Establishing School Culture

Establishing School Culture

School culture is key to almost anything you try to do in a school, yet it is also elusive. It is exceptionally hard to measure and impossible to replicate from one school to another. This section looks at some structures to support that.

This video explores some key roles: teachers, school leaders, external providers or experts:

Professional Learning Without Limits

In this video, Dame Alison Peacock, TDT Trustee and Executive Head of the Wroxham School, discusses how she established a culture of trust, respect and motivation amongst her staff.

Assessing Trust and Transformational Leadership

In this blog John Tomsett, headteacher at Huntington School, a TDT Network Member, explores school leadership. He shared this resource from Dr Paul D Browning on measuring trust in schools.

Dr. Paul D. Browning’s Rubric – A rubric for assessing trust and transformational leadership.

Professor Viviane Robinson’s seminal research into school leadership:

asclguidanceThe Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) have produced a guidance paper on leadership of professional development and learning:

This guidance is for senior leaders with responsibility for continuous professional development and learning (CPDL) for teachers, whether in a standalone school or group of schools such as a federation, multi-academy trust or teaching school alliance. It is designed to assist senior leaders review their CPDL provision and develop their CPDL curriculum with its focus specifically on CPDL for teaching staff, although the principles apply to all staff in schools and colleges.”

Building Trust in schools

In this article for SecEd, David Weston asks ‘Is there trust in your school?’ Some recommendations include:

  • Senior leaders publicly taking teaching risks in front of staff and asking for honest feedback.
  • Changing performance management policies to make it clear that their main focus is developmental, aimed at improving student outcomes (rather than obsessing about specific “performance”) – and that their implementation reflects the atmosphere of professional trust and respect that the school aspires to.
  • Concerted efforts across a school to remove any sense of “ego”, adopting instead a problem-solving approach which uses data and evidence borne of open questions.
  • Teachers and senior leaders visiting schools with similar intakes and contexts but very different culture and working practices around leadership and professional development, in order to open their eyes to new possibilities, regain optimism, and re-open themselves to thinking in new ways.
  • Opportunities to genuinely listen to one another (possibly facilitated by a trusted third party) to help everyone understand each other’s pressures, concerns and values.
  • Consistent congruency between what leaders say and do around professional development, performance management and trust.
  • Adopting and reinforcing non-judgemental coaching approaches and dispositions among senior leaders, and then more widely among all staff.

This is explored further in this article for SecEdCPD: Creating the right culture.

Building a Learning Organisation

These slides from David Weston, CEO of Teacher Development Trust, are from a workshop for the Waltham Forest Teaching School Alliance (WFTSA).

Some other questions to consider are:

  • Who are potential ‘champions’ within school who would be willing to share their practice or share something they’re currently developing? Ideally champions who are not normally as visible within school.
  • Who would be willing to present an idea that they’re having problems with? Perhaps within a TLC/Lesson Study/action research, there are colleagues who would be willing to share questions and issues they have. Colleagues could then reflect and feedback ideas. Leaders and colleagues showing vulnerability shows a real openness to learning.
  • How are middle leaders and heads of department identifying learning needs and feeding into the direction of professional learning within your school?
  • Are senior staff talking to middle leaders and other colleagues about professional learning? Does the school show that professional learning is a constant priority?
  • To demonstrate buy-in from all staff, it’s important for leaders to talk about their own ideas they’ve tried with their own classes. How many senior leaders in your school regularly talk about their own classroom, practice and professional learning?

Overcoming barriers to powerful professional development: Accountability Pressures

This blog explores the key barriers to powerful professional development. First published in The Key.

Happiness at work

In any organisation, happiness at work enables maximum performance and achieving potential. Research from the iOpener Institute suggests 25 questions which help identify happiness at work. It also found that happiness at work is positively correlated with the proportion of time spent ‘on task’ and feeling energised and engaged at work. Where happiness at work is a concern, this research may help you to identify some clear needs and measures to support you.

Do you have any articles, tools or resources that you would like to share on any of these issues? Get in touch with us at to let us know!