Headmaster, Mr Simon Bailey and Director of Pastoral Care, Ms Jennifer Girson, give some insight into the recent developments in Edgecliff’s values and vision.
Education aims to achieve a central moral purpose: helping young people to grow into autonomous, morally literate human beings who become valued members of society. While there is plenty of debate on the best way to do this, it is incontestable that teachers exert a moral influence on their pupils through both what they teach and how they teach it.
Many of us will have memories, both good and bad, of those teachers who have affected us for better or for worse. I personally remember my Religious Education teacher saying, “Remember God is love” while vigorously striking boys on the head with a bible!
Arriving with my family, in August 2018 from the UK as the newly appointed Headmaster, I was intrigued to learn the values of Sydney Grammar, Edgecliff Preparatory School. Yet, despite spending 190 days a year, six to seven hours a day together, boys and colleagues were unable to articulate specific values. And, so our journey to define an agreed set of values that would lay the foundations for College Street and their life beyond, began.
After surveying both staff and boys and following many discussions, we established our values statement:
“At Edgecliff we encourage respect, curiosity, honesty and resilience and know that it takes courage to live our lives through these values.”
As well as a vision, that reflected the traditions of Grammar and inspired all in the community to be the best version of themselves.
“At Edgecliff, we aim to provide an educational experience that inspires boys to be courageous learners; empowering them with the skills, knowledge and values that enables them to adapt and contribute to a changing world.”
One may ask, what is the point of this process?
If we look back at the findings of the Values Education Good Practice Schools Project funded by the Australian Government in the last decade, their report concluded that values embedded in the learning context play a significant role in determining the quality of the educational experience. Values in education can:
- Lead to changes in teacher professional practice in classrooms, particularly the way teachers relate to and communicate with their pupils;
- Produce calmer and more focused classroom activity;
- Enable pupils to become better self-managers;
- Help pupils develop greater capacities for reflection;
- Increase teachers’ levels of confidence in their approaches to their work and their sense of professional fulfilment;
- Produce strong positive relationships between pupils and between pupils and teachers.
“Our core values are also raised in discussions of social interactions, problem solving and conflict management.”
How do we know that the values and vision have been embedded into our school community, and how much do the values and vision really impact the boys?
Time will tell, but rest assured the pastoral direction of the school is in safe hands. I am very grateful to Ms Jennifer Girson and Mr Stuart Ferguson who have both helped steer the school through this change and are firmly focused on how the next stage will evolve, as Ms Girson writes below.
Promoting and maintaining the School’s vision and values is an ongoing and evolving task, which involves pupils, teachers, leadership and parents as we help our pupils develop awareness of the values that underpin their thoughts and actions.
- Our aims in embedding our values into school life have been to:
Ensure pupils understand each value;
- Lead by example in incorporating values into our thinking and actions;
- Make use of teaching habits that encourage the practice and transfer of values-informed behaviours;
- Create a climate in classrooms and in the School for this behaviour to flourish;
- Reinforce and celebrate pupils’ ownership of these behaviours.
The process began with the development of a common vocabulary around values. In PDHPE lessons and staff meetings, we have engaged in collaborative discussion around that which matters most to us as a school community.
Our goal for this year has been to expand our understanding of each of our School values and to explore actively how they might best be embodied in school life. To keep these at the heart of all we do we have made our values visible through signage across the school, in the boys’ diaries, on our website and in the written agendas of Leadership meetings.
As teachers think more profoundly about their teaching and the values that they model, both inside and outside of the classroom, they contribute implicitly to a “values consciousness” that influences pupil attitudes and behaviour. Classroom based discussions and activities challenge pupils to think more deeply about our values and how these are reflected in our actions. Teachers also weave these concepts into the school curriculum. For example, values might be raised in relation to discussion of historical figures or in the context of literary characters and the ethical choices, they face. Our core values are also raised in discussions of social interactions, problem solving and conflict management.
Assembly has also offered a good opportunity for School Leadership to demonstrate how our key values can be applied in challenging situations. For example, reflections on the value of Resilience in the face of change has direct relevance to the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Demonstrating these norms and expectations, rather than imposing rules around them, helps pupils to absorb these values and apply them to other aspects of their lives. Recognising and rewarding pupils who are able to make positive choices in lessons, during break and lunch times, in their social interactions, online, on the sports field and in extracurricular activities is an effective way of nurturing these values in our pupils.
Our pastoral care team is in the process of developing a matrix that will highlight authentic, concrete behaviours associated with each of our values across specific areas of school life. This will provide increased opportunity for pupils to understand what each value means and how it is lived. A public reward system will be introduced to acknowledge pupils’ efforts.
Parents can also play an important role by modelling our School values and by extending discussions of our values into their homes.
Our challenge as we move forward is how we might foster a sense of responsibility within our boys that goes beyond their school experiences and extends into their relationships, their community, the environment and the world.