Ethos

Ethos (/ˈiːθɒs/ or US: /ˈiːθoʊs/) is a Greek word meaning “character” that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology.

‘Showing strong moral character’ is what we want to enable our pupils to do. We provide all pupils in Years 6 to 7 with dedicated weekly Ethos lessons, which provide:

  • an introduction to ethical and critical thinking;
  • an education in how politics works;
  • opportunities for informed discussion;
  • training in the skills of debating.

We aspire to develop independence and resilience in our younger pupils, and to enhance their capacity to formulate opinions and ideas cogently. Some of the questions pupils have enjoyed exploring include:

  • If you had a box with a button on it that, when pressed, meant that someone somewhere in the world would experience serious pain, but no-one would ever know it was you, would you press it?
  • Do animals have rights?
  • Does the education system ruin childhood?
  • Should all the money in the world be redistributed equally each year?
  • Should prisons punish or rehabilitate?
  • What can we do to end racial inequality?

Here’s what pupils have to say about their Ethos lessons:

“Ethos is one of the new subjects which has been introduced recently. However, it has become one of my favourite subjects easily. In Ethos, we learn about debating, decision making, people’s beliefs about how we see the world, politics, and people’s opinions on different matters.” (Manasseh)

“Ethos is a great way of expressing yourself to others.” (Sarah)

“A chance to learn about the world.” (Thomas)

“Ethos is about learning how to face a problem and solve it ethically.” (Jessica)

“A useful and engaging topic that requires thinking and being able to speak openly without being biased.” (Miles)

“I would describe it as a way to express your feelings and learn how to be a better person.” (Max Kemp)

“I would say that it teaches you all about making the right decision, and not always letting what you think is right take over.” (Ava)

This strong foundation is built upon in the Middle School with a programme of Ethos assemblies in which staff and pupils share their interests and passions. From the origins of feminism to sixteenth-century Netherlandish art and the beauty of soil, we share and celebrate the range of expertise within our community, and provide opportunities for pupils to practise their own public speaking skills, too.

In the Sixth Form, we continue to focus on developing character with a core reading list for students containing seminal texts of philosophical and cultural importance which are then discussed by staff and students in the weekly Life Education sessions.  Texts have included The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

Study skills

Pupils throughout the school use their Life Education lessons to develop study and revision skills. We draw on the most recent pedagogical ideas and developments in cognitive science to inform our understanding of how pupils learn and revise best.

A day-long programme of events aimed at building academic confidence is put on for pupils entering their GCSE years, with contributions from experienced study skills providers such as Elevate Education. Regular ‘report reading’ days are used to review all pupils’ progress and achievement and provide guidance on how they can improve their skills. There is also a bespoke ‘study skills handbook’ tailored to pupils at Emanuel which is used to support Sixth Form students.

We run two popular annual seminars for parents of pupils in the Lower and Middle schools to provide tools with which they can support their children to study and manage their time effectively.

Staff training and development

We are lucky to be part of a reflective and collaborative staff body at Emanuel, and there are many opportunities in place for sharing good practice and developing as a practitioner.

Staff are warmly encouraged to work with their line managers to identify and pursue any further training needed.  For example, we have a number of staff currently working towards certification to deliver Mindfulness courses, whilst several heads of department have gained the HMC Independent Schools Qualification in Academic Management.  We actively support staff from all academic departments to gain experience examining at GCSE and A level.

The Teaching and Learning Committee is a cross-curricular group of staff which meets twice-termly to engage with the latest educational research and share best practice within school.  Recent meetings have featured a discussion of Barak Rosenshine’s Ten Principles of Instruction, thoughts on motivation from David Didau’s book What if everything you knew about education was wrong? and lively discussions about how you measure effort, whether homework is useful, and the impact of metacognitive strategies in the classroom.

In addition to this, a smaller body of staff is currently working on independent research projects into areas of teaching which interest them and will stand to benefit the pupils.  We are excited that these enquiries, supported by a mentor from the Institute of Education’s London Centre for Leadership in Learning, will help us to identify the most effective approaches to support our pupils and place us at the forefront of educational developments.

 ‘In the absence of some form of systematic research enquiry, how can schools know whether ‘what they do’ is helping improve student outcomes, having zero impact, or making things worse?’ (James Mannion, EIP: The importance of professional judgement, Impact: Chartered College of Teaching, 2017)

Teaching and learning newsletters

Autumn 2019

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