I believe that school values are fundamental to the ethos of the school. What we believe in, what we want to espouse and live by determines the culture and feel of a school. Values cannot be imposed or dictated, they have to evolve and be led by the pupils and modelled by those who work there.
So what do you do as a new school? How do you articulate your values if the school is still evolving? Do you wait or do you choose three words that articulate what you would like to be and then as a school try and model them? We took the latter path.
But choosing three words to encapsulate what you would like a place to become is hard. Words mean different things to different people. How do you capture the spirit and ethos of a place that doesn’t exist in three words?
We set up a values group to help us. The group was led by the Head Girl and attended by girls from the Junior and Senior Schools, as well as by teaching staff. To be a school that lives by its values, the pupils have to believe in them and then live by them. They had to have a voice when choosing the values and they chose three words – bold, imaginative, reflective. Two strong, energising words and one softer, calming word.
Four years on, the school continues to evolve. The words take on new meanings and the school starts to be shaped by its values. To be bold, doesn’t necessarily mean to stand out in a glaring way, to me it is more subtle. I like to think it is to have integrity, to stand up for what you believe in, to have a voice and to be heard. It means to want to be challenged and be taken out of your comfort zone. Are we bold? I would like to think so; the girls feel more and more that they want to step up to new challenges, to take on leadership roles and ensure their voice is heard.
Are we imaginative? Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand where imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand”. I love this ideal. Our new enhanced Junior School curriculum embraces it and I know the new curriculum has already inspired many girls to think out of the box and unleash their creativity.
Finally, do we reflect? Certainly the girls have been asked to do so after their recent examinations, but to reflect positively on what went well and what steps need to be taken to make it better rather than to reflect negatively on went wrong and feel powerless to do anything about it. As Headmistress, I value enormously the ability to reflect– it allows me time to consider, to restore and to improve. Time always to make the school a better place in which to live and learn.
There is no doubt that BGS is evolving and the values we have taken on are enabling us to develop as an exhilarating and exciting school. I am proud of our values and every day I try to live by them. The values group, led by our new Head Girl are doing the same thing.