Best Practice

Meaningless words? How to build a genuine school ethos

Building a school ethos can so easily become an exercise in jargon and meaningless words. James Handscombe says that it is not until your ethos gets in the way of a hard decision that you know if you really believe in what you’re saying…

In an interview, I was once asked how the governors would be able to recognise that I had successfully developed a powerful school ethos.

“A school is like a tin of baked beans,” I said, theatrically.

“You know it’s a tin of beans because it says beans on the outside; you know it’s a tin of beans because when you take something out of it – it’s a bean; and you know it’s a tin of beans because when you put your finger in, it comes out covered in bean sauce.”

I didn’t get the job. I had to wait until I found a panel who shared my delight in the well-worked metaphor.

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