I would expect that all parents would agree that, even though they want their children to get excellent grades and take advantage of all the other opportunities here, the most important things that they can learn at St. Columba’s are values that will underpin their life, their relationships and the decisions they make. I told you last term that we were going through a process of selecting the values that we think are the most important ones in the College, as chosen by pupils and staff. So here is the big reveal, the ones that came out top and are now recognised as being the ‘College Values’:

Kindness

Compassion

Inclusion

Responsibility

Determination

OK, so they are hardly unexpected and you might think that they are so obvious that putting them in a list is rather absurd, as if we have made a new discovery. Aren’t these values that every school should be striving to instil in its pupils? Well, yes they are, but my experience is that it is much harder to talk about shared values, and hold pupils to them, if those values are not articulated in a clear way. By selecting these values it enables us to start a conversation in house, in the classroom, or in the corridor. It enables us to talk about what is important in assembly and to use them as a framework for talks in chapel. It requires staff and pupils to think intentionally about what is right and wrong, rather than just assuming that we are all in agreement about it.

Young people learn their values in three ways. The first is by what they are taught, be it in the family, the classroom or perhaps the church or equivalent. That puts great responsibility on teachers of all kinds. What are we teaching our children? The second is by watching and imitating adults and what we do. By that reckoning, all of us bear a huge responsibility, whether we are teachers or not. What example are we setting?

If we don’t get this right, either in school or in the family, children will learn in a third way, from the media, from celebrity culture, from the behaviour of those who are often very poor role models. Do we want to outsource the values that our children learn to social media influencers, be they pop stars or politicians?

I have come to the conclusion that the teaching of values in school is by far the most important thing that we do and it cannot be left to chance, or the winds and tides of social media.

I worked for a cricket season in Australia, coaching a school first team in Melbourne. Before the first match a former Australian captain came to talk to the players and I was looking forward to it, assuming that he would have some wise and gentle words of wisdom. He didn’t, and the fact that I can remember it now is telling. He told them that in order to achieve their ambitions and dreams they should not be afraid to crush the weak and push aside those in their way. It was their own life and they were not responsible for the failures of the weak. He urged them to look after themselves and to have no care for those around them. I looked around in horror at the teachers, parents and pupils, assuming that they would be equally horrified, but to my surprise they were all nodding in agreement. I wanted to scream, but I was just an Englishman on a gap year and I needed the job, so to my shame I kept quiet! But I have never forgotten his words. Teachers and parents bear a great responsibility…young people are listening!

THE VALUES OF ST. COLUMBA’S COLLEGE

The pupils and staff of the College have adopted the following 5 principles that we think best sum up the ethos and values for which Columbans should strive:

  • Kindness
      • We build others up with the words that we use and we don’t spread gossip
      • We look for opportunities to do acts of kindness for others
      • We always try to see the best in other people
  • Compassion
    • We seek to understand the lives of those around us and to ‘walk in their shoes’
    • We celebrate each other’s achievements and share their disappointments
    • We are slow to judge and quick to forgive
  • Inclusion
    • People are different from each other in many ways, but of equal value
    • We show respect to all members of the community and celebrate our common humanity
    • All should be made to feel welcome at St. Columba’s College
  • Responsibility
    • We take responsibility for our own work and our own behaviour
    • We are responsible for the well-being of our school community
    • We are responsible for the future of the world that we all live in and the sustainability of its resources
  • Determination
    • We work hard and take full advantage of our opportunities
    • We try to develop resilience and not give up at the first failure
    • We always strive to be the best version of ourselves

Matthew 7:12 – ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.’