‘Character’ is one of our core values, alongside Excellence and Respect. All three qualities are intertwined and are promoted through our personal development programme at Verulam. This is deeply embedded in our rewards and sanctions and our House system.
“The rewards system promotes pupil friendships between year groups and provides a vehicle for pupil voice. It also develops healthy competition between year groups. Pupils appreciate the blue stag awards, letters of recognition and house points that they receive from leaders for achieving the school values.”
Ofsted report November 2022
How do we define ‘character’?
In order to show character our students are encouraged to:
- Show resilience by remaining motivated by long-term goals. In our setting this might be demonstrated by academic achievement over time – rewarded by achieving an ‘LOR’ (Letter of Recognition) for Resilience; or continued pursuit of a sporting achievement such as our current Year 9 football team’s journey in the National Schools’ Football Cup competition in which our team are progressing successfully over the course of the season.
In addition, the HPQ (Higher Project Qualification) which students are encouraged to complete in Year 10, is an independent study project on a topic individual to the student. This allows students to explore a topic they are interested in that is not covered in the curriculum. This is a challenging task and requires personal resilience and commitment. This project is accredited by the AQA exam board and is worth half a GCSE. Topics explored are as far ranging as: Why train travel is so inconsistent across Great Britain, to What is Art? Students can also produce creative ‘artefacts’ for this qualification and these currently range from ‘the ultimate hedgehog house’ to a short play highlighting the everyday issues facing families in Nigeria.
- Demonstrate positive characteristics in and out of the classroom. For example, embodying virtues such as honesty, generosity, integrity, humility etc. To ensure our students are aware that we notice and value these traits, we have a specific reward identified as being for ‘character’ which can be used by staff to highlight the fact that the positive characteristic has been noted and appreciated.
- The development of confidence in social and formal situations. This centres around the ability to discuss with others calmly with logical and compelling points to develop an It also relates to developing listening skills and the ability to show understanding of opposing points of views and learning to disagree in a polite and respectful manner where appropriate.
We run a successful Debate club to hone these skills and oracy is also woven into the curriculum throughout KS3. Our Sixth Form debating teams have also been very successful in the Round Table Inter-schools’ Debating Competition, reaching the Regional heats in previous years.
- We are an outward-looking school and are keen to ensure our students think beyond their time with us and are truly #VerulamForL To this end, we encourage students to work on their personal identity; to be happy in their own skin. We encourage long-term commitment to others and to faiths where appropriate. For example, we have a Christian faith group who meet weekly, and we have a dedicated prayer room open daily for our Muslim students and staff, as well as for Friday prayers.
To unify the above elements, our values are shared and discussed through ‘Form Focus’ in registration and through the assembly programme.
Our Citizenship Curriculum Enrichment Day and linked PSHE programme develop an understanding of the fundamental British values of democracy, individual freedom of choice and the responsibility that comes with this, the rule of law and respect for and understanding of others.
The School Council made up of elected representatives from Years 7 to 11 encourages the student body to reflect wisely on personal interactions with others and encourages our students to work well together in a cooperative and positive manner. This is done through feeding back from meetings to forms to share the topics discussed in the meetings and through the School Council presenting in assemblies, for example, in the Autumn term the School Council led the assemblies during Anti-Bullying Week highlighting their views on how to live together in harmony and how to deal with issues that may arrive. The peer advice given allows everyone to thrive, reflect and improve.
We also have a long tradition of pursuing the Duke of Edinburgh Award at all levels – Bronze to Gold. This challenge typically begins in Year10 (with the interruption caused by Covid – this has begun earlier/finished later to accommodate those who missed out on opportunities during Covid). Our students are encouraged to team up into small groups and encourage, support and celebrate their successes as a team.
In addition, students feel comfortable and safe to wear religious/cultural dress on non-uniform days and in fact our Sixth Form dress code includes cultural and religious dress. It is very important to us that our students can be comfortable with who they are and are happy to be seen as the person they truly are. They are indeed known and loved within our school community.