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023 aureus 200th 2018

Author: Dr. Neil Hawkes, Founder: Values-based Education International

 

 

If you really want to develop a quality school and tackle the debilitating effects of teacher burnout, challenging pupil behaviour, unreasonable work-life balance, too much accountability, low morale, a relentless drive for higher standards, stress — then start by visioning your school’s culture as you would like it to be.

 

Aureus School, in Didcot is doing just that. Hannah Wilson, its inspirational Headteacher, on being appointed to this new secondary school, decided to create a culture that takes full account of the internal worlds of the staff and pupils and what they bring to the educational process as human beings.

 

She realised that in order to fully engage pupils in the school’s curriculum, there was first a need to acknowledge and understand the reality that they experience in their daily lives, which affects their attitudes and quality of their learning.

 

Hannah began by looking at the school culture that she wanted to create and decided that it should be embedded with a set of universal positive human values, which would nurture the positive dispositions of the pupils by emphasising positive character traits such as respect, cooperation and honesty.

 

Most schools will say that they have values – in truth a school cannot be values free, but the difference is that Hannah and her staff went deeper into the values dynamic. They asked, so if we base the school’s life on values then what do they look like in practice?

 

  • How should our school day begin if we want pupils to be calm, purposeful and engaged in the learning process?
  • How should meal times be organised if we want pupils to develop social skills?
  • Can all staff consistently model the school’s values?
  • How do we develop agency in pupils so that they are able to develop the full range of communicative competencies?
  • How do we build relational trust so that the school is one of harmony rather than chaos?

 

These are some of the questions to be asked when building a 21st century school culture rather than perpetuating a redundant 19th century model that is no longer fit for purpose; which creates the stresses that I outlined earlier.

 

Aureus School is one of a few schools nationally to be awarded the Gold Status of the Carnegie Centre of Excellence Mental Heath Award for Schools, which speaks volumes about the positive effects that the school is now having because it went through the cultural development process I outlined above.

 

I hope that I have inspired you to want to know more about how to create the school of your dreams rather than just coping with a school that you would like to be different and could be ruining your health.

 

If you would like support to help create a quality school, then please do have a read about our VbE professional development training using the link below.

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