A School For Tomorrow


In a School for tomorrow. we want to motivate each other as evidence-based champions of high performance and systems that improve outcomes for all learners. We need to commit to our calling, bring together the compelling narrative, describe and measure our performance, and define the narrative and role community of inquiry and practice that will help everyone to work vocationally and find their calling by asking the question: whose am I? 

The work of a great school

We are called as educators to help others to strive for excellence and to develop their character and competency.


The team at CIRCLE – The Centre for Innovation, Research, Creativity, and Leadership in Education have spent the better part of a decade building a series of research-based understandings about what comprises an excellent education, the character of an education, and an education for character. What is clear to us now is that what makes an education excellent is the quality and consistency of the education for 21C character, competency and wellness that underpins it. In other words, when the character of an education is defined by, framed within, and aligned with a community’s aspirations for its graduates, then we begin to see what an education can really do. It’s more than just a series of learning activities pursued for their own sake – our research seems to show that the fundamental purpose of an excellent education should be the development of the whole character of the learner.


A good school focuses on the whole education of the whole person and gets the fundamentals right – a great school assembles the ingredients of high-performance culture in delivering this education. A great school, a school of character, identifies the ‘secret sauce’ of aspirations, a sense of kinship, and pathways to success, and applies this to a culture of inspiration, challenge, and support. This culture fosters both the pursuit of excellence by young people of character, and the sense of belonging to and engagement in school. It keeps them in their groove and holds them to the educational purpose of desired graduate outcomes based on 21C civic, performance and moral character competencies.


The map of the experience of schooling in a School for tomorrow. must chart help our students chart the possible journeys to servanthood and the acquisition of 21C character and competency on their quest: We believe, therefore that school becomes, therefore, a wide field in which we inspire, challenge, and support students to rehearse for their adulthood by providing many diverse encounters with and experiences of competency within deliberately incremental and immersive learning. Like the medieval tales of old and the computer games students play now, the challenges must become harder and more important as the quest goes on. In this way, the experience of school is about becoming someone else, accompanied as it often is by a reluctance to let go of the child who once was (something which poorly informed and utilised cultures of tradition can unwittingly abet) and the process of gaining expertise through character apprenticeship that shows us where our future might lie. This process sees meaning develop into understanding, authenticity shape identity, transformation aided by reflection, an emphasis on survival and sustainability progresses towards one which is more concentrated on results, an awareness of service become the generation of true purpose, and immediate relationships giving some ground to the need to appreciate a broader context and a wider world. This journey of becoming is, therefore, also the experience of gaining the mastery of our essential competencies based on civic, performance, and moral character, as well as the attainment of the learning habits of self-efficacy and adaptive expertise required to thrive in 21C.


A great school functions as an authentic, mature, and high performing community of inquiry and practice. We believe, therefore, that a great school, should track, gather evidence about, and evaluate its organisational maturity as a fit for purpose school of character. It should school conduct this measurement of its high performance both in terms of the learning experiences and graduate outcomes of its students, as well as in its operation as a learning organisation. To do this, it should interrogate a set of key factors in our six corridors of an excellent 21C education that point to the character, climate and culture of the school, leadership of the educational programs, the effectiveness of teachers in growing the ‘whole person’, the effectiveness of student educational experiences and outcomes, the alignment of strategy and operations with respect to character education, and the nature of teacher professionalism in a community of practice dedicated to the attainment of its desired graduate outcomes based on 21C civic, performance, and moral character competencies. In other words, a school of character is one that consistently demonstrates an increasing propensity towards inspiring, challenging, and supporting students to fulfil their potential to be young people of character and competency.


The final element of a great school (a School for tomorrow.) is its disposition towards testing and warranting the integrity of its practice. We believe this must include validating the quality and consistency of the delivery of graduates outcomes based in 21C character, competency and wellness, as well as the essential processes by which a school might attain them, including the depth of investigation into the idea of character, the immersion of character leadership in every part of the school, the richness of character apprenticeship as the key pedagogy for the learning experience, the shared discipline in delivering excellence in learning experience and outcomes, the success in cultivating emerging student voice and agency, and the rigour of teacher professionalism. How teachers and leaders build a case for and warrant their practice in respect of these provides the critical accountability for ensuring the continuing presence and evolving nature of the ‘secret sauce’ of high-performance culture.

