What Is The Why of Your School?


The Importance of Character in Education  is the title of the TEDx talk that I recently delivered. The talk is just a snippet of the reading, research and thinking that I’ve been doing over the last year. Delving into great work that I’d strongly recommend  by The Jubillee Centre for Character & Virtues , Tom Wright’s book, Virtue Reborn (not about education but a Christian understanding of what it means to be human), and Ken Robinson’s book, Creative Schools amongst other things.

I approached Character Education with a degree of scepticism a couple of years ago. Was this the governments attempt to provide a balance to the excessive focus on data, results and exam specs? Was character not already at the heart of any good school? Can character actually be ‘taught’? Now I still don’t have all the answers to my questions and perhaps, having begun researching this for myself I have even more questions. What I am convinced of is that education, if it is to mean anything needs to be underpinned and driven by an understanding and application of Character Education. Much of this I outline in my TEDx talk 

Simon Sinek in his explanation of the Golden Circle demonstrates the way that inspirational businesses and individuals succeed ipicture_simon_golden_circlen a way that the majority do not. He outlines their focus on the ‘why’ of their work not the ‘what’ or the ‘how’. He also explains the way in which the Golden Circle corresponds to the brain. I believe that this has relevance to education and to enabling each individual student to flourish towards what Tom Wright would call ‘completeness’.

The ‘why’ of any school should be the driver behind how the school does what it does and what the school does. In my experience the why is rarely given this position, and in schools where it is you find beacons of education. However the why is not ‘getting results’, no that is what schools do. Nor is it ‘equipping young people for the future through diverse courses and unique opportunities’, that too is both the what and why of schools. The why that Sinek’s thinking is pushing us to uncover is far more deep rooted than this.

For me, as I go into this new year, AHT in charge of Character and Ethos, the why is bigger and bolder. The why is about enabling all staff and students to move towards completeness, not simply as a function of school but as a wider process in our existence as humans. With this as the why, how we go about this and what we do is hugely affected.

Simply put if our why is human completeness then the process of how and what must build in opportunity for trial, error, exploration, problem solving, resolution, sacrifice, and reflection (to name but a few things!). Such education should naturally facilitate effective learners which measure up to the various data analysis/league tables that the government send our way.

Going into this new academic year have you identified the why of your school? I wonder what the implications are for the how and the what. And how does all this, if at all, link in  with character education?



About Learning to Teach Lorraine Abbott

Deputy Headteacher in a Surrey School Author for Hodder Education
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