There is a certain feeling I get when I wander around our School and it is a good feeling!
This feeling is often shared by new families who are looking for the “right” school for their child/children.
They often comment on the positive, respectful and happy atmosphere they experience as they tour the campus.
This is why I prefer to do school tours when our students are here.
Otherwise the tour is all about the buildings and the “spin” the Principal puts on the School’s achievements.
Walking around as over 1100 students interact with staff, rush from point A to point B, talk to friends and do all the things that are “normal” at St Columba, these new families get to see the true nature of our School → The stuff that really tells the observer what our School really is really like and what it values.
We call that our School Climate.
So, is this thing called School Climate important?
Let’s begin with clarity in regard to what we are talking about → What is School climate?
School climate is the heart and soul of a school. It has been described as the unwritten personality and atmosphere of a school, including its norms, values, and expectations. It is about making school a place where children feel challenged but competent, where they work hard but enjoy it, where achievement is the product but not the sole objective.
School climate is a joint creation of the whole school community – students, staff and families. It filters into everything the School does. It becomes a foundation for the School’s objectives and how we choose to achieve them.
Next, does School climate really matter?
Children need a safe, healthy and stimulating environment in which to grow and learn. During the school year, children can spend 6 to 8 hours at the school so the environment plays a significant/critical role in child development.
How they feel, how they talk and act in response to their environment, how they interact with others and how often they smile is a key indicator of how well they will learn.
In fact, research has shown that school climate is a leading predictor of students’ emotional and behavioral outcomes; positive or negative.
So, Simple answer: YES, it does matter!
Does school climate actually improve educational outcomes?
Formal research linking student achievement to a school’s atmosphere has been proven in a study in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, a quarterly publication of the Washington-based American Sociological Association. It found that a positive school climate is strongly tied to increased academic achievement.
A positive climate does not only impact on students but also on teachers. Schools with strong school cultures have more highly motivated teachers. Highly motivated teachers have greater success in terms of increasing student performance and outcomes.
So, Simple answer: YES it does!
Finally, how can you tell if our school has a good climate or culture?
Here are some of the questions, based on research, that will help you tell if we are getting it “right”:
- Do the members of our School community clearly understand the School’s distinctive character — and what it takes to thrive in it ? Are they happy to talk about this?
- Does our School’s leadership communicate effectively with teachers, administrators and families? Do these groups communicate effectively with each other?
- Does our School culture value and support traits like collaboration, honesty, and hard work?
- Is our School clear on how members of the school community should act and behave, and what is expected of them?
- Do our students feel safe, connected and engaged in learning?
- Are clear, appropriate and consistent expectations and consequences used to address disruptive student behaviours?
- Does our School welcome parental involvement?
- Is there a clear focus on learning and high expectations for student achievement?
- Are the behaviours and the way people actually act and behave in line with our School’s stated values?
If you feel we are failing in any of these please let me know.
Give me examples.
Meanwhile back in the ”real” world….