Game Changers | Work | A School For Tomorrow

The Culture to Live

What is the culture to live in a School for tomorrow? In a School for tomorrow. we want to inspire a growth-minded community of inquiry and practice to build a disposition for change, align decisions standards, and share in a language for learning that contribute to the progress and wellness of all. This enables all to grow to become the people they need to be and to live well in relationships built by earning their places through asking the question: where do I fit in?



A disposition for learning in a School for tomorrow. is about the willingness towards and trajectory of change for learners within an educational organisation. It’s also about the underlying growth of all contributors to the community of inquiry and practice that allows this. Schools around the world are increasingly developing a much sharper understanding of why culture matters. The renowned management expert, Peter Drucker, was supposed to have said once that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” While Drucker never actually confirmed whether he did in fact say this as part of a private conversation, what we can glean from the intent was that any rusted-on culture will destroy the impact of any strategy, unless alignment of vision, intent, and means are achieved. In other words, without good culture, there’s little point emphasising strategy. They must work hand in hand.

So, what is the proper culture of a School for tomorrow. and how can we achieve this type of alignment? If a growth mindset, a focus on performance, and change readiness is what we expect of our students, shouldn’t we expect this of ourselves at the same time? And if we do, then what are we doing to prepare our school to operate effectively in this way? Perhaps it all comes down to a disposition to ask questions that challenge the status quo, develop answers that reveal a shared language of learning and the capacity to define a strategy that is singularly focused on improving outcomes for more learners who have the adaptive expertise and self-efficacy to thrive in their world.

“The culture work that sits at the heart of a School for tomorrow. is the articulation and application of school’s whole program of education to build capacity in character and competency. We see this in the development of rigour in evidence-based and research driven learning, the richness in relationships and the cultural capital that arises from them, the strategic depth and distribution of leadership, and the performance that arises from the shared work of the community of inquiry and practice.”

Dr Philip SA Cummins and Bradley Adams



Decision-making practice and evaluative standards can reveal to us much about the priorities and underlying structures of school culture. Let’s start by thinking about the norms of decision-making in such a school – how people habitually make decisions can tell us much about the culture. The qualities of such a process tell us whether the normal life of a school is genuinely representative of the growth-minded change culture that typifies future-focused schools. They also tell us whether or not an educational organisation is truly focused on the improvement of outcomes for more learners. There are typically five qualities that can be identified in how a School for tomorrow. goes about working out what to do and how to do it: 

    • Future-focused: Are decisions emerging from an inclination to move forward to meet the needs of the future?
    • Character-rich: Are decision-makers considering the ways in which any and all decisions both model and promote the desired 21C character and competency for students and other members of the school community?
    • Action-oriented: Are stakeholders committed to taking both the initiative to act and ensuring concrete actions to improving outcomes (especially student outcomes)?
    • Inclusive and empowering: Do decision-makers look to make decisions in the best interest of the voice, agency, and wellbeing of “every” and “each” stakeholder and particularly the students – in other words, is there an emphasis on generating successful experiences and outcomes for individuals on personalised pathways as well as serving the needs and culture of the institution as a whole?
    • Reflective inquiry: Do decision-makers habitually ask searching and meaningful questions while moving through one of a number of well- rehearsed and considered multi-stage process that ask them to contemplate context, balance the best of external research with internal evidence of impact, generate a range of options, and select the best available course of action to achieve the task at hand?

A further key element of the culture of a School for tomorrow. is its disposition towards testing the quality of its decisions and warranting the integrity of its practice, particularly in the light of the research about how great schools operate. We believe schools and their teachers should warrant their practice according to these principles. This should include validating the quality and consistency of the delivery of graduate outcomes based on character and competency, 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 culture in a School for tomorrow. that is focused on building the adaptive expertise and self-efficacy of learners who are equipped to thrive in their world.


 a School for tomorrow. helps its students, teachers, and school leaders to build the character, competencies and wellness that allows them to make progress on a pathway to excellence that gives them the adaptive expertise and self-efficacy required for them to thrive in their world. A shared vocabulary that helps embed the purpose of this educational process is the third critical element of its culture.

Character is the way we live life. Do we belong? Are we fulfilling our potential? Are we doing what is good and right? These are powerful questions we ask. Sometimes to answer them we search deep and discover an inner sense of who we are, and who we may become; this is our mark as a person. Other times, we try to fulfil the expectations of others; this is our measure as a person. And so, through the course of our lives, as we express the civic character of belonging, the performance character of fulfilling potential and the moral character of doing what is good and right, we wrestle. We wrestle with both leaving a mark and measuring up. This is how we form character. This is how we show who we have been, and who we are becoming.

Competency is the capacity to demonstrate how one has grown in character during an educational process. It deliberately and simultaneously asks one to know, to do, to be, and to learn. We can group the competencies required to thrive in our world under four broad headings: learn, live, lead, and work. When competency in these areas is achieved, the knowledge, skills, dispositions, and learning habits that are cultivated during the social and educational processes we experience are demonstrated in our values, our qualities, and the graduate outcomes of thriving we demonstrate.

Wellness is how we experience health and happiness in the world. Our wellness (or how well we feel) is influenced by our health – physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual, our satisfaction with the lives we are leading, and the sense of purpose and connectedness we have. Our character is directly affected by our wellness; how well we are is so very important to how we live our lives and who we are becoming through all of the social relationships and educational processes, the journeys towards character we experience on our various pathways to excellence.

Thriving means human beings applying their character, competency, and wellness to learn, live, lead and work well in a world that needs them: 

    • Have the integrity to lead meaningful lives as good people.
    • Have the ability to manage complexity with authenticity as future builders.
    • Grow and transform themselves as continuous learners and unlearners.
    • Provide sustainable direction to the world as solution architects.
    • Balance the local, the regional, and the global with perspective as responsible citizens.
    • Work well in relationship with others, to bring success and fulfilment for all of us as team creators.

Adaptive expertise means human beings growing in character, competencies and wellness and using these to solve known and new problems. It is, in essence, our commitment to growth. Self-efficacy means human beings organising themselves and their learning, living, leadership and work to optimise their character, competencies and wellness so that they can thrive in their world. It is our capacity to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

Fit for purpose learning means stepping forward into a preferred future where: vision and vocabulary are shared; value propositions are agreed by the school community; the velocity, shape, and trajectory of change are designed and implemented to meet the needs of internal and external contexts. All learning journeys are formed in relationship within the values, context and culture of the school community. They are enhanced by a shared commitment to continuous learning, a flexible face to face, online and offline approach to the design, development and delivery of learning and teaching that allows all to access learning from their own location. Continuous learning does not prescribe a particular pedagogical approach but has the potential to support student-centred and student-led approaches to personalised learning progress.

Progress should be defined measuring initial levels of competencies in learning, living, leadership, and work and then measuring the growth (gaining competency), motivation (confidence in exercising competency), engagement (disposition towards further growth in competency), achievement (successful application of competency), and qualification (external accreditation of competency) by a student, teacher, and leader in each of the competencies so that they can thrive. All of these concepts are, therefore, connected intimately with each other; inherent in this connectedness is the measurement of a person’s progress according to growth in mastery of competencies, organisation of one’s life around these competencies, and a sense of thriving in the world through these competencies.

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