The importance of school values in the decision-making process


Many schools, along with their mission and vision statements, have a set of core values. It is vital that if a school decides to have core values, they become embedded in what the school does. More often than not, these core values refer to the behaviours or personal attributes that an organisation wishes its members to embrace and grow into, if not already developed.

Core values should be referred to in policy and guideline documents, as well as being part of the common language spoken by teachers and leaders in the school. Furthermore, core values should be used to drive decision-making processes.

In fact, when core values become the part of a decision-making conversation, it helps all stakeholders connect with what the school requires of its members. By identifying with what the school expects of its members, it can allow for individual differences, which can often get personal, to be put aside. This enables greater focus on the matter(s) at hand and reasoning for any decision to be guided by these values.

Core values are great things to have but they can be difficult to abide by, as they are so often a set of principles from which we are expected to conduct ourselves. We know, the toughest thing about principles is upholding them. That should not, however, prevent us from using our school’s core values as our decision-making compass.

2 thoughts on “The importance of school values in the decision-making process

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  1. Hi Richard,

    I would strongly agree with this. To use a classroom comparison, it’s somewhat like Essential Agreements that you make with a homeroom (Primary) on how we will all behave, or attempt to behave. It’s not a list of rules, rather they are guiding statements that set out how we will approach situations and how we will act.

    These kinds of values certainly can help to guide how we react to unexpected circumstances.

    I would suggest that simplicity is necessary as otherwise it can quickly become too convoluted and people won’t connect to it. Also, engagement with the Principles/Values/Guiding Statements for all stake holders is important. An effective way I’ve seen you do this is through the use of scenarios and staff deciding the best response.

    Another difficult balancing act is how to create these values – they will affect everyone, but does everyone have an input?

    If worked on in isolation by a small group of senior leaders I worry that they take a deep ownership of it, which is good, but that then they can be the only people who truly understand it and are also so ‘attached’ to it that they may struggle to see a broader view and respond to suggested revisions.

    I think a representative group working in a consultative manner could be successful.

    Values like this are also a valuable tool when recruiting. They clearly state the type of organisation that you are, and what you value and challenges potential faculty and staff on whether this is a good fit for them.

    Dom Thomas

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Ownership is hard to get, as the difficulty to get buy-in through reaching consensus is so challenging. That said, consultation is important to establish values. The longevity of the values is another interesting point, as ownership can depend significantly on staff turnover in our schools; new staff often feel they have not had their say. I like the fact that the IB give us the attributes for student growth and development, which means school’s have a choice whether to use these verbatim, or highlight a few that they see as more important to emphasize in the school community. I often see many schools struggling because the values constantly change or there are too many of them that we cannot focus on them well enough.

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