As a Principal, I am often asked the question, ‘What makes a good school?’. Every school has its own personality, but successful and effective schools have certain key qualities in common:
First of all, the students want to be there: Effective schools have a warm climate. Students feel welcome and know that the teachers cares about them. Although there is pressure to perform, it comes in a way that promotes learning, with an expectation that students will excel and the support is provided to make it happen.
Good schools have high expectations: for the school, teachers and students.
Only the best is good enough. Quality is expected, and nothing less is acceptable. Passion for excellence is a driving force each and every day. A good school has an involved staff working together, pushing themselves and their students to be the best. Failure is not an option for the teacher or the students.
Good schools have dedicated teachers: The best teachers work hard to improve their ability to teach. They read and explore the techniques used by others in a never-ending effort to better themselves as professionals. Effective teaching demands that the teacher be knowledgeable in their subject area; they must have a detailed understanding of, and passion for, what they are teaching.
Good schools have teachers that are innovative and use a variety of strategies and resources to support learning: No two classes, or two students are identical. In good schools teaching approaches are flexible and carefully matched to the needs of all learners. Teachers take account of what motivates learners when planning their lessons. They are very aware of individual interests and needs. Lessons and activities are always well organised and set in meaningful contexts with challenging outcomes. Resources are used imaginatively to support learning.
Good schools prepare students for an unknown future: The cliche of “how can we prepare young people for jobs that have not been invented yet?” is, in many respects, a cop out. We may not know everything our students will encounter but we do know many of the skills and competencies young people need – persistence, flexibility, empathy, critical thinking, adaptability, integrity, optimism, proactivity, resilience – the list goes on. Good schools ensure that their curriculums develop and support these transferable skills.
Good schools have strong leadership at all levels: All school leaders must have the respect of students, parents, and staff with a vision, high expectations, and the ability to help others succeed. Leaders must be able understand people, and motivate them, creating a positive attitude throughout the school. Successful schools have a sense of trust built on the back of honest and caring leadership.
Celebrated actress, social activist and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn once said that ‘a quality education has the power to provide children with the knowledge, skills and confidence to reach their full potential’. Indeed, by giving our children access to a quality education, we help them achieve personal growth and professional success. Therefore, it is essential to invest in your children’s future by providing them with the best possible education that only a good school can provide.