Designing your school values

Is it time to re-evaluate your school’s values? 

Many schools in the UK have a long-standing motto upon which its values and ethos are built. However, sometimes these can sit as underutilised tools, often buried within mission statements on websites or printed on school planners and notebooks, yet rarely practiced with colleagues, students and other key stakeholders.

If you’ve moved into a headteacher role and have been thinking that perhaps it’s time for your school to re-evaluate its values and purpose for a more modern representation of your school body, we’ve come up with a strategy for developing a clear and current set of values.

Defining your school’s purpose collectively

As we highlighted within our recent article on creating an anti-bullying message, creating new or updated school messaging should be a consultative process in order to fully reflect and include the shared views of your school.

This activity can be replicated across different groups of key stakeholders, such as students, colleagues, parents and governors, and it’s a good idea to aim to ensure that every group is consulted for good representation.

  1. Revisit and redefine your values

In this first exercise, the aim is to go back to basics and revisit the values you stand for. You, or the group facilitator, ask the group to call out some of the key values that the school holds. You might find it useful to list some of the values within your school’s mission statement to help get people thinking and build on them, but the aim is to think about what your school stands for and how you’d want it to be known. A few examples could be:

  • Diversity
  • Integrity
  • Creativity
  • Resilience
  • Respect

  1. What makes your school different or unique?

Next, consider the elements where your school really excels. This doesn’t necessarily mean academic excellence, but any area where you or your peers feel the school really stands out – think of it as a unique selling point (or USP). This might include:

  • An outstanding creative offering
  • Excellent health and wellbeing support
  • Pupil mentoring schemes
  • High-quality teaching
  • Staff that go above and beyond
  • Leading sports facilities
  • Subject specialisms
  1. Crafting new mission statements or mottos

Now, divide your group into several smaller groups and give each a sheet of flipchart paper. Choose just two key values and two USPs for the group to focus on and ask them to come up with some ideas to form a motto or short statement about the school.

After 10 minutes or so, stop the groups and ask each to pin their sheet to a nearby wall or surface. Working clockwise, ask each group to pick their winning idea or statement from each sheet by marking or circling next to it so that, by the end of the session, you have three to four mottos or statements that everyone is happy with.

By the end of your group sessions, you’ll come away with plenty of ideas to work with that represent your students, staff and wider stakeholders, and can compare the outputs to spot key similarities that you might choose to take forward into formally reworking your school’s motto.

This is just one creative idea that you might consider as part of designing your school’s values, you might also consider holding discussions in focus groups or simply creating a survey or form for ideas and suggestions.

Share your tips with us! Let us know in the ‘Have Your Say’ comments how you’ve approached a similar situation and we’ll share some of our favourites.