The Value Of Values

Issue 79

Central to the education we offer at the Durham Cathedral Schools Foundation are our values. They are prominent within our school environment, with many posters and reminders of their importance on the walls and corridors

Our rewards system is built around it, as is our appraisal system, and pupils know and understand what each of our values means and how they are expressed in our community. Perhaps most gratifying of all, parents, staff and other visitors to our school comment that our value system isn’t some marketing slogan grafted in to the school but something which is absolutely and thoroughly embedded in all that we do.

We encapsulate our values in the acronym MARK. We want DCSF to make its mark on our pupils and we want our pupils to make their mark not only whilst they are with us but long after they have left. MARK stands for Moral Integrity, Ambition, Responsibility and Kindness.

We arrived at this distillation after much discussion and reflection. We invited all of the members of our community – pupils, parents, staff and former pupils – about what it meant to be a Dunelmian. This involved meetings with working groups consisting of representatives of each of the stakeholders at the school, together with some targeted questionnaires across the wider community. We asked them to articulate what they felt was best about the school and what we were able to do to develop the young men and women who pass through our doors. The responses of course were very varied but we believed that the MARK mnemonic provided an organic but memorable way of crystallising our education.

The values themselves are very easy to understand in a school context but that doesn’t mean we assume that they don’t need to be made explicit. As mentioned above, pupils receive awards (known as lauds) for demonstrating behaviour which exhibits one or more of the values. So, looking after a younger pupil who may be upset, for example, would be one way in which pupils would be living our values and the system allows recognition for that.

Why have we spent so much time developing and interpreting this value system? Fundamentally it derives from the belief that education is a preparation for life in the broadest sense. Of course we want pupils to leave us with the best grades they can get (and indeed encourage them to be ambitious for their subjects and to be responsible in working hard to succeed) but if all they leave us with is a collection of numbers and letters then they will be ill-prepared for the challenges that life will throw at them in the world of work and broader society. And, regrettable though it may be to say, there are other influences on youngsters in today’s online society which will highlight the importance of other values, such as wealth or fame, which are less beneficial to a fulfilling life.

It may sound pompous to say it, but without a core set of values which add meaning to life, it becomes a rather empty existence. In a society which does rather emphasise the importance of short term gain, either in terms of material goods or power, over the longer term good then I believe it is important that as a school we have done our best to instil a sense of what is right and important. Many pupils will go on to positions of responsibility at many different levels and will be be faced by situations which challenge them. I would hope that they have a sufficiently embedded set of values that they will have the moral integrity to make the correct difficult choice rather than the wrong easy one. For whilst in the moment it may be expedient to say or do anything to get out of a scrape, if we aren’t true to what we know to be right then our lives, if not our

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