Crofty Culture

Crofty Culture 

 

Education is a basic human right and it is our chosen vocation because there is no greater reward than seeing children and young people thrive and succeed. It is a privilege to know that our work improves children’s lives and the lives of future generations.

To do this we have an amazing team of staff, committed to our core purpose, which is to give our learners the best possible start in life, to unlock possibilities and enable them to make choices about their future.

Crofty is a values led organisation, built on the three core values of Learning, Integrity and Community. Our values are the principles that underpin everything we do. We describe our values in terms of the behaviours and attitudes we most want to see in each other. This is important to us because it is our behaviours and attitudes that create the Crofty culture.

If what follows resonates with you, then please get in touch. Every school or person who joins us helps to shape and evolve the culture further so we’re always looking to attract like-minded schools and colleagues who would like to be part of the journey.

Crofty Values

Core Value – Learning

  • You are committed to continuous learning
  • You are a critical thinker and are not afraid to challenge the status quo
  • You take considered risks, seeing mistakes as an opportunity to learn
  • You are always looking for more effective ways of working
  • You enjoy keeping up to date with the latest ideas and thinking
  • You see change as a continuous fact of life, embracing it in the quest for improvement

Aligned with learning – Positivity

  • You are an optimist
  • You use your positivity to infect staff, parents and children
  • You always look for the positive or opportunity when faced with challenge
  • You understand that life rarely goes to plan and cope well with the “curve balls”
  • You are calm, even in the face of conflict
  • You dream big, wanting the best for the children and community

Core Value – Integrity

  • You earn the trust and respect of colleagues over time
  • You lead by example
  • You speak up when something isn’t right
  • You see things through, keeping your promises
  • You are prepared to have honest conversations, being straight and compassionate
  • You are emotionally reliable and predictable

Aligned with Integrity – Respect

  • You always treat others with dignity
  • You make decisions based on fairness and equity
  • You listen carefully, with full attention
  • You value and celebrate difference
  • You are a “critical friend”, giving honest feedback, without a hint of malice

Core Value – Community

  • You understand the power of the group to overcome bigger challenges
  • You deliver equity – No-one succeeds unless we all succeed
  • You embrace collective responsibility
  • You celebrate the success of others
  • You make a positive contribution to the team

Of course it’s easy to state highly principled values, lots of organisations do that, so we have gone to great lengths to define what exactly what each value means to us.

Learning

“Always walk through life as if you have something to learn and you will.” Vernon Howard

We understand that in order to create the best learning for our children everyone must be a learner. We know that it is not enough to teach children to take risks to learn if we are not prepared to do the same. By doing this we constantly remind ourselves of the importance of creating learning cultures founded in psychological safety, where mistakes are seen as a vital part of the learning process, not something to be embarrassed about and avoided. Safe learning cultures also breed curiosity, creativity and innovation, all vital components of our Professional Learning Community.

“If we create a culture where every teacher believes they need to improve, not because they are not good enough but because they can be even better, there is no limit to what we can achieve.” Dylan William

As educators we understand that we are not soldiers on a battlefield, trained to comply, we are critical thinkers who challenge the status quo. We accept that nothing is fixed and everything should be open to review; challenge is encouraged and expected, “better never stops”. Being critical thinkers also means that we don’t just jump on every educational bandwagon that promises rapid and remarkable improvements in outcomes. We are very careful and considered, balancing the evidence of impact on learning against the workload, asking the question “what difference will this make to the quality of learning?” or “will it make the boat go faster?”

This is what we mean by “a restless pursuit of excellence.”

Aligned with learning – Positivity

“The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.” Winston Churchill

Positivity isn’t skipping around the school with a false smile, singing a happy tune. People are pretty shrewd and would probably see through that. To us positivity is a mindset, an attitude, a way of thinking about the world.

We know that life rarely goes to plan. In fact, we expect it not to go to plan. What we do know is that, with the right mindset, by framing setbacks as opportunities, by embracing failure as learning, we have the ability to re-think and find a way.

We all know that mood is infectious, for good and bad, and we all want to work in places surrounded by colleagues who radiate positivity. But perhaps the most important reason for our schools to resonate with positivity is that our children deserve it. Many of our children experience very little positivity. Those children need to experience hope and be taught self belief. There is enough negativity in the world and it is our job to do what we can to redress the balance.

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford

By being explicit about why we think positivity is so important we are also aiming to minimise the ‘serial’ moaners. Those who pour cold water on ideas and dreams rather than keeping an open mind. An idea is an extremely delicate thing, and is easily snuffed out, dismissed. We need and want a workplace where ideas are treated with respect, nurtured and explored. Positivity is that part of our culture that allows this and therefore promotes creativity, it helps us solve problems, learn and improve.

What we are not saying though is that no-one is ever allowed to moan. We all still reserve the right to voice frustrations and share the stresses with colleagues, that’s different, that’s a sign of a healthy team, listening and supporting each other. We also acknowledge that working in school can be an emotional roller coaster, and we all experience days when we’re not feeling as positive as we’d like. This is to be human. Because of this we accept that we have a responsibility to keep an eye on ourselves and each other, and seek the right help at the right time.

Ultimately we believe that attitude is a choice and that we have a responsibility to choose the behaviours that make our schools feel safe, positive and inspiring places to learn. We all want the staff room to light up when we enter, not when we leave.

Core Value – Integrity

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no is watching.” C.S Lewis

Just about every organisation has integrity as a core value, and with good reason, in organisations where people act with integrity, great things happen.

