Developing and Sustaining a Strong Organisational Culture in a Dynamic 21st Century School

by Juma Nyamori

In my leadership journey, I have found that school culture has a profound influence on the achievement of the various goals and objectives the school pursues. Every school will have a culture, whether this is developed deliberately, or grows organically. This culture, if based on certain key principles, will exhibit certain characteristics that are aligned to a certain core. 

As a school that prides itself on adhering strictly to its values, we are dedicated to deliberately teaching learners how to interact in a manner that promotes respect for their peers as well as staff and demonstrates their commitment to the school’s values. These values form the foundation of the school culture, and the school must promote continuous engagement through discussions of these values.  I have found certain key building blocks critical to building a strong school culture…:

School Guiding Statements:

At my school, we have found themed terms very useful for ensuring the school community engages actively in discussing and promoting the core values of the school. We will, for example, have a term dedicated to “Compassion”, which is one of our core values for “Discovering our Purpose”, which is derived from the school motto. It is important for everyone to understand how the school’s guiding statements help maintain a robust culture within the school, and keep this culture aligned to the school’s aspirations. We have achieved these through various engagements, such as lessons, talks, assembly presentations, and mentorship sessions. 

Behaviour Management Policy:

It is crucial for a school community to cultivate a cohesive school culture through deliberate programmes and tools. The behaviour management policy is an important tool for us. The policy outlines simple but critical aspects of school life such as the code of conduct and routines. The development and review of the policy must bring every individual along and give opportunities for feedback while recognising that the school community is dynamic, and putting great premium on the student’s voice.

We have found that regular school routines, such as lining up while going back to class after recess, or standing at quiet attention whenever prayers are being said in the hall or the national anthem is being played, make everything very predictable even for the youngest in our school community. These routines guide behaviour during assemblies and promote order and discipline wherever the students are.

We also recognise that language is a critical element of our school culture and our students and staff are always keen to use language that promotes our values. It is not uncommon to see a five-year-old point out that somebody used unkind language, and many take these guidelines home; we get a lot of feedback from our parents that the children are keen to speak kindly even while engaging at home or with their relatives. 

Leadership and the Three Ps

Another tool that has contributed greatly to our development of a strong school culture is our approach to leadership. One of my personal favourite ingredients of leadership that helps strengthen the culture of the school is one I call the Three Ps: Presence, Participation, and Perspective. As the Head Teacher, I take my responsibility to model good behaviour seriously, and I deliberately ensure I visit play areas, the car park, the bus park, and the lunch hall, where I engage actively with students and staff with a keen intention to model desired behaviour. This approach of “Presence” is taken up by middle leaders and student leaders wherever they go and we encourage the children to challenge us whenever we do something outside our expected routines’ I have even been respectfully stopped by students for walking on the wrong side of the corridor, or kicking balls while not dressed in the correct sports attire!

I enjoy actively participating in school activities, but I am keen to not only enjoy the activities but be available and engage directly with students and staff as much as possible. I have found this promotes trust and a culture of openness within the community. I have just greatly enjoyed being part of the cast of an Easter play, which gave me an opportunity to be directed on stage by my students, and struggle with my lines just like everybody else! One bonus of this approach of engagement and participation is that it helps all of us empathise with one another as we are able to see things from the perspective of other people and “walk in their shoes”, so to speak!

A school culture is a living, dynamic being, but must be guided by certain laid-down principles and policies that the school community has collectively committed itself to. It must give room for the participation of all segments of the school in reviewing and developing policies that form the foundation for routines, that in turn ensure every member of the school community is confident and certain of what is expected of them wherever they go within the school. A robust school culture is critical to enable every member of the community to find a suitable space to meet their desires in line with the school’s guiding statements.


Day, C., Sammons, P., Gorgen, K. (2020) Successful school leadership

Scneider, B ( 2003) Trust in schools : A core resource for school reform

Juma Nyamori is the Head Teacher at Rusinga Schools, Nairobi, Kenya

To connect with Juma on LinkedIn, click here

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