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Developing the Breens Intermediate values

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The staff at Breens Intermediate decided that they needed some kind of vehicle to tie their school together, something to help them to talk to the children about achievement, behaviour, and belonging. This was the beginning of the development of the Breens values. These stories explore the discussions, evolution, and testing of the Breens values. This film series can be used by schools wanting to review their own values to ensure that they are relevant, localised, and culturally inclusive.

There are four stories in this series:

  1. Developing the Breens Intermediate values
  2. Culturally responsive values
  3. Testing our values
  4. Values in the classroom

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Values in the classroom

The New Zealand Curriculum (p10) states that:

"The specific ways in which values find expression in an individual school will be guided by dialogue between the school and its community. They should be evident in the school’s philosophy, structures, curriculum, classrooms, and relationships. When the school community has developed strongly held and clearly articulated values, those values are likely to be expressed in everyday actions and interactions within the school."

  • Discuss the ways that the NZC values found expression at Breens Intermediate School. 
  • How do you connect with your school community around your school values? How have you ensured that you have 'buy-in' from all members of the school community?
  • In what ways do you see staff and students expressing your school values in everyday actions within the school?
  • Breens Intermediate wanted to build their values on what their feeder schools were also doing - 'the root system of the tree'. How could you connect to values your students have learned, or will learn, from other schools?


Our school values are quite simple, they’re five values that fit into Breens. It’s about belonging, about being brave, it’s about being bold, being brilliant, and being beautiful. As simple as that.

There was a time in school when we realised that we needed some kind of vehicle to tie our school together. Something that would make our school a really special place. At that time we noticed in the school that we didn’t really have a vehicle that we could use to talk to the children around achievement, around behaviour - something that we could use in lots and lots of different ways. So we sat with the staff, we consulted with the community, and we talked to the children about what those things could be. The vision of the tree came about because of the history of the school and the totara tree being around the school (back in history), so that’s where that came from. Then we started talking about branches and what could sit on each branch, and ‘B’ of course being Breens, a ‘B’ word, then the ‘B’ analogy started to take shape. So that’s where it came from.

Then I was looking at the fact the we’ve got all our feed schools and at the same time they’re all on their journey. Some of them had these values around respect and honesty and bits and pieces and, I’m thinking, whatever we create has to build on what the feed schools are doing. When I thought about the tree I thought, well that’s the root system of the tree and the root system originally came from acknowledging the values that the students are bringing from their feed schools and contributing to us.

At the time, we sat down as a staff, and there were several sessions where we brainstormed together and talked about what we believed to be important for the context of our school and for the age and stage that the children are at when they come to an intermediate school. Then we went out and we consulted with our board at board level and our parent support group, and once we started to frame up those ideas, then we sought opinion from our wider parent community as well. And of course, our students along the way.

It sort of kind of clicked, and we had the evening and we threw around these particular words and we scrapped over a few of the words. In fact, beautiful was one people didn’t like at all, they thought, ‘no we can’t have beautiful, it’s not going to connect with year eight boys, you know, is there another word’? Breathtaking was thrown out there for a while and so a beautiful part of evolving the process was the fact that we scrapped or debated or bantered (there’s another ‘B’ word) over the Bs. The key message there was the fact that we were getting buy-in at board level, buy-in at teacher level, buy-in at staff level, buy-in at parent level, and student level.

Well our first introduction to the Breens’ values was when we attended an open night and Brian Price, our principal, spoke very enthusiastically about the Breens’ values tree. So from a parental point of view that was very comforting to see that here was a school delivering academically but was also so passionate about its students that it had at its very core, a values philosophy.

For me, as a parent, the values have always been important because they are the values that I try to instill in the children at home. So for them to come to school and have that be part of their education is important because it just means that it’s a back-up for what I’m doing at home, and then it’s a back-up for the school because I’m instilling it at home.

When you get it right, it’s really easy. When you get it right, it just happens. One of our goals was just to make sure we got... it’s just what we do.

We’ve continued to nurture it, to grow it, to talk about it, to speak it, to induct our new students when they come in so that they understand it, and our new staff.  That’s really important - we can never assume that they’re just going to slot in and get an instant understanding of it. So it’s something that’s revisited all the time.

Everyone was starting to use the tree. They started feeding it, and nurturