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Independent school’s initiative soon available to all
Ethical leadership – innovative programme & meaningful qualification for pupils
All schools recognise effort and industry, community contribution. But how can being a good person be quantified, measured, and develop into an accredited qualification which means something outside school? Jo Owens - a member of the senior leadership team and Director of Ethical Leadership at Lichfield Cathedral School in Staffordshire – discusses her innovative Ethical Leadership Programme which will soon be available to other schools across the country...
 From my office window I can
see the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral, the resident peregrines setting up their annual nest, and a few hundred Cathedral School pupils making their way to our weekly presentation assembly. Many of them will be awarded certificates of recognition for sporting endeavours, academic effort, and service to the community. With the exception of the spires and the birds of prey, I’m totally aware that none of this is specific to my school.
Of course all schools recognise effort and industry. Of course we all value community contribution. Without exception, educators know that our pupils are more than a list of grades, irrespective of the way external judgements are formed.
And yet how do we quantify being a good person; living a good
life? How does a school go about measuring and recognising such ephemeral qualities? How do we support our young people as they develop into tomorrow’s leaders?
At Lichfield Cathedral School, our question became: is it possible to reflect all of this in an accredited qualification with real currency beyond our walls?
This was the challenge we set ourselves three years ago when
we approached SSAT about their Student Leadership Accreditation. We particularly wanted a programme that would reflect the Christian distinctiveness of our cathedral school in the form of the rather more secular description, ‘ethical values’, and SSAT were happy for us to modify their existing programme to suit our needs.
In October 2017 we launched our school-wide Ethical Leadership Programme, beginning with our three year olds in early years, and ending with our oldest pupils in year
13. This marked the culmination of many months of work, writing and rewriting our fledgling programme.
Our first challenge was to define what we meant by ethical leadership.
The leadership bit was fairly straightforward; the definition of ethical was far harder. We felt we instinctively knew what it meant, but we needed a way to articulate
it clearly. You can imagine that meetings discussing this, when a member of the clergy is on the team, became wide ranging and philosophical debates. In the end we cut through all the whimsical detail and decided on our definition.
Ethical conduct is doing what is right because you know it to be so.
Each pupil has an ethical leadership portfolio to help them collect evidence of having achieved each criterion. Pupils are taught how to conduct peer reviews and trained in self-reflection: an essential skill for later life.
We also place a heavy emphasis
on the concept of ‘leading from the back’; not all of our leadership recognition takes the form of specific roles or responsibilities. The house system and school council
in particular create opportunities for older pupils to work with
the younger ones, helping to demonstrate the behaviour and ethos we would like to perpetuate. And beyond this, we encourage our sixth formers to spend part of their non-contact time supporting younger pupils in lessons and mentoring those who need it.
We had long suspected that some of our quieter pupils were involved in remarkable things outside school; now they are far more likely to share these with us. We are seeing whole- family engagement, not simply limited to the pupils themselves. Parents regularly email to tell us
about opportunities for community involvement and we have built links with Support Staffordshire, Samuel Johnson Community Hospital, and Co-op Central England, to facilitate this further.
Our pupils’ efforts to support
our school community and those beyond school are renewed and redoubled because they feel valued and can recognise for themselves the importance of ethical leadership. They have developed the ability
to articulate their experience and leadership skills, and to link this to a shared ethical purpose.
As well as the clear benefits
for personal development and self-confidence, pupils’ ELP portfolios are an excellent focus for
personal statements for university applications or a talking point during interviews, helping them to stand out and be remembered.
The world needs ethical leaders and we can’t keep this to ourselves. Our Ethical Leadership Programme will soon be available for all schools to set up and run. We can even visit to talk you through the practicalities. Register your interest in becoming an early adopter by emailing j.owens@lichfieldcathedralschool.com
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   Jo Owens has been teaching for 15 years and is an advocate for values-based education. She is an organiser of this year’s national character education conference #CharacterEd2018. Jo can be contacted via her school’s email or social media @LichfieldCSchl, or via her own Twitter account @joanneowens.
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