Have you ever had that feeling, where you’ve walked into a school for the first time and you can just feel the energy, feel the positivity and enthusiastic approach from the staff and the children. That is when you know that a school has got their culture and school ethos sorted. Although it is often something which is hard to underpin, that feeling that it’s a good culture for children to learn in.
It could be based on a whole host of different things: enthusiasm from teachers and pupils alike, a desire to be attentive and keen to improve, a chance to show off talents, a rewarding and positive environment, the provision of affection and stability, making sure the children are always put first.
That final idea is an interesting one, do schools (or staff) honestly put themselves ahead of the children? I’ve seen it, and I’m sure you’ve all seen it! Hell, I’ve probably done it myself sometimes. But this is about the majority of the time, not the odd lesson or moment where you give yourself a brief respite. All of our decisions should be made after asking ourselves the question: How will it benefit the children? If the answer is unclear, you need to re-assess your ideas.
Recognising what benefits the children, in every decision made – across all levels in the school – is the first step to improving the learning culture at any school. Being the best a school can be, not in the world, but for the community they are serving. This also comes about through high expectations as soon as someone walks through the door, staff and pupils, delivered with support where needed.
Resilience and achievement must be recognised, supported and allowed freedom. A child must feel like they are not only learning to read and write, but also learning to develop their passions and hobbies – a lot of which can directly translate into the workplace. By stifling these areas, children can lose their interest in education. Perhaps a year four child has never had the opportunity to perform on a stage, play in a football match, create their own comic book away from the classroom, driving a go kart – but perhaps they are particularly gifted in those areas. Giving children an opportunity to explore the exciting opportunities around them really inspires them to try more new things, and learn in all kinds of previously unexplored ways. A truly enriching way to learn and better themselves as an individual.
Through the creation of this approach, children will then in turn feel a lot more positive before school. Will have so many more hooks, which will drive them to what to perform better and be a better person. It isn’t just a fanciful idea either, I have seen endless case studies of children who have really struggled in other schools but have completely altered when joining our school.
One pupil joined us a few years ago, and often talked about how people were not very nice to her in her old school, and that she had never participated in anything sport related other than in PE lessons. She said she had been asked once to play in the netball team, but didn’t feel she was good enough – so she declined and wasn’t ever invited to play again.
Within just a few PE lessons, the staff recognised she was a talented, hard working and committed athlete, netball player and footballer. So they spoke to the staff who ran after school clubs in these areas, they spoke to her about her interests and built her self-esteem up. A year on, she is now a leading figure in our sports competitions and has competed in netball and football tournaments, athletics meets and even tag rugby. She tells me now on a daily basis, that she has never been happier. She works harder than ever before as well.
There are even more case studies, which I’ll add over time..