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

Barack Obama

The work continues

In our collective and individual work in schools, we are all engaged in the important role of providing our students with an education for character, competency and wellness. Always central to the mission of schools, such an education has gained new urgency in recent years. Learning how to navigate change and complexity with a strong moral compass, building character strengths such as perseverance and grit, and understanding one’s self and purpose for others are seen across societies internationally as being fundamental for student wellbeing as they make the journey to adulthood. 

In this sense the work of being an educator is the work of being a learner. Understanding the competencies, the character and the culture that we want our school to be based around is a process of interrogating and critiquing the existing frameworks within our schools, within our team of educators, and most importantly, within ourselves. Through this work, we will understand how to contribute to and lead the way of school strategy, what it means to be a school that performs and why we must be the arbiter of change within the context of our communities. 

Our own performance is integral to the success of the tangible aspirations we have for our work, but it is also how we inspire our wider community to join us as we embark on the journey towards becoming a better school. In the same way people look towards leaders as the representative of the culture of a community more broadly, our schools look towards us as the standard of how to perform. What we do in our day to day lives, and how we do it, is internalised by our community as the hallmark of what it means to be a student, an educator or a member of the school community. 

The level of influence we have over our community must be respected as we work towards bettering it. Given this, to become better leaders, we must change our understanding of our responsibilities away from being ‘how do I shape me’ towards ‘how should I shape us’. It is this shift in thinking that is the first step in developing change culture and being an effective leader. We can then begin to learn the practices and purposes to underlie developing a school community of change, of inquiry and practice and of character education. This is the work of a Game Changer and any of us can fulfil that role. 

In this light, we need to acknowledge that we are all part of a powerful and ongoing conversation that is going on throughout the world. This discourse of contemporary education, and specifically an education for character, competency and wellness, asks us to consider: 

    1. A provocation: What do we mean by the character, competency and wellness of a person? 
    2. A context: What do we mean by an education for character, competency and wellness? 
    3. A rationale: What do we feel about such an education in our school and why should we do it?
    4. A framework: What might we design, deliver and measure and how might we measure it? 
    5. A community of inquiry and practice: What does this mean for us in our roles individually and collectively?


In truth, however, most schools struggle to complete the full process that should sit behind the vital character work – even those that claim to do a good job at it. Almost all will speak to the importance of character education and articulate their intentions. Nonetheless, it can be inherently difficult for many to define precisely what character education actually is and what processes, programs, and practices impact character development, especially when many of the louder voices speak in favour of practices that lean towards that opaqueness that so frequently is typical of institutional conservatism in both the definition and practice of character education. 

We have learned that the voices claiming that character cannot be identified or taught tangibly or meaningfully, or that it is a noble and ethereal thing that should not be sullied with measurement, are very much in the minority. Yet often they are powerfully placed and carry a weight that is disproportionate to their representation. When a school proposes this type of voice as the dominant discourse, we wonder whether or not people really share an understanding of what is meant by character, how an education might best work towards development of this character, how the enabling process might be constructed, how the results might be measured, and (perhaps most importantly) how a genuine community of inquiry and practice might be built around this work to ensure that what is done is subject to all of the rigour and relevance associated with contemporary evidence-based theories of educational practice that have been established in other areas of school life. 

All around the world, the vast majority of teachers want to know more about character education. They believe that there is such a thing as the character of a person and that it is the proper subject of their individual and collective endeavours, as well as a worthy object of their labour as educators. They want to know how to teach more effectively for good character, although they are not necessarily either certain or agreed as to what this notion of ‘good character’ means and how it might be measured. They believe that contribution to a mature learning organisation built around how to engage in the work of character would help them do what they do more effectively. 

They also recognise that, for the most part, their schools are perhaps only halfway through the process of ensuring that vision, vocabulary, value proposition, and the velocity of change in bringing these about are both aligned and are also deliberate, targeted, and intentional in terms of means and measurement. 

The Pathway to Excellence in a School for tomorrow. continues.