Schools and school leaders face ethical dilemmas regularly, and there has been a growing movement to define what ethical behaviour looks like in schools and then commit to this as our way of working. The Ethical Leadership Commission has produced the Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, setting out the key commitments that define ethical educational leadership.
About the Author
Paul is the Executive Principal of the Trust, a current Ofsted Lead Inspector, former Head of both primary and secondary schools, including taking over three schools in Ofsted Category 4 and one in Special Measures, and a former LA School Improvement Adviser, as well as being a practising teacher.
Ethical Behaviour in Education
It is a great pleasure and a privilege to work in education – the ability to shape and guide young lives is a wonderful gift. At the White Hills Park Trust, we are always aware of the weight of responsibility that this brings and the importance, therefore, of acting with integrity. Whilst ethical behaviour is something to aspire to in any walk of life, when part of our role is to set an example to young people, then it is absolutely integral to our role. It is distressing to read the occasional news stories that emerge of people in senior positions in schools and educational organisations who abuse their position for their own financial benefit, or who act in a way that is contrary to the interests of the young people they serve – we have always worked in our Trust to make sure that this does not ever describe us.
The vast majority of people in education share this view, and there has been a growing movement to define what ethical behaviour looks like in schools and then commit to this as our way of working. A couple of years ago, a wide range of organisations, including those representing teachers, school leaders, public bodies, governors, charities, parents and young people set up the Ethical Leadership Commission and in January, the Commission produced their report: ‘Navigating the Educational Moral Maze’.
The report recognised that schools and school leaders face ethical dilemmas regularly, such as balancing the needs of one pupil against the needs of many, understanding how to remain a good employer in a time of shrinking budgets, pursuing a wide curriculum when success is defined in a narrowing range of results – these are things that I have written about before in the Newsletter. It brought all of the thinking together by producing a Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, a two-page summary setting out the key commitments that define ethical educational leadership. The framework can be found on the National Governance Association website here, or downloaded via the attachment below this article.
We have been one of the organisations that are celebrating this framework, and using it to define the way we work. Although we sometimes fall short, as all do, these are the behaviours and the principles we aspire to and we measure ourselves against. I am part of the Ethics Forum that has arisen from this work and the White Hills Park Trust is a pathfinder Trust for the framework. We don’t see it as a straightjacket, but as a rallying call, something that we can measure our practice against, that we can use to set out our principles when we recruit new staff, and that we can promote across the wider educational world.
I know that this is the least that our parents and community expect of us, and support us in this. I look forward to updating you as the pathfinder work continues.