|The Positive Ethos Programme
"Developing and sustaining a positive school ethos involves many different activities. Promoting positive discipline, anti-bullying, involving parents as partners, working with local community groups and promoting a sense of identity and belonging in all pupils are all interconnected. Through the Ethos Network, established in 1995, schools have shared their experiences and ideas about what to change and about how to bring about change. We have built up a good series of case studies. An edited collection, An Ethos of Achievement, is in your school now. The Anti-Bullying Network, established in 1999, helps schools and individuals to tackle bullying and supports the building of better relationships between all members of school communities.
This year the Ethos Programme will focus on pupil participation in decision-making. We know that many schools have interesting experiences to share in this area and the publication of the consultation paper, Education for Citizenship, makes this topical. Sometimes it can seem that schools are swamped by initiatives. The positive ethos concept provides a unifying theme. It helps to show how developments are linked. Peer mediation schemes, for instance, are clearly relevant to the broader theme of pupil participation in school decision-making.
The two Networks work closely together and host joint conferences and workshops from time to time. Both the Anti-Bullying Network and Ethos Network are also working closely with local authorities in planning workshops around the country, building on the success of last year and of the conference in June.
We hope you will contact both these Networks and we look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at events over the coming year."
|The Right to Learn
ADES welcomed the opportunity to participate in the "Ethos and Achievement" conference. The linking of ethos and achievement demonstrates the way in which various initiatives are complementary parts of the agenda to promote social inclusion. The conference sub-title, "Right to Learn", was particularly significant. Ethos and anti-bullying initiatives can be reinforced by the promotion of skills for citizenship and opportunities for young people to lead a democratic life. Rights provide an opportunity to build on an ethos of respect and an ethos of achievement. Rights enable young people to demonstrate responsibility for themselves, for their learning, for each other, for their school, for their community and their society. It is absolutely essential that we improve school as a social experience, that schools are bully-proofed. The role of young people in this is crucial.
Schools, by learning from best practice, can build on positive peer influence and ameliorate negative peer pressures. An agenda of rights, responsibilities and justice beckons.
This is an exciting time in Scottish education as the Parliament gets into its stride and passes its first Education Bill, which includes a presumption on inclusion in mainstream schools of children with special educational needs. Moreover it sets in statute the right of each child to education. This is very significant. Education is not just for those who attend, not just for those who come from stable families but also for those who are vulnerable, those who are ill, those who do not attend and those who have emotional and behavioural problems.
We must continue to build opportunities for the voices of young people to be heard. During all the difficulties regarding this years examination results we cannot but have been impressed by the well informed, articulate views of the students whom the system let down. Their assuredness was vivid testimony to a highly effective ethos in many schools.
|John MacBeath: Improving Schools
Until recently, John MacBeath was director of the Quality In Education (QIE) Centre at Strathclyde University. He has recently taken up the Chair in Educational Leadership at Cambridge University. He is a widely respected figure in educational research and has had a long term interest in improving achievement and ethos in schools. He has done a lot of work on how schools can be effective and has developed instruments for measuring school effectiveness. Recently he was a major contributor to the Raising Standards Setting Targets" initiative and the Improving School Effectiveness Project which was carried out by a team from QIE and the Institute of Education at the University of London.
His keynote address at the conference drew attention to the three levels at which schools work to improve achievement and ethos: tactical; strategic; and capacity building. The achievement of a positive ethos is the building of capacity in staff and children, not just about short-term tactical improvements or about an overall strategic plan. Schools that are capacity building continue to improve and to respond to change.
In the capacity building school, teachers professional development should be part of a professional vision and built into what schools and teachers are about. Scottish teachers are often isolated and unaccustomed to giving each other feedback. If we really want teachers to develop professionally we have to put them in the driving seat of their own development.
The recent education act stresses pupil involvement in decision making. At the moment, pupil involvement is often tokenistic. "When it comes to the crunch about more power being exercised by children then everybody backs off. It is by looking at how to give pupils real responsibility and real power that we can actually improve our schools."
Underpinning this, Professor MacBeath drew attention to a real strength in Scottish education, that of the ability to recognise and value diversity. The challenge is to resist the drive to uniformity and to look to schools leadership to listen to different perspectives that may sometimes conflict with each other.
The Quality in Education Centre can be contacted at:
From September 2000 Professor MacBeath will be located at Cambridge University.