, alumni and students
  • To analyse the results and discover what matters most and where the priorities lay
  • To review the nature of individuals working together with common purpose.

...what matters most.


A series of visual, dramatic and research activities resulted in analysing the attitudes of the pupils, teachers and external community towards the school. This research was key to developing a clear position on the school's purpose and values.

...the nature of individuals working together with common purpose.

Where do you want to be in 15 years time?



To assist the school community to develop its core set of highest values.

...what would the opposite look like?


Through a series of entertaining exercises, students were able to agree unanimously which values were the most important for this particular school.


Community, discipline, active, hard work, pride, everyone matters


It is the purpose of Larkmead to equip young people with the skills, experience and knowledge to allow them to flourish as individuals as well as members of a community.


STAGE 4: Define the big idea


At this stage, the children had to use the experience and information from the first three stages to create key phrases that would describe the 'big idea', the core principles of the school.

...the sky is the limit.

...learning for life.

...inspiring minds, creating futures.

...find yourself here, learning for life.

...success in your terms. community, individual minds.


As you can see above, six key phrases were originated. The overriding consensus was the the phrase you see below was the most important core principle of the school.

...where everyone comes first.