05/01/2015

I wish it could be Christmas every day

So, that's it for another year then.

Xmas Tree

Before the season of peace and goodwill to all rapidly fades into the seemingly perennial early January malaise, I thought I'd reflect on the values and attitudes which seem to make, for a couple of days at least, people behave a lot more decently towards each other over the festive period.

And also to once again consider the development of those values and attitudes in education. Values which, rather like a dog, shouldn't just be for Christmas.

Peanuts

However, it's not just ephemerality of Christmas spirit that makes such a reflection so topical. A focus on values, character and building personal qualities like resilience in young people has recently been at the forefront of political as well as educational debate.

Trojan Horse

In the wake of the 'Trojan Horse' investigation into extremism in Birmingham, Ofsted has now added the promotion 'British Values' to what it seeks to inspect in our schools. Nicky Morgan, the new Secretary of State for Education recently said that schools needed to help students to develop 'grit' whilst Labour's Tristram Hunt similarly spoke of our responsibility to build in them an almost Churchillian ability to 'overcome adversity and bounce back'.

Winston Churchill

Personally, I can't think of anything worse than the introduction of a 'Values' period on the timetable, or discreet weekly lessons in 'Character'. As a 'bolt-on' this misses the point. Great schools help develop to students' character and personal qualities in all that they do. It's about culture and ethos, and the daily of modelling behaviours, attitudes and values like mutual respect across the school.

And there's nothing new about it either.

Back in 2012 our last Ofsted Report commented that:

'a values centred ambition for students inspired by the Headteacher and governing body drives the school’s effective improvement and planning'

I'm very proud of that comment. Proud because it flowed naturally from a series of related observations about how daily practice is shaped by our adoption of the universal Olympic and Paralympic values as a framework that:

'strongly fosters students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development throughout the curriculum'

Emphasising those values, the report concluded, means that students show 'respect, friendship and a pursuit of excellence'. A key relationship.

Given this emphasis on a ‘values centred ambition' for our students, I was drawn back to headline on the BBC website which I commented on previously on in a blog from September 2013.

School should build ‘character’, say parents.

It focused on research from the University of Birmingham indicating that the vast majority of parents want schools to encourage values such as honesty and fairness as part of a much wider focus on character development. And it also honed in on that crucial relationship between those values and employability skills such as honesty, self-discipline and respectfulness.

You can read it here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23929266

I agree. They're certainly values that we already value. Values, behaviours and attitudes for example reflected in:

Students voluntarily acknowledging random acts of kindness and friendship from their peers on the House Noticeboards...

Noticeboard

And, for the fourth year in succession, zero % NEET (Not in Education, Employment of Training), which means that every Park House Year 11 finds a place in further education, employment and/or training through apprenticeships. That takes character.

So, here's to the next twelve months of values centred ambition. As Wizzard so memorably put it...

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