How can principles of Harmony link to values-based education?
Linking principles of Harmony to school values can help embed a Harmony approach. Here’s how to get started.
In any education setting, school values guide and influence practices and behaviours. They may be shared with the local community of schools, too. This contributes to a consistency of approach in how schools are run, regardless of whether a school is a faith school, a community school, a free school or a special school.
In order to place school values at the heart of a setting and at the heart of its ethos, there first needs to be agreement on what those values are. The process of deciding school values should involve staff, students and the wider parent community.
What is the starting point for linking school values to principles of Harmony?
Consulting members of the school community and asking them which values they feel are most important to the school is a useful starting point. Using these ideas, teachers from the school – or staff representatives from a number of local schools, if this is to be a collaborative project – can come together to work out which values will provide a suitable focus at different times of the year.
As a school begins to apply Nature’s principles of Harmony to learning and to the life of the school, there are opportunities to link these principles directly to the school’s values. Aligning values and principles in this way may help children make sense of the way principles and natural laws can inform and influence the values that are important in shaping how we live.
In line with the seven principles of Harmony we work with, we would encourage schools to consider having seven values. It is not an easy task, distilling down values to just seven, but having fewer values can make them more memorable. Once the seven values have been agreed, then each value can be embedded over a half-term or six-week block. Following this approach, six values would be covered over a school year with the seventh value being introduced at the beginning of the next school year, so shifting the values forward a half-term for the next round.
Revisiting the values through a rolling programme like this gives students the opportunity to look at them again at different stages of their learning and development. We may, for example, consider a value such as ‘Trust’ at a younger age and think about who we trust and why we trust them, then, at a later stage, explore the value again in terms of how we build trust.
How can a school values-based culture founded on principles of Harmony be nurtured?
Once agreed, the school values should remain central to the school and its relationship with the wider community. They are the reference points in how everyone in the school treats one another. As such, they need to be articulated in ways that help the students, as well as the adults, to understand what it means to put them into practice.
The value that is the focus for a half-term might be shared through weekly assemblies, displays and during times of reflection. It might equally be communicated in newsletters, in staff meetings, and in lesson time. This will ensure each of the school values becomes part of the language of the school and the way all members of the school community strive to be.
Most importantly, the school values need to be role-modelled and lived out. Giving quality time, ideally each week, for students to explore and make sense of each value – and ultimately to own the value – is key to creating the right values culture in a school.
If the values programme can be developed across a range of school settings – primary, secondary and special schools, for example – the impact of this approach can be significant, building a common language around the behaviours of each individual and the collective whole. Introducing events each year that reinforce this values culture, such as musical performances, poetry recitals or the creation of a values mosaic in a local park or community centre, enable the values to be celebrated more widely.