The 5 Characteristics of Positive School Culture

Recently, we announced the launch of our latest cohort of our 4 Day Coaching Programme to Maximise School Performance.

In preparation for the programme, I have been reflecting on the features of school cultures that serve to grow adults and foster outstanding staff performance.

As I did so, I was reminded of research carried out by Stoll and Fink at the Institute of Education. Their research identified a number of school cultural norms that they cite as evidence for strong, positive school cultures.

They assert that if these norms are weak or non-existent within a school, then growth and development at both an individual and organisational level are severely hampered.

Out of the norms which they identified, I believe there are five that are essential, for creating genuine school cultures in which all adults and young people thrive.

As you read through these, I’d encourage you to reflect on each of the norms below and perhaps consider these questions:

– To what extent are these norms present in your school culture?
– Which norms are strengths and would act as enablers for the development of a positive culture in your school?
– Which norms are weaknesses/areas for development and might act as potential barriers for the development of a positive culture in your school?
– What strategies could be developed for overcoming these barriers?

1. Shared Goals & Vision – We know where we’re going

When individuals are empowered to take ownership of their goals it can cause a shift in the culture of a school. As individuals learn how to work in alignment with the school’s vision and values, a new set of relationship norms are created which are less to do with individuals seeking success for their own class, team or department, but are now more to do with generating and seeking whole school success.

The vision of the school is not just understood but also shared by all, from the senior management team through to the support staff. Everyone knows what the goals mean and how they relate to the achievement of the school’s vision. Individuals are clear about the actions that they need to take for these goals to be fulfilled.

2. Collegiality – We’re in this Together

School culture is supported when there is strong camaraderie amongst between all staff with relationships built upon trust and understanding. The professional bonds that exist amongst staff members are strong enough to weather the storms that can hit school communities.

There is a shared sense of belonging, purpose and a desire for the vision of the school to be fulfilled. No-one is working for themselves, no-one is left out. All staff are made to feel welcome and everyone is treated as a part of the team.

3. Continuous Improvement & Lifelong Learning – We can Always Get Better

Individuals in a positive school culture know that there is always capacity and room for improvement. Opportunities for learning and development are seen in all aspects of school life and not just limited to going out on courses.

Staff are empowered to view themselves as lifelong learners and to help facilitate the learning of others within the school. Learning is seen as a key part of the adult learning journey, enabling individuals to achieve ever varying degrees of personal and professional maturity.

4. Risk Taking – We learn by trying something new

Where risk taking is common place, there is a freedom, courage and a joy in which teachers and senior leaders go about their daily tasks. Creativity is let loose and individuals discover previously unidentified routes for fulfilling their potential.

In this culture, a growth mind-set is adopted by all and as such, mistakes are not seen as failure but as a source of learning and growth. By trialling ideas and initiatives and experimenting with new ways of doing things, staff and School Leaders learn what works and what doesn’t and become bigger, better version of themselves.

5. Celebration and Humour: We Feel Good about Ourselves

In a positive school culture, achievements (whether big or small) are appreciated and celebrated. Research has shown that when we feel good about ourselves and our achievements are recognised, we not only feel better about both ourselves but it also optimises the way in which our brains function. We are more likely to enter a state of flow and so maximise our own levels of performance. Thus, celebrating team and individual success is key to the development of high performing teams.

On top of this, joy and laughter are present in school life. The school day provides everyone with opportunities to relax, reflect, to be themselves with colleagues and to have moments where they can be less serious. When this is the case, staff feel more content and passionate in their roles.

How Can I Nurture a Positive School Culture in my School?

If you’re interested in discovering how you can develop and build some of these characteristics in your school and in turn, realise your school’s vision, then you might be interested in our latest offering to support School Leaders fulfil their vision.

Our 4 Day Coaching Programme (which is approved by the Institute of Leadership and Management) will aim to provide Senior School Leaders with the knowledge, skills and confidence to utilise coaching powerful as part of their normal work role.  It is designed to provide a solid foundation for those School Leaders who want to fully understand how to nurture a coaching culture in their school.

The programme will equip you with the skills for:
– Managing difficult conversations
– Understanding how to get the best out of individuals with challenging behaviours
– Understanding yourself better and knowing how to draw upon your strengths to get the best out of others
– Facilitating better teamwork and minimising team conflict
– Developing your relationship management skills by helping you understand how to identify and respond to different personality types

Once you have completed the programme, you will come away with:
– A solid understanding of coaching and how it can be used to strengthen your ability to lead and manage others
– The coaching skills required for managing a range of personality types
– The confidence to use your coaching skills to support school improvement initiatives

Register Your Interest Now


2 Responses

  1. I did this course with Viv Grant and her team three years ago. It has been invaluable for the coaching of leaders and Heads I have undertaken subsequently. I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone who is leading a school.

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