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When we ask what makes a good school, we generally think of questions around NCEA results, well-kept buildings, a safe and caring environment, along with sporting and cultural opportunities. These things are important, but more so, we need to ask about the sort of young people we are encouraging them to become. What kinds of adults will they be? Will they be good employers or employees, friends and parents? Will they be respectful and honest, with a solid work ethic and will they be contributing citizens? Those are the qualities that we should be valuing and pursuing in our schools and should be the ultimate measure of effectiveness.
It goes without saying that to be competent in literacy and numeracy, the sciences, humanities, information technologies and the arts are important, but these should form the foundation and not the ultimate aspirations for schooling. Critical attributes such as the capacity to take responsibility for self, to set and achieve positive goals, to show respect and kindness towards others, to maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions are all issues of character and as Heraclitus reminds us, character is destiny. It is also the one test we cannot cram for.
Character is about both excellence and ethics: striving for quality work and doing the right thing. A school that understands the importance of character says with clarity and focus, who you are becoming is as important as what you know and achieve. This is why we say that we are more than a school.