Dr Simon Camby, Group Chief Education Officer, recently visited Breaside Prep School in England. Simon shares some reflections on the school’s inspiring culture.

Many people talk about culture in education. It can be easy to talk about but hard to pin down. Culture is often seen as: 

The way we do things around here 

Today, I was at Breaside Prep School in Bromley, England. I first visited Breaside in 2015 and, for me, it is always a special place. Why? There are many reasons, but one is the culture of the school. The culture is displayed through so many observable signs.  

  • I always stand with the leadership team at the school gate as children and parents enter. Without exception, every child says, ‘good morning’ and engages with the school’s leaders. Sometimes a few words, sometimes a full conversation; but always a meaningful connection.  
  • I notice that children look out for each other. They show genuine care and encouragement for their classmates. They ‘wrap an arm around’, sometimes physically and sometimes metaphorically. This isn’t for show, it is just the way it is.  
  • I observe the quality of work displayed around the school is always high quality and honours children’s effort and progress.  

I could go on as there are many more. These all point to something important, detail matters. It matters because these contribute to the school’s culture.  

This is a school that deeply values academic outcomes, that offers a genuinely holistic education and embeds a culture of wellbeing. This is all wrapped in intentional care – care for each other, care for our relationships and care for learning.  

Our Cognita Framework includes a strategic pillar identifying the importance of leadership in every school. One of our contributors to leadership is ‘A culture that has been intentionally created and managed through trust and empowerment’. We use the word ‘contributor’ because we see that culture ‘contributes to’ the student experience and outcomes.  

Breaside shows how the culture is intentionally managed and nothing is left to chance. It is a school that achieves great outcomes for each child. For sure, this is a result of lots of hard work from the whole team. But we shouldn’t underplay the importance of culture in creating the place that this hard work happens.  

Culture is undeniably conceptual. But, there are many indicators that culture is absolutely tangible. Nothing happens by chance. It needs intentional nurturing and persistent attention to make sure it is ‘the way we do things around here’ – everyday.  

[It was World Book Day when I visited and I met three Paddington Bears coming up the stairs!]