Your school results are of course important – grades, OFSTED inspection levels – but one of the best ways to ensure you hit the high note in these areas is ensuring the members of your school are positive. Note the use of school members as opposed to just students – this applies to teaching staff too! If your colleagues are feeling content then your school, in general, is likely to tick all the boxes. Let’s explore some ways you can ensure this is the case!
How does everyone look when they come in to school? Take it upon yourself to look out for anyone looking like they are dreading it – whether that be students or teachers. You can pick this up by monitoring facial expressions and body language, although not TOO closely. If you see people walking with their head down, avoiding eye contact, and in classes if they seem unenthusiastic or unhappy to be there, check in with them and see if everything is OK. When you walk down the hall, do you hear laughter and see smiles? If so, you are definitely doing something right.
It is your role to ensure a positive school culture, which consists of all of the underlying attitudes and influences within the school and is based on the traditions, beliefs and norms of the staff and pupils. It’s an incredibly important aspect of your school life as it will affect anything going on within the walls. Your role as a leader of the school is to:
- Read the current culture by observing attitudes of teachers both around students and their colleagues and have a good understanding of the feelings of students towards the staff
- Pick out the positive and toxic aspects. You can do this by writing down the things you feel improve the general atmosphere and those that inspire negativity.
- Reinforce the positives by pulling out these aspects and add anything additional you’d like to see within your school. You can then take the necessary action to reinforce these and thus create a positive school culture.
Here are some ways you can help yourself to build a positive school culture.
By ensuring you have open and honest communication with your students’ parents, you can avoid any types of misunderstanding and any hostile feelings. Ensure you are regularly asking for feedback (although not too regularly!) on both classes, school programs or their general feelings. Parents see their child when they get home so they may be able to voice concerns you are not necessarily aware of. You’ll be running parents evenings, as all schools do, but go above and beyond by offering 1-1 workshops and meetings so parents can have a chance to discuss things like homework, skills and tests. The common denominator is that everyone wants the best for the students, but actions speak louder than words.
Everyone likes being told they are doing a great job, but most of us don’t do it enough! Try setting your teachers a target of how many compliments they should give a day to the children to highlight what each student has done well. You may even find that increases the happiness of your staff by encouraging them to think more positively. Even though you may not have the capacity to hold a large scale awards ceremony, it can go down well for the students and is a way of encouraging them to aim for something. You could even print out awards to give to students yourself or hang them up as part of your interior signs.
If someone does not follow the rules, they should be disciplined – but make sure this is completely consistent as that can be a common way for students to get disheartened. No one wants to be felt like they are being treated differently to the rest. Be proactive – detentions aren’t always the best option. Rather than going down this route, you can try alternative options, such as writing a letter of apology and getting the student to do a task such as litter picking – which also gets something done.
Remember – all changes start at the top, so ensure you are also following suit when it comes to the qualities and values you want to see from your staff and students.
Create fun school traditions
Being at school isn’t all about learning, although some people may think it is! If everyone is having fun, they will be so much more likely to enjoy learning due to the balance. Try incorporating fun activities into the school day or even into lessons. You could try certain rituals or traditions which are implemented on a monthly basis, such as a mufti day or an afternoon of games. Remember, some children don’t enjoy PE so try to make options for everyone in this!
Creating an activity for charity is also another great option. It not only raises awareness for a great cause but also gets the students working together to achieve something. You could perhaps do this in the form of a sponsored walk or a community project.
Keep an eye on it!
You cannot simply create a good atmosphere and just leave it. Make sure you are keeping in touch with staff members regularly to see how everyone is feeling and how they are noticing the students acting. Staying informed is imperative but there’s no way you can be in all classrooms at once!
It’s something that needs constant monitoring and there is always room for more ideas. Ask your teachers, teaching assistants for ideas, especially if they’ve worked in schools previously. You can even try looking on social media at schools with good reputations to see the kind of things they are doing.
Remember, building up this amazing culture will take some time, and if you feel you’ve got a long way to go, this can feel particularly daunting. You may not see the results you want as quickly as you want but keep plugging on and you will get there eventually. The change starts with you!