- To help students to believe in, and therefore make the most of, their own unique qualities, skills and talents.
- To ensure that all children achieve well, whatever their starting point.
- To enrich young people’s lives by giving them opportunities to broaden their thinking and to enjoy educational experiences outside of the classroom.
- To foster a culture of learning in which we all, adults and children, strive to be the best we can be.
- To model and maintain the highest expectations with regard to behaviour, attitudes and relationships.
- To encourage critical thinking, so that young people are well prepared for the complexity of adult life.
- To help young people to develop intellectually, personally and socially so that they can contribute positively as active citizens.
- To offer a creative, varied and rich programme of study so that our students can develop their interests and skills, in the performing and creative arts, sport, practical activities, through the taught curriculum as well as diverse extra-curricular provision.
- To try to ensure that all of our students have fun and enjoy school, whilst developing a strong work ethic.
- To be at the forefront of educational cutting-edge thinking and practice so that our students benefit from the professional expertise of our staff.
In the 2011 Prevent Strategy, the government published a statement of British Values. These have been republished and schools expected to reinforce them with students. We are also expected to demonstrate how we help students to understand and embrace these values.
The key points are:
the rule of law
tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs
These values are complementary to those that underpin our everyday activity in school, our relationships and expectations summarised by our motto – “being the best we can be” and explained more fully in our Values Statement. Our students experience and explore the British Values, not least in our explicit commitment to developing their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
In addition to the taught elements of the curriculum in which aspects of democracy are explicitly taught – in History, PSHE and Geography, for example, we provide students with a real experience of democracy whenever we can: our own elections invariably take place to mirror national and local elections, with students acting as candidates, officers and voters. Student Voice is a very high profile aspect of our community – our Student Leaders Advisory Panel represent their peers’ views and have been very involved in recruitment, determining key aspects of our discipline and anti-bullying policies as well as bringing and realising students’ ideas for improving their school experience. Our sixth form council represents the interests of the students, with representation from all tutor groups, as well as leading and organising events.
The Rule of Law
We have clear rules and expectations in school. Not all students agree with them all but they are applied consistently and fairly and students are expected to adhere to them. Accepting that being a responsible member of a community and abiding by rules is good preparation for adult life. Taking responsibility for our own actions is central to our ethos.
Expectations are reinforced in tutor activities, lessons and assemblies. Our students have also been involved in determining many of the rules and are often consulted when they are reviewed. There are many opportunities to discuss the law and how it affects different people. Within our curriculum and extra-curricular programme, there are opportunities to work with the police, with solicitors and barristers, the fire brigade, councillors, local community organisations and other community representatives. These give students a fuller appreciation of the importance of the rule of law.
Our educational philosophy includes a commitment to personalise learning whenever possible. We also work hard to enable students to make informed personal choices, in their learning and in their wider contribution to and participation in school events. We offer a very wide choice of extra-curricular activities – many of them initiated and led by students themselves. We encourage our students to take the initiative, trust them to enjoy their social time and expect them to exercise their rights and freedoms. We put a great deal of emphasis on safety, including e-safety, personal safety and the fact that with liberty comes responsibility to respect others’ rights and liberty.
The supportive and purposeful culture in our school, often commented upon by visitors, depends on mutual respect. We expect the adults and the students to show each other respect. The principle of “being the best we can be” can only be fully realised if we all do our best to help others to be the best they can be too.
Tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs
In this part of North Yorkshire we are very fortunate to live and work in a beautiful area. Our school community is largely mono-cultural, though within this we have a significant number of Traveller and Traveller Heritage children, and a small proportion from other faith and cultural groups. We actively seek to ensure that our curriculum fills the gaps that children in more diverse communities take for granted. We consciously seek to develop a culturally rich and diverse curriculum including active study and experience of all major religions. Our children are growing up in a complex and ever-changing world: we ensure that we draw upon events on a national and global scale in our PSHE, curriculum subjects and assemblies, creating opportunities for students to discuss their ideas, challenge each other’s views in a safe and supportive environment and grow in confidence in questioning narrow-mindedness and radicalism, in all its forms.
Our School values are entirely complementary to the British Values outlined by the government –
“being the best we can be”
Our “Transforming Learning Culture” consultation in 2007 – 8 led to our choosing the touchstone of ἀρετή, featured on our school badge, which was introduced then and, in its basic sense, meaning excellence of any kind.
The whole school community at the time – students, parents, governors and staff – were engaged in discussions about our identity, our aims, our philosophy of education, our professional responsibilities, ways of working together, our uniform and our place within the educational and the local community. What emerged from those consultations was a need to encapsulate our sense of purpose and ἀρετή, the most articulated value in Greek culture, resonated for us in school then, as it does today.
In Greek mythology, it embraces wider ideals, including moral values, the idea of excellence being intrinsically linked to the concept of perfecting oneself. In the ancient world, this notion of excellence encompasses the aspiration to fulfil purpose – becoming the best one can be – it is associated in mythology with bravery, with generosity of spirit and with achievement. The concept implies that as individuals and as a community, our actions matter: in a complex world, human value and meaning can be judged by our contribution, our efforts, behaviours and self-improvement. The word ἀρετή is analogous to deep learning – the pursuit of knowledge, in terms of self-awareness as well as academic study: the belief that studying is the highest form of happiness is particularly appropriate for a school.
Hence our simple statement to capture a complex aspiration, encompassing all the more subtle nuances of the philosophy, and encapsulating our vision that every child, whatever his or her circumstances and starting point, has unique skills and qualities and given the support, encouragement, opportunity and challenge to achieve, can do so. It is our task to create a context for them to thrive, academically, personally, socially, to experience the real joy of learning as well as preparing them for the adult world.
Central to our school badge – designed then by one of our staff working with students – is therefore the aspiration to be the best we can be and the “touchstone” word ἀρετή. We refer in lessons, in assemblies and in conversations with students to this, as a means to think about what we do and say as individuals and as a community, not least in the sense that to be the best I can be, I have a responsibility to support others in becoming the best they can be. When new students join us, I explain the significance of the motto they wear and tell them that our school should be a better place because they are joining it. None of us is perfect, we all make mistakes and sometimes are not as effective as we want to be but we always aspire to be the best we can be.