Culture is necessary for a healthy society; ethos delivers the values, principles and attitudes of an organisation or individual. The ethos within a school is important. It equips today’s young people with an ability to operate and contribute in an integrated and multidisciplinary world. Indeed, ethos extends beyond the school and into the wider community; how the young people, the staff and the community all relate to each other.
Each school will, within its aims and core values, promote ethos and encompass it within a statement which reflects pupils’ spiritual, moral, cultural and social development.
This requires strong leadership and effective management of existing resources and provision. Senior leaders within schools are expected to deliver a ranging remit which can alternate between teaching, lunch duties, reporting, administration and strategic decision making. Indeed, this role is a fine balancing act which requires continuous effort and realistically, will see many managers working beyond their agreed, allocated working hours.
Professionalism, dedication and commitment it seems, are essential components in the job description.
The onset of transformational or distributed leadership within schools has seen many opportunities for un-promoted staff or middle managers to develop their professional and personal skills. Of course, this very much depends on the personality and nature of the individual, but perhaps a common, unified approach should be taken within the school with, as mentioned previously, senior leadership held at the heart of the establishment, not at the head.
A culture of collaboration, trust and the opportunity for staff to safely take risks is required.
As educators, it can be frustrating when working with young people when, despite encouragement, they do not take risks and follow initiative with their work.
Why is this the case? Are they afraid to make mistakes, worried that they will be laughed at and lose their credibility amongst their peers? Can we expect our young people to learn from their teachers and role models within school? Of course we can. That is why the culture and ethos is determined, not just by the attitudes and behaviours of the young people but also the staff.
The culture and ethos is also influenced by many other aspects of the school, both formal and informal arrangements alike. It is perhaps the most difficult thing to change; even the introduction of a school uniform is not a simple task. The language used by staff is also vital, with restorative practices now being used to manage major disputes and low level disruption within the classroom.
Indeed, at the very heart of this agenda lies one very important and valuable issue which is often lost in translation. The culture and ethos of a school determines the value of education and learning.
Creating a healthy culture, delivering an ethos which is supported by everyone, is the first step in delivering a 21st Century education within a 21st Century school. Without this in place, there can be no structure. Without structure, there can be no process.