Dr Simon Camby, Group Chief Education Officer, recently visited Hastings School in Madrid, Spain. Simon shares some reflections from a conversation he shared with Year 12 and 13 students; Paola, Pablo and Sam. 

To suggest that the quality of relationships matter in the process of learning is perhaps stating the obvious. But I was recently reminded that they really matter, a lot.

The best part of any time in school is talking to students as they give such valuable insight. Talking to Paola (Y12), Pablo and Sam (both Y13) from Hastings School in Madrid, they shared insight from their perspective. Our conversation was wide-ranging but one point from Pablo stood out for me.

We were discussing what makes the difference as a learner. For Pablo, it was unequivocally the quality of the teacher-student relationship. We also talked about many other aspects of school, of education and of our rapidly evolving world, including the use of AI. But for Pablo, the relationships were the thing that mattered most.

I also asked Pablo what advice he would give to younger students based on his years of experience and now being at the end of his K12 school career. His strongest advice is to use teachers, to reach out and engage as much as possible. From his perspective, engaging with his teachers both inside and outside of lessons has fuelled his interest, enthusiasm and passion for learning. Pablo is studying Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Spanish. He is currently finalising university offers.

We know from evidence that strong teacher-student relationships are crucial. To a large extent, the nature of the relationship with students dictates the impact on them.

Strong teacher-student relationships:

  • shape the way children think and act in school; and
  • improve how well they do at school.

Aside from being grounded in common sense, this is also strongly supported by evidence.

It is teachers who have created positive teacher student relationships that are more likely to have the above average effects on student achievement.
John Hattie (Visible Learning)

When you have a good relationship with your students, they are more likely to feel positive about learning and about school in general. They are also more willing to have a go at hard work, to risk making mistakes, and to ask for help when they need it.

In the Cognita Quality Framework we specifically call out the critical importance of:

Relationships rooted in care and trust that create a positive culture

For me, this is exactly what Pablo was describing in terms of his relationships at Hastings School.

A great way to think about this is outlined by Evidence-Based Teaching:

Teachers who forge high-performance relationships care for their students while simultaneously pressing them to excel. They have a passionate desire to help students learn and improve, which leads them to demand high standards of behaviour and effort. Yet, they also value their kids as people and take an interest in their lives. These teachers provide their students with strong guidance (both academically and behaviourally), while also nurturing personal responsibility and self-regulation.