The British School of Brussels (BSB) has been shortlisted for a prestigious International Schools Award

Establishing a values-driven ethos

Over the last three years, the BSB community has had a systematic focus on articulating its values as a school and then embedding them, so they are the lived daily experience of all students and staff everywhere in the school.  This is now rooted in the school ethos and all members of the community are clear about the values of the school which drive all the decision making and development planning. BSB values are lived and breathed every day; constantly evidenced in qualitative ways, from the feedback we get from visitors to the school, from new students and parents and from staff coming to interview. This is also an area that has received praise in both our CIS (Council of International Schools) and COBIS (Council of British International Schools) accreditation visits.

The current members of the BSB Leadership Team all joined within the past four years, and it was clear that the school had strong values that guided the school, however, it was felt that we needed an explicit set of ethical values to be articulated throughout the school community that would capture what was special about the school while aspiring to make this even better.  In doing so careful thought was given to being a school with students aged from 1-18 years, that had gone from a very British student body (75% in 2009) to a more international one (30% in 2020). It was important that our values would reflect this. “We were really clear that organisations that have a collective, deep and shared understanding of common values are more successful”, said CE0 & Principal Melanie Warnes.

“Many schools will say that they have strong values that inform their work.  What distinguishes BSB is that the process we have gone through permeates every level of the organisation and as a result, there is high buy-in and we genuinely live and breathe our values.  They are everything we do”, Melanie continued.

The initiative to define the ethical values began through wide consultation, starting with expertly and well-timed, facilitated discussions with all staff in small groups across different sections of the school.  Through ‘diamond nine’ activities groups discussed key values using the terminology of the BSB learner profile words. This same activity was conducted with different stakeholders including students through class activities and school council, parent representatives and the full Board of Governors.  This process took a full school year and emerging ideas were reviewed and challenged along the way. It was this, that distinguished it from a superficial review.

“Once the Guiding Statements including the specific key learner characteristics we value and foster the most were decided upon, we began to systematically embed them through every process in the school.  This included school assemblies, lessons, professional learning, governors and staff meetings” continued John Knight, Vice Principal & Head of Secondary School.

The Guiding Statements are prominently displayed around the school and are referred to at all key staff and parent events such as at staff meetings and parent information evenings.  When recruiting staff, the Guiding Statements are included as key criteria in the selection process. To make the words more easily understood by younger students a graphic display of each word has been designed by secondary students for primary students to use.

“We are confident that any student or teacher can articulate the learner characteristics and demonstrate them in their daily interactions”, said Neil Ringrose, Vice Principal & Head of Primary School.  This can be seen in student action groups like ‘Force for Good’, the Lower Primary ‘Random acts of Kindness’ and the ‘Helping Hands’ group, all of which are designed to be sustainable and make a significant positive impact.

“BSB really is a unique place, we are thrilled to have this recognised internationally”, said Melanie Warnes.

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