A School For Tomorrow


Building the conditions for success involves the right culture for growth and change. How can a school assemble the right ingredients for high-performance culture in a whole education? And what is the secret sauce? 

As Jim Collins, the great leadership thinker, would suggest, the enemy of “great” is too often that which is “good”. In other words, schools that are seriously committed to become great schools of character need to do more than simply replicate solid performance in the basic foundations of schooling. They must identify the “secret sauce” of high-performance culture, foster the leadership to perpetuate it, re-engineer structures and systems so that it becomes embedded, and direct the efforts of its faculty into learning and teaching that fundamentally addresses the requirements of 21C character and competency in a deliberate, targeted and intentional fashion.

The “secret sauce” of high-performance culture in a whole education begins with equipping a school with the right combination of aspirations that promote selflessness and service, a strong sense of kinship that flows through the student body, and the proliferation of tangible options for pathways to success for each student. It continues with empowering the learners in the school to feel as though they belong to and are seriously engaged in the development of character as both the rationale and the mutual enterprise of the school, something that of itself necessarily generates a willingness to strive for (and on occasion experience) excellence. Finally, the activity of the school and the work of those within it needs to keep the students in their groove and hold them to their educational purpose of achieving desired graduate outcomes based on 21C civic, performance and moral character competencies.

The deliberate, targeted, and intentional centrality of providing a whole education for character and competence is at the heart of an excellent 21C education.

There are three ways a school might go about building the culture that nurtures and sustains this type of experience and tends towards the right sorts of outcomes.

The deliberate, targeted, and intentional centrality of providing a whole education for character and competence is at the heart of an excellent 21C education. We can reveal a clearer understanding of what the picture of an industry standard of “good” performance in schools looks like, how schools can move towards it if they are still developing their practice, and how they can exceed it and become a “great” school by developing a “high-performance” culture: 

    • Internationally there is an emerging industry standard that routinely meets and exceeds expectations of stakeholders for a strong educational experience; the language of the stakeholders is overwhelmingly expressed in terms of the development of the whole person and the character and competencies that comprise this.
    • Good schools apply themselves to demonstrating habits, routines, and traditions of whole education routinely and consistently in their daily practice which come to represent them at both their highest and most mundane of levels; these create a culture which might subsequently be capable of being transformed into a high-performance culture.
    • One cautionary understanding that we can make about this is that habits of the status quo and perceived traditions themselves can and often do inhibit schools from taking the next step.

Use the secret sauce of high-performance culture to drive the character of an excellent 21C school towards meeting stakeholder expectations. What we have listened to again and again in our research work are accounts or narratives about aspiration, kinship, and pathways to success as a “whole person” within a culture of high challenge and support, and of belonging that fosters the pursuit of excellence among students, keeps them in their groove, and holds them to the educational purpose of the attainment of graduate outcomes related to those 21C civic, performance, and moral character and related holistic competencies of what they know, can do, are disposed towards:

    • Stakeholders in schools believe that school culture, climate and ethos are a significant condition of and contributor to school performance and student achievement.
    • The student learning journey is defined by the positive way in which students travel along their educational pathway and interact with the program, teachers and their peers through experiences and within relationships that equip, empower and enable them and that help them to see possibilities and move towards them with confidence.
    • There is significant scope for schools to develop a complementary understanding of the way in which an evidence-based and research-driven theory of learning might be attached to and give even greater effect to this innate sense of culture by connecting and warranting the experiences of expert teachers.

Purpose and relationship in the character of a leader and the leader of character in excellent 21C schools should be directed towards achieving standards for a whole education. The work of leadership in schools is critical. Leaders have great scope for implementing strategies designed to create the best possible student learning experiences. This applies particularly to leadership of a high quality and relevant educational program that might lead to the articulation of the true character of the highest performing boys’ schools – the consistency, rate, frequency, and quality of the development of 21C student character and competency as part of a whole education.

    • Leaders help to identify and model norms of character and competency for the students and families in their communities.
    • Leaders can nurture the conditions that encourage a significant momentum around generating the ingredients of the "secret sauce" of growing a “whole person”.
    • Leaders encourage and safeguard the standards for the implementation of successful culture, the method by which this “secret sauce” is made in a fit for purpose 21C learning community.

Leadership through high standards, therefore, is critical to the success of any great school of character.


standards for high performance culture in schools

organisational maturity and cultural competency in a high-performance school

cultural leadership at a strategic level