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Esher Church of England High School

Esher Church of England High School

Esher Learning Trust

Mr Boddington's Blog

‘What we know matters but who we are matters more’

This quote from Brené Brown summarises our approach across the school and we have used her thinking in aspects of our planning as school leaders.  We recently published some reflections on our school learning culture as we develop our team of teaching staff; these were also written for those looking to join our amazing school to provide an insight into what we hold important and whether working here would be a good fit for them.  These approaches and the culture they support have led to a school environment where teachers are confident and lead the learning of their students.  At the same time, students apply themselves to learn because they know they are valued and see the intrinsic worth of the activity, rather than because of rules or expectations placed on them.  This aligns with our Christian vision of loving our neighbour as well as the character that we help our students develop so they can be agents for positive change now and in the future.

  1. We value every child as unique and we believe in social equity.  This means that some students will need more support than others to help them thrive, so that each has the best chance to flourish in their learning.
  2. We believe that every moment of a school day will be a learning opportunity and see it through the lens of our formal, wider and personal curricula.  Formal is in lessons, wider is the clubs and activities we provide and personal is all the values and behaviours we model to our community.  We pay close attention to all three.
  3. Our students do best when learning is engaging and making them think and work hard.  We know that our staff can balance rigorous, challenging learning with an enjoyable, varied and positive atmosphere. 
  4. In our lessons we have clarity of key routines and habits, and seek fidelity in these, whilst allowing each teacher to have their own personal approach.  This gives our children confidence each time they arrive at a classroom.
  5. We are evidence informed and use research from outside organisations to help frame our developments, while always contextualising them to our school, staff and students.
  6. We encourage our teachers to take risks with their teaching, evaluate the effects of new approaches and share their findings with colleagues.
  7. We focus closely on positive relationships between our staff and students, and between the students themselves.  We view this as more important than rules and expectations and it has lifted students’ behaviour and engagement.  Our corridors, classrooms and communal areas are vibrant and uplifting.
  8. Our staff constantly model for students how to interact with others knowing that for many we may be the only stable adult role model in their life.  It is founded in our values and includes our work ethic, visible enjoyment, expectations of each other and workload.
  9. We seek alignment on key school approaches without them becoming burdensome or constraining. 
  10. We delegate significant agency to our middle leaders over curriculum content and design, behaviour management and support for their team.  We have high expectations of them around how they work together to plan cohesive learning that complements other subjects and meets our students’ diverse needs.

We have found that by applying these approaches our students have become both more independent and interdependent, more responsible and creative, more motivated and informed.  We still of course face many challenges; some students still have episodes where they struggle to work with us and get things wrong, but we walk with them through adolescence, enabling them to be confident members of society, achieve great things and know their own unique value.

Mike Boddington

January 2022