Schools Cultural Maturity Report

Schools Cultural Maturity Report

What is a positive, dynamic culture?

And how do you know whether you’ve got a good one?

Strong organisational culture resides beneath the readily observed systems and practices of organisations yet exerts a powerful effect over the professional development of staff and predicts educational results.

Defined as an organisation’s shared attitudes, beliefs, and values, collaborative team culture shapes the interactions, communication and behaviours which can either help, or hinder, problem solving and achieving desired outcomes.

Combining research across multiple levels of the organisational system (i.e., Organisation, People, Work, Team, and Leader) that contribute to continual improvement, the Sentis Culture Model is a framework that helps schools to evaluate the cultural strengths and opportunity areas that may impact educational outcomes.

The Sentis Education People and Cultural Maturity Assessment is a purpose-made tool to rigorously scan and assess the culture and climate of a school and assist in building the strategy to create the best school and team culture.

So, when improving a school’s culture what are the aspects to consider?

Levels of Maturity
Counterproductive (poor employee engagement)

A relatively toxic culture where people actively resist change and improvements are not made.


Busy. Operational. Transactional. Everyone is putting out spot-fires, but the strategy is missing and there is a feeling of paddling like crazy beneath the surface but making no progress. People can be well-intentioned.


People generally follow directions and work gets done ‘because we have to do it’ not because people understand the ‘why’ or are personally motivated or engaged with the work.


Some transformational leadership is occurring and there are some high performing teams doing work with impact. Employees and leadership teams are engaged.


People exhibit ‘above and beyond’ commitment and there is evidence of discretionary effort.

People are motivated by the big picture and understand system requirements, often completing work with high levels of engagement. Dynamic teams are aligned across the organisation.

Sentis Education Report Findings:
Common action items based on each Culture Dimension:
  • Limited consistency of standards or expectations across team culture.
  • Teams at all levels are focused on the operational elements of meetings and work, with little to no consideration and planning around developing team culture.
  • Clarifying opportunities for ‘feedback’. Feedback can include feedback about pedagogy as well as workplace behaviours and the impact on other people.
  • Articulating tight and loose properties – what we hold close / this is our great team culture – this cannot change. Where do we allow more autonomy and professional discretion?
  • Improving the team’s ability to have a straight conversation – being clear and firm without it being perceived as ‘conflict’.
  • Focusing on building a positive team culture and ways to check in on how the team is functioning. Too often, senior leaders focus on the actions of a team, instead of the effectiveness of the team. How much better could we be? Are we making progress? How do we know? What are our measures and checkpoints?
  • There is consistently a strong sense of meaning and purpose among staff, with high levels of commitment to students.
  • Many schools lack a clearly articulated (and shared) vision.
  • There is often a lack of consistency around ‘what good looks like’ among the various levels of staff in a school.
  • Around 30% of schools experience ‘public compliance, yet private dissidence’ around new priorities.
  • Many schools need to revisit their values and how they link to decisions, collective efficacy and ‘the work’. They can start by asking, “How do we articulate our values?” and “How do we link the values to the core business of teaching and learning?”
  • There is an awareness of areas to be improved, but not always a coherent strategy to address the issues.
  • Many schools struggle to identify specific process improvement opportunities and/or strategies. Time efficiency is a particular area of need across most schools.
  • There is often an opportunity to utilise the induction / orientation process to be a ‘culture’ handover as well as to prepare new staff operationally.
  • Developing strategies to avoid assumptions about what people think, do, and understand is an area of need. Through encouraging people to ask questions for clarification and providing mechanisms in meeting / collaboration time, staff can check in on their understanding and discuss misconceptions and the like.
  • Identifying the opportunities to apply new learning, try new leadership strategies and embed the change in approach as the team progresses.
  • Scheduling collaborative reflection time to review events, check progress on initiatives, and establish agreed measures moving forward, can help to avoid ‘reactive’ decisions due to time limitations and build a team culture of considered continual improvement.
  • Addressing staff non-compliance is a common issue at all levels of leadership and has a detrimental effect on the discretionary effort and engagement of all staff.
  • There is often inconsistent communication regarding the purpose/intention/details of school initiatives.
  • School leaders need to define terms such as ‘high expectations’ to ensure the collective understanding is cohesive and aligned. Asking, “What are teachers saying and doing if we have high expectations? What are students saying and doing? How do we know we are on the right track? What are the expected measures?” can help leaders shape, clarify, and articulate what is required at all levels.
  • Creating opportunities with leaders for strategic thinking time (either individually or in teams) within the school timetable is critical to the promotion of innovation, critical and creative thinking. There is a need to provide time, and a deliberate focus on process improvement, to collaborate and shift from operational interactions to strategic.
  • Schools report limited time available to discuss and share strategies in meetings. Any informal mentoring most often occurs in teachers’ and leaders’ ‘spare’ time.
  • Participants note a need to devote a great deal of time to completing operational tasks – which may not be helpful in fostering a positive school culture.
  • Feedback about tasks, leadership, progress, concerns can be formal and informal, via one-on-one conversations, formal feedback tools and informal conversations. A focus on ‘hunting the good stuff’ and recognition for contribution can also be incorporated into building a feedback culture. Schools have a great opportunity to identify any existing processes where purposeful feedback can be provided (in a variety of ways) to staff at all levels.
  • There is definite scope for leaders and teachers to shape the way feedback is provided. Through being specific and identifying how people want feedback, all staff can be supported to provide useful, clear feedback.

If you would like to conduct a Cultural Scan and Assess, please contact

The Edge Institute Positive School Culture Short Course is one step on the way to taking action in improving your school culture.


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