There is a number of methods to communicate the school’s ethos

There is a number of methods to communicate the school’s ethos, mission, aims and values to those around us. How the school effectively communicates these should be reflected in the working practices. The ethos of a school should be recognisable in the wide school environment immediately as someone enters the premises as it should be reflected in the day-to-day practices of the staff and the pupils there. A school must provide a safe and respected environment to facilitate effective learning practices. An optimistic and positive attitude from the staff is an example of good behaviour for the pupils. Relationships based on fairness, kindness and understanding must be always encouraged among the students. The school environment must set reasonable challenges to each child as well as respect individual differences. The mission is what the school is intended to achieve on the academic and physical level and it is the summary of goals set forth by the institution. It is based on the school’s distinctive beliefs and includes concepts about the environment, services offered and parental involvement. It is specific to the organisation and focuses on a common purpose. Having said that, a school can communicate ethos, mission, aims and values to pupils, staff and parents through:
• School Literature: School’s Prospectus, School Handbook, Policies;
• School Website;
• Meetings (for example, organising open days);
• Assemblies and worships (in a religious institution).
Generally, parents can get an idea about the school’s ethos, mission, aims and values from the school’s prospectus and website before deciding to enrol their children into the institution. Although, if the written information does not clarify certain points, face-to-face meetings with the school staff on an open day might be more effective.
In the past few weeks I had the chance to visit a few schools and also to explore many schools’ websites. I immediately realised how important it is for the educational settings to maintain a balance between what they actually practice every day in the schools and what they show on their websites about the school’s ethos, mission, aims and values.
A school’s ethos should be very easily recognised; it should be part of the day-to-day practice and nature of the pupils and practitioners in that school. A few weeks ago, I completed a one-week training in a Secondary School in Hampshire; the school’s ethos stated: “We have an ethos of ambition and achievement, striving to maximise the potential of each student. We recognise that each student is a unique individual and we value his or her contribution to our school community. We provide care, support and encouragement in a disciplined environment. We work to overcome barriers such as low self-esteem or low aspirations, developing strategies to increase confidence. We encourage participation in the wider aspects of school and community life.” The school’s belief clearly is to support the pupils to discover the world around them, thereby achieving the best possible outcome. It basically uses a child-centred approach where the students are at the centre of the day-to-day practices. To promote their ethos, the school developed a very catchy poster for displaying in all classrooms.
I also visited a Primary School, which ethos promoted the Catholic faith in Education. This was a faith school that clearly promotes a Catholic character in the description of its values. Therefore, an outsider visiting the school, would immediately know from the first look at the logo that the school is a faith school and the education will therefore have inputs from the Christian religion and its pupils may be expected to know certain aspects of the Christian faith like “The lord’s prayer”, ‘The grace’, and Christian way of life generally. However, they will still need to learn all the basic subjects like History, Geography, Science, English, Maths etc.
Every school I visited had a very detailed School’s Handbook with the list of all the policies, aims and values for future reference and for any kind of practice happening in the school. School’s handbooks provide in-depth information about the rules and regulations of the school. Pupils and not only parents, should be encouraged to read the School’s Handbook so that they are aware what is expected of them at school and what they can expect from the institution.
A School Website is a very important method of communicating the message in this computerised modern age. Being online, the message would be accessible from everywhere at any time. It is crucial according to law for the school to have an updated website with all the information including the school policies. The schools I visited have very informative websites with well-presented prospectuses. Their vision was always incorporated in a motto. For example, the school where I completed my training had one statement to follow for their vision and mission or motto (“Respect yourself and others, Endeavour to do your best, Achieve your full potential”). The school chose to display everything in a very shortened form, which immediately clarifies the purposes and aims of the school to provide an excellent educational experience that enable young people to understand the world and the society. On the website prospectus it seemed that ethos, mission, aims and values are incorporated as an integral part of the day-to-day life of the school.
However, the information described in the school’s websites might be exhaustive, but not enough to convince parents to enrol their children. In these cases, they could request for more information by sending an email directly to the school, or they may decide to visit the school. An open day is the chance for prospective parents and students to have a look around a school that they are interested in potentially attending. In fact, it may be vital to go and see a school in person, to get a true feel for the culture. When parents (and children) are at an open day it can be overwhelming, which is why it’s a good idea to think about what to ask ahead of time. For example, parents may need to know how many students are in each class or what extracurricular activities are available, how much contact there will be between parents and teachers, etc. Parents should also pay attention to how the pupils behave (e.g. Do they look happy and engaged?)
Furthermore, school’s assemblies or common worships (in a religious institution) reinforce the ethos and values the teachers wish to give to the children. Assemblies might not be as effective because some parents might not be able to attend an assembly due to work or other personal reasons. However, school’s assemblies represent a good way of reminding the children what values the school represents. The pupils who have been particularly engaged in following the ethos and values of the school should be praised and rewarded to awaken the interest of other pupils following their footsteps.