Burford School: the power of the team

At Burford we have been working with students and parents to affirm the cultural values of the school. Surveys have been done with students, parents, guardians and staff. I can report that the feedback was broadly consistent. Respect has come out overall as essential to all the stakeholders. To support this, the school has been looking at further ways in which it can enhance an atmosphere of inclusion and participation with others. Beyond the importance of respect, it has been interesting to see subtle variations between the generations in their priorities.

Students have a more idealistic disposition than parents/guardians at Burford with the latter group giving more weight to achievement and their charges holding integrity and determination in greater regard. There is no naivety amongst students about the importance of doing well; they certainly want to succeed, however students want to compromise less on being true to themselves. 

Teachers offered a slightly different view, sitting on the fence between parents/guardians and students. As with parents, achievement is a priority for teachers; however there is more emphasis, in the feedback from staff in our survey, on enabling students to make decisions for themselves and regulate their own achievement. This tension between the expectation of short-term performance and long-term education is standard fare for a teacher. The “teach a person to fish” proverb springs to mind. However, no matter the level of a teacher’s experience, there is an ongoing wrangle to overcome the human tendency to provide short cuts when pushing determined students to reach beyond their grasp.

For teachers there is also a tension in holding the balance between an instinct to protect from and the need to educate about the ‘Real World’. The weight put on young people seems ever greater. Anxiety about identity and the future feels more now than it did in the late 80s and early 90s (“in my day…..”). The pressure of social media certainly was not there. Preparing young people for life involves achievement in national exams – parents are certainly aware of this. However it also involves creating joy, supporting a passion for something and providing a tool kit to thrive in an uncertain world. 

I am incredibly proud to be involved with a school that places Respect as the overarching core value. There is nothing new in the subtle differences in some of the priorities between students, parents, guardians and staff. Together it is the team around each student and the respect for varied priorities that ensures all elements of a complete education are satisfied. 

Matthew Albrighton

April – May 2022