The way we show we have integrity is through our actions and behaviours, there is no other way. By consistently keeping our word, being careful about the promises we make, but then always following through on those promises, we demonstrate our integrity. It is only by being reliable in our words and actions will we begin to build trust, and trust is the magic ingredient. Within Crofty schools trust acts like the glue that binds us together, allowing us to build great teams and achieve great results.

It takes a long time, acting with integrity, to build trust, but only a few thoughtless words or actions for it to disappear. The trust we create through integrity is precious, which is why we are careful and considered in our words and actions. Integrity also means never losing sight of our shared purpose, always putting the mission ahead of personal self interest. Acting with integrity can be tough in lots of ways, because it could mean sacrificing short term benefits for longer term gains, or having to disagree with a colleague’s opinion, or deliver challenging feedback. What we do know though is that acting with integrity is worth it because it makes Crofty schools great places to learn, for staff and children alike.

Aligned with Integrity – Respect

“Mutual respect is the foundation of genuine harmony.” Dali Lama

We understand that, like trust, respect can only ever be earned, and that the level of respect we earn is directly related to how we treat people. Acting with kindness, empathy and understanding, being non judgmental, tolerant and sensitive are all important behaviours we aim to demonstrate in order to build mutual respect.

There are however two particular behaviours that perhaps do more to build respect than any others. Listening and honesty.

By listening we mean proper listening. This is not the type of superficial listening you see some people demonstrate when in actual fact all they are doing is thinking about what they want to say. Proper listening to us is about clearing space in your thoughts and giving the person your full attention. It means being genuinely interested and seeking to understand others’ perspectives, thoughts and feelings. Apart from being the right thing to do, through listening properly we learn, and it is only when we fully understand can we hope to make the right decisions and choices. So in short, we agree with Bryant Mcgill when he says “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say”

“Respect the man who is honest, for honesty is the highest form of respect.” Daniel Saint

Honesty is a tough one. It’s easy to talk about being honest, but in reality none of us want to say something that someone may find upsetting. If, like us, you are married to learning and looking to grow and improve, then not only will you be open to feedback, you will actively invite it in the full knowledge that the person giving you the feedback is motivated by wanting to help you learn and improve. The person who can be honest with you is showing you huge amounts of respect. It means they value you so much, they are prepared to tell you what others would avoid.

Core Value – Community

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” Margaret J. Wheatley

Ultimately it is our belief in the power of community that brought us together. In education there has been much talk over the years about how ‘successful’ schools should reach out and support ‘struggling’ schools. Unfortunately this kind of collaboration will only go so far because accountability for the learners stops at each school gate and rests with each school individually. So the question is, if you were responsible for an ‘outstanding’ school how many resources would you be prepared to spare on the school down the road? How much would you be prepared to risk your success to ensure the success of others?

In Crofty we believe that no one succeeds until we all succeed. In our community it’s not enough just to build a great school if the school down the road isn’t yet delivering great teaching. We care enough to feel responsible for every child, wherever they happen to go to school.

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Proverb of African origin

With all this talk of working as one and belief in community you might imagine we are on a mission to create alignment across Crofty schools. The truth is that we cherish the individuality and personality of our schools. In much the same way that a family of siblings can be united by strong shared principles, they can also have very different personalities and characters. This is the way we see our schools. Each one a unique product of the communities they serve, and the staff teams that bring them to life every day.

Culture into reality

Professional development

In order to deliver on these commitments we have hard wired our values into our systems. For example, our systems for appraisal and professional development ensure that every staff member receives professional development, tailored to their individual circumstances and requirements. That might not sound so ground breaking, but what makes us really different is that in Crofty we don’t just link pay to exam or test results, we reward staff for the commitment they demonstrate to our values, and in particular to how they engage in their own development and the development of others. We do this because we know that the only way to improve outcomes for our children and young people is to improve how we teach. So we reward staff whose commitment ensures everyone’s teaching keeps getting better. At the heart of this is a coaching based approach, specific to the individual. All these things make Crofty a ‘deliberately developmental’ organisation.

School Improvement

When it comes to school improvement we ensure each school receives the support it needs, bespoke to its unique context and priorities. This is in addition to the regular, timetabled challenge and support from trusted and experienced colleagues. To achieve this bespoke approach we use our greatest resource; the staff in other trust schools. Of course much of the school improvement work happens organically, a product of the many and varied network groups, sharing practice and motivating each other to ever better ways of working. If all this sounds idealistic then don’t worry. We also employ external (Ofsted registered) partners to check what we’re doing. We don’t want to be accused of marking our own homework. In reality we love the challenge that external scrutiny brings, it keeps us on the ball and helps us live our commitment to learning.

Freedom to be Creative

We are particularly pleased with the way colleagues from across all schools redesigned the schools’ broad and balanced curricula. Curriculum leads from across the trust co-created a solid foundation of ‘small steps’, and from this each school’s leaders and staff designed a curriculum unique to their school. From our creation we have always believed in the principle of maintaining each school’s individual character. Our Headteachers operate with the autonomy to set their school’s vision and curriculum so that it meets the unique character and needs of the school’s community.

In Summary

  • Crofty MAT is a values-based organisation where we aim to live our values every day.
  • We are united around our shared purpose to give our children the best possible start in life, to enable them to make choices about their future.
  • We do this through our restless pursuit of excellence, creating the highest quality learning for staff and children alike.
  • Our highly dedicated staff and governors have created a culture of shared responsibility, “working as one” for the benefit of all the children and young people in our schools.
  • We do not look to preserve our culture, we want to improve it.