A School Built on Ethos

Ideas, assemblies and hard-won wisdom

By: James Handscombe


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Size: 234mm x 156mm

Pages : 224

ISBN: 9781785835339

Format: Paperback

Published: March 2021


In A School Built on Ethos: Ideas, assemblies and hard-won wisdom, James Handscombe explores how schooling is more than gaining qualifications, how learning is more than exams, and how academic success comes more readily to those who have grasped this idea.

Harris Westminster Sixth Form has had enormous success in providing an academic education for students of all socio-economic backgrounds. This success is grounded in the development of a scholarly ethos that guides students and staff into successful habits – driven by a clear vision for the community and communicated through everything that the school says and does.

In this book, founding principal James Handscombe takes readers through the school’s development and illustrates its journey by sharing a selection of the assemblies that have underpinned and elucidated its ethos.

In doing so he offers guidance on how such a staple of school life can be used to shape a community, and shares transferable lessons on how assemblies can be planned and delivered effectively.

Furthermore, James discusses the challenges the school faced during its creation and offers an improved understanding of how academic and scholarly learning can be delivered and developed in a school – whether it be newly formed or already established. He also asks the fundamental question of how schools can encourage and enable disadvantaged young people to aspire to and engage in academic enquiry.

Suitable for both established and aspiring school leaders, especially those who are thinking about the kind of school they would like to run and how they can shape it.


Picture for author James Handscombe

James Handscombe

James Handscombe studied mathematics at Oxford and Harvard before training to be a teacher. He worked in schools in South Wales, Australia and south-east London before becoming the founding principal of Harris Westminster Sixth Form in 2014. He occasionally gets invited to speak at conferences and sometimes finds time to write things – mostly articles for the TES and letters to the editor of The Times, but he's also written for Schools Week and The Spectator's Coffee House blog.

Click here to read James Handscombe’s blog.


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