What makes a school great, and how do you know? Is it the curriculum programs and the results achieved? Does a median ATAR score or NAPLAN results make a good school? Is it low suspension rates?
I dare say it is the people and how they conduct themselves. It’s the things they say and do, what they believe, and who they are. They approach every situation with love and curiosity. These are the qualities that produce well-rounded, engaged students and successful schools. It doesn’t matter if the latest fad programs are being implemented or thousands have been paid for a scripted lesson approach. A restorative culture will strengthen any curriculum or program approach that is chosen.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of presenting at Comet Bay Primary School, which recently started a partnership with Real Schools. What a fantastic environment and vibe the school has. What’s the ‘vibe’ you say? Remember that iconic Australian movie The Castle? Well, they told us way back in 1997 that the vibe is everything around you, and I tell you, Comet Bay have a vibe.
To start with, their grounds are truly amazing: well presented, neat and tidy. You can tell that everyone truly cares about this school. They care enough to make it look good. It’s bright and breezy with clean new furniture. There are no broken bits. It’s a pleasure to walk into the classrooms and the staffrooms. The leadership team cares about their stakeholders and is doing everything possible to let them know, including a fantastic picture shoot on their socials for the beginning of the term to welcome back the whole school community.
And it shows. When I was presenting, the staff were enthusiastic, engaged and responsive. They were invested in what they were doing and spoke with love and care about the students and the parents. What struck me the most was the staff’s enthusiasm for getting the culture right. How they supported and cheered for each other rather than the individual because the individual’s successes are the team’s successes. They are taking a collective responsibility for their school community and want to make it a place where students, parents, visitors and staff are welcomed and made to feel safe.
When we have a safe environment, we learn. We take risks, and we give it a go. The fear of failure, shame and embracement is diminished. When this happens, children genuinely engage in the lesson and the school. They start to learn, which results in children reaching their full potential. Parents see this, and the respect, love and support for teachers grow. It ultimately results in less stressed, satisfied and happy teachers who go the extra mile.
Working on school culture is the most important thing a school can do.
Check out other articles Candice has written here.