Category: Building School Culture
Why School Culture Starts In The Classroom
Building a positive school culture is important, and should be right at the top of your to-do list. A school’s culture can affect everyone, from students and teachers to other staff members – and even the wider community. Not only does it improve students’ learning, but it improves morale throughout the school. If you want to create a positive school culture, it starts in the classroom.
Why school culture matters
School culture is essential for any place of learning looking to create an environment in which students feel safe, respected and valued. This way, students develop a sense of belonging, and form better relationships with their peers as well as their teachers. If everyone works together to support each other’s growth and well-being, then this fosters a sense of community. Students who are valued are more likely to be engaged in their learning, and more motivated to succeed, which in turn leads to better academic outcomes, and improves students’ chances of success after graduating. Thanks to a positive school culture, students are often high-achievers, and have a much lower chance of dropping out of education.
This can also benefit teachers and staff – if they feel appreciated and supported, they’re more likely to be motivated and passionate about their work, which will lead to higher job satisfaction for staff and lower rates of burnout. Ultimately, it helps to create a more productive and fulfilling environment for everyone involved in the education process. However, you can’t just instantly create a positive school culture – it takes time and hard work, and the best place to start is in the classroom. By making it as safe and welcoming as possible for students in their classroom, teachers can lay the foundations for a positive culture elsewhere. If done right, a feeling of belonging will soon permeate the entire school.
How can teachers encourage this?
There are many ways in which teachers can establish a positive culture in their classroom, and these don’t just revolve around making students feel welcome. Teachers should also strive to promote learning, collaboration, and mutual respect among all of their students. A positive culture helps students to connect not just with their teacher and each other, but with their education, too.
By encouraging collaboration and teamwork among their students, either through projects or other group activities, teachers foster a sense of community. If teachers celebrate their students’ successes, no matter if they’re big or small – this builds up confidence among their students. At the same time, though, they should promote a growth mindset, encouraging their students to see mistakes as opportunities for learning – this encourages students to be more resilient and willing to take risks. Simple techniques like asking students more questions enable teachers to build positive relationships with students, or having a weekly check-in with them creates a sense of structure. All of these techniques – and others implemented in every classroom help improve the experience for both students and teachers.
Our school culture
At all of the Aldenham Education Group’s schools, we aspire to create a safe and welcome atmosphere for every one of our students. As well as supporting our students in every way, we encourage a sense of community. It’s not just our students’ educational achievements that are important to us, but their sense of wellbeing, and the positive culture in our classrooms is how we achieve that. At Aldenham UK, an Independent Schools Inspectorate report stated that, ‘A very strong sense of community exists and pupils show kindness to each other.’
Outside of the classroom, we host concerts and drama performances – these, along with sports clubs and teams to create a sense of community at our schools. We even continued to foster this community spirit over the course of the pandemic. As well as ensuring our students kept on learning with online teaching, we ensured that tutor groups still had regular video conference meetings to catch up with their teachers and classmates. We also hosted online extracurricular activities for the students, including virtual trips and competitions.
A positive school culture helps in all kinds of ways, from motivating children to improving their mental wellbeing, and giving them a strong sense of community. It allows schools to create a safe, supportive environment, and in the classroom, teachers are able to establish expectations for their students, build relationships, and encourage collaboration. At Aldenham, this culture exists both in and out of the classroom, and by doing this, we’ve worked to create a more productive and inclusive learning environment for all. Find out more about how we’ve expanded our culture to the wider community on our website – and don’t hesitate to get in touch.
How Students’ Surroundings Can Affect Their Learning
We often think of learning as a process that takes place entirely in our own heads. However, research has shown that a child’s learning can be significantly impacted by their physical surroundings – this includes both their home environment and the classroom. Learning is a continuous process, after all, and a healthy learning environment can make education more effortless and more accessible.
The environment’s impact
A child’s learning can be affected by a variety of factors. For example, a noisy or chaotic learning environment can make it difficult for them to concentrate on their studies. At home, for example, if they don’t have a designated space in which to study or do their homework, then they’ll find themselves struggling to focus. On the other hand, a well-lit, quiet and organised area can make it easier for them to concentrate, learn, and retain information. This is just as true in the classroom as it is at home. Students need to be able to focus on their work during lessons, and a well-designed and well-maintained classroom can help to promote a more positive learning environment, and leave students feeling more engaged and more focused.
It’s also worth noting that a student’s learning environment isn’t just the physical space around them. It can also include their cultural and social environment – if a child is from a background that’s different to the school’s dominant culture, then they may end up feeling excluded or marginalised. This can, in turn, impact their ability to learn. At Aldenham Education Group, we have schools in the UK and around the world – we opened our latest school, Aldenham Prep Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia in 2022. Our international network of schools are integrated closely, to promote links and cooperation across cultures and countries. At the same time, the Aldenham Prep Riyadh curriculum has been carefully tailored to fit with the local culture and traditions – subjects such as Arabic and Islamic Studies ensure that we’re offering our students the best all-round education.
What schools can do
Over the years, many studies have shown the importance of surroundings when it comes to learning, and shown a strong correlation between classroom environmental changes and academic success. In 2015, the University of Salford published a study looking at the impact of different classroom designs. The researchers studied 153 different classrooms in 27 diverse primary schools, looking at everything from air quality to the colours of rooms. They found that a ‘well-designed’ classroom could boost learning significantly – differences in classroom surroundings were responsible for 16% of the variation in students’ learning progress. Even lighting can affect how well students are learning – a study published earlier this year showed that low levels of lighting could improve students’ neurophysiological activity, as well as their memory skills.
One way in which schools can offer their students the support they need is by providing them with adaptive learning spaces. These spaces – which can be found throughout schools – are more flexible than the more rigid learning environment in traditional classrooms – allow students to be more comfortable and engage more with their learning. From comfortable chairs and beanbags for them to read, or desks and nooks where they can be more creative and hands-on, these spaces can give students more freedom to choose how they learn. After all, every student learns differently, and they need different surroundings in which to do so. While some are visual learners who can benefit from seeing their teacher in front of the whiteboard, others benefit more from hands-on learning, or others may learn better from sitting with a book in a quiet reading space.
Aldenham’s learning spaces
At all of our schools, we’ve worked to ensure that our students have the surroundings they need to get the most out of their time with us. For example, we’ve worked closely with the team of educational specialists at KidzInk Design. They’ve created educational spaces for schools around the world, and we partnered with them when designing Aldenham Prep Riyadh. As well as creating classrooms that can accommodate every student’s unique pace and style, they designed other facilities – including our canteen, a Wellbeing Room, and a Learning Resource Centre – that all support our students’ learning needs. The central atrium of the school, for example, offers a range of learning environments and spaces for students to play and learn, including bookshelves and a play area.
While Aldenham in the UK has existed on the same site since it was founded in 1597, delivering 425 years of academic excellence, we’re always looking to the future. We’re constantly updating our facilities in order to engage our students and improve their performance. Our sports facilities, for example, include a full-size sports hall and a dance studio, while the purpose-built theatre is well-equipped with state-of-the-art lighting and sound technology. It’s not just the school buildings that can stimulate and engage our students, though. Engaging and connecting with nature can make children more motivated to learn, and our UK schools are surrounded by acres of countryside. Although just 13 miles away from London, it’s set in over 110 acres of Hertfordshire countryside, giving our students the space to play, take part in sports, or just relax.
A child’s surroundings can have a significant impact on their learning. While a supportive, well-designed and positive environment can promote better mental health and increase a child’s ability to learn, a more chaotic learning environment can be a major barrier to their success. As educators, it is important to consider the space in which a child is learning and take steps to ensure it’s conducive to their success, which is what we aim to do at every one of our Aldenham schools. From flexible classrooms to comfortable spaces, we ensure they have everything they need – find out more about Aldenham’s facilities here.
Why Schools Should Give Back To Their Community
These days, it’s important for schools to make sure that they have a good relationship with their local communities. Not only is it good for students, but there are also benefits for teachers, and the wider school as a whole – both in and out of the classroom.
Increased student attendance
Research has shown that schools with high levels of community support will also have high levels of student attendance. A report by the National Education Association, in the US, stated that “when schools, parents, families, and communities work together to support learning, students tend to earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer, and enrol in higher level programs” – and that’s just as true then as it is today. By inviting parents and family members to be more involved with the school community, students and their families can begin to feel more involved in their education, and therefore more likely to attend classes and be more engaged with their day-to-day learning.
Teaching students new skills
Increased community support, and connections with the wider community, can also help schools offer students more extracurricular support. This can give students a chance to learn new skills that otherwise they might have never encountered, and help us to offer them an all-round education. There are many ways that schools can engage with the community, from welcoming local professionals to the school for talks and workshops, to encouraging students to volunteer their time at nearby charities or organisations. This way, students have a chance to encounter people or experiences that would have typically been outside the curriculum, and it can help to prepare them for life after education – something integral to the way Aldenham Education Group operates. At AEG, we have more than four centuries of academic experience, and are always looking to the future. We’ve committed ourselves not only to helping our pupils become the best versions of themselves, but also to finding their individual purpose and unique talents, whatever they might be.
Better mental health
A more connected school community can give students and their families a chance to be a part of the school, and give students a sense of belonging. Having that will make them feel more welcome, and more accepted by their teachers and their classmates, which can have a positive impact on their mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health, especially for children who are still growing and developing. Our students are at the heart of everything we do, and we want to inspire a love of learning in all of them, all while ensuring they have the flexibility to develop their own abilities and talents – and they can only do that by focusing on their mental wellbeing. According to a report by The Children’s Society, 70% of young people who experience mental health problems don’t receive any help at a sufficiently early age.
A school that’s truly part of the community, like one of our Aldenham schools, can give students a wide support network. With more people looking out for the students, any mental health issues are more likely to be picked up earlier, and we can make sure that students are offered the help they need. At Aldenham, we aim to respond and be sympathetic to the mental health needs of all our pupils. Maintaining positive mental health is important, and we want our students to flourish – students with better mental health are also more likely to be engaged with their lessons, and continue with their education later in life.
The benefits for teachers
It’s not just students who can reap the benefits of giving back to the community – teachers can, as well. Getting families and others involved with students’ education can help to offer the students a more well-rounded education. After all, a student doesn’t stop learning when the school day ends. Children don’t live and learn in a vacuum – as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. With others supporting them and helping out in many ways, teachers can focus more on delivering the best academic experience possible. It also gives teachers a chance to learn more about their students and their educational needs, so they can better understand where they need help with their learning. Here at AEG, one of our key aims has long been to foster good relationships and partnerships between staff, pupils, parents and the wider community. Schools that have clear links to their community are also more likely to see an improvement in their reputation. As people begin to feel more connected with the school, they’re likely to endorse it to others and spread the word, which will also reflect well on the teachers.
What schools can do
Only between 10 and 20% of a child’s waking hours are spent in a school – the rest of their time is spent either at home or in the wider community. Therefore, it’s important that schools stay connected. Schools should be asking themselves questions like, ‘What resources in the school community could we tap into?’ or ‘What new partnerships can we build?’ Schools can organise events with local businesses or organisations, or even invite people to run extra-curricular programs. By building bridges, schools can help themselves, the local community – and more importantly, the students.
By engaging more with families and the community, we believe schools can give their students rich and stimulating experiences, as well as create a culture based around the values of empathy and belonging. Schools don’t exist in isolation, so building bridges is important, and can help to foster a lifelong love of learning in students. Our newest school, Aldenham Prep Riyadh, opened its doors in September, and is already deeply embedded in the local community. The first Aldenham school in the region, it has integrated the timeless traditions of a British education with local values and principles, to offer students a complete all-round education.
We believe connecting children – and schools – to their local communities can open up a wealth of opportunities, and enrich a child’s educational experience. From motivating children to improving their mental wellbeing, a connected community can ensure a school offers an all-round education. Our Aldenham schools are an integral part of the community, and can count on the loyal support of everyone from students and their parents to staff and former students, who all contribute to make sure that we can offer an outstanding experience. Head to the Aldenham UK website to find out more about the Aldenham community and some of our charitable endeavours.