Key takeaways

  • School culture is deeply rooted in the values and actions of school leadership, shaping priorities and goals that influence daily operations and behaviors throughout the institution.
  • The attitude of teachers, students, and parents plays a pivotal role in shaping school culture, as their collective perspectives and behaviors contribute to the overall atmosphere and sense of community within the school.
  • Effective communication, both internally among staff and externally with parents and students, is fundamental in fostering a positive and collaborative school culture, promoting transparency, involvement, and a sense of belonging among all stakeholders.

School culture relies on the values of the principal and school management, the attitudes of teachers, parents, and students, and the level of open communication within the school.

School culture is critical in the wider context of society. The National School Climate Center goes on to say that school culture also includes teaching and learning practices, organizational structures, and interpersonal relationships.

School culture is imperative to helping students progress, and we can see the benefits of schools having a positive culture. To understand school culture properly, however, we need to understand what it is comprised of.

Shot of a diverse group of children huddled together and colouring in their classroom at school This project has a bit of all of us school culture stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

What is school culture?

First, it is important to understand where a school culture stems from. In most cases, school culture usually begins with the principal. It is often the case that schools will have particular focuses and these are typically in response to the priorities and goals of the principal.

For example, if a school has historically had issues with students' behavior, then the principal may place special emphasis on monitoring and encouraging good behavior. The emphasis placed on this aspect of school life will mean that it becomes a central part of the school culture. In this regard, school culture can be seen as an extension of the Principal's vision for the school.


An influential aspect of school culture is the attitude that those within the school express daily. If the attitude of the teachers is indicative of dissatisfaction then this will be reflected in the school’s culture.

The same applies to students, the attitude that students have towards their school and their teachers is hugely influential in the formulation of culture. Let us not forget that the majority of people within a school are students, and their opinions and feelings will be reflected in the school’s culture and how it is perceived.

Family engagement

It is also important to understand that parents have a huge impact on a school’s culture. If parents are engaged with the learning process and are active in the school community then this will engender a more positive school culture.

Parents who take a more relaxed approach to their children’s education will also contribute to the school’s culture, but not in a wholly positive way. Even something as simple as attendance at parents’ evening can be a big cultural factor. If students’ parents don’t seem to care about their child's progress, then why should they?


Finally, another key aspect of a school's culture is communication. If clear channels of communication exist between different levels within the school as well as between staff and parents, this will help to foster a positive culture.

Having communication as a pillar helps to promote a more collaborative and community-focused experience and when teachers, students, and parents have a voice and are listened to - the more likely they are to share their time and get involved with school activities. Conversely, if teachers do not feel like they have a voice, this can lead to dissatisfaction and low retention rates. This is why, when trying to understand a school’s culture, communication is key.

As mentioned earlier, the culture of a school differs from one to the next, depending on their faith, objectives, and challenges. However, what they should all have in common is a strong leader, with all school management aligned in their values and actions that are reflective of this, as well as clear lines of communication that promote honesty and transparency school-wide.

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In essence, school culture is a dynamic interplay of values, attitudes, engagement, and communication that profoundly shapes the educational environment and experiences of students, teachers, and parents. As we've explored, it's not solely about the principal's vision or the attitudes of individuals; rather, it's a collective effort that requires strong leadership, active engagement from all stakeholders, and transparent communication channels. By understanding and nurturing these components, schools can cultivate positive cultures that not only support academic progress but also foster a sense of community, collaboration, and shared responsibility, ultimately contributing to the holistic development of students and preparing them for success in the broader context of society.

Author: Edd Jackson

Posted: 13 Feb 2020

Estimated time to read: 8 mins

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