Mark Turnbull, Head of Kent College, Canterbury talks about the significance of rapidly changing times and the importance of a values-based culture

Some now refer to the lockdowns of Covid as something of a ‘great acceleration’. It certainly felt like it at the time. As with all rapid changes, there are often consequences that emerge in quieter times. If such times as these present us all with uncertainties, then it is all the more important that schools understand and live in a values-based culture.

In March 2020, schools in the UK were forced to adapt in an instant to online learning. Many achieved this brilliantly, and thereby allowed parents far more insight into the learning of their children. Quite often this also brought about a newfound respect for the creativity of the teachers who delivered it. Such a rapid shift in perception occurred alongside an awakening of attitudes towards each other through Black Lives Matter and Everyone’s Invited. And since the return to on-campus learning it has become even more apparent that all schools need to further address the crisis of teenage mental health, facts also recognised by the government.

Kent College on the importance of sharing values
The Head of KC believes it’s important to talk to all stakeholders and ensure everyone understands and shares the same values

The overall effect is that it is now so much clearer to many that the role that schools perform in preparing children for their adult lives stretches far wider than ensuring academic progress and achievement. One look at the job titles of senior leaders in more progressive schools will start to show any parent how the nature of education has changed significantly.

“When we are all committed to the same values, every person knows that they can stand on a foundation that is supported”

At Kent College we believe every child will thrive if they are able to develop confidence in their own identity and abilities from a foundation of fundamental values. Like many schools, KC has a religious foundation, and ours is in Methodism. John Wesley, the founding father of Methodism is often attributed with saying ‘Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can’.These powerful, and to some self-evident, words provide a strong starting point. What we want to do at KC is to provide a translation of these words that shows students how they can not only live by our founding principles but how these also support their own wellbeing and personal fulfilment.

Our KC values
At Kent College, we began a process that consulted all our stakeholders, along with employers accessed through our parent body. From this we have distilled eight core values that are both true to our foundation and which are relevant to supporting access to the progressive curriculum we want to deliver.
* Respect: Value oneself, others and the world around you.
* Openness: Embrace equality, diversity and inclusion.
* Act Justly: Work for good through service to others.
* Kindness: Be considerate and compassionate towards others.
*Ambition: Engage positively with all learning opportunities.
* Resilience: Build the courage to take risks and to forgive others.
* Humility: Walk humbly.
* Curiosity: Inquire actively.

Going through such a process has been so important in ensuring that we engage our whole community. For when we are all committed to the same values, every person knows that they can stand on a foundation that is supported by everyone around them; and on such sure footing, confidence in who they are can grow and each member of the community has the opportunity to thrive.

If our children are going to be genuinely ambitious in their learning, and their wellbeing is going to be effectively supported, then every school has to start with how it lives out its values.

Kent College:

Further reading: Whitgift on the importance of rebuilding face-to-face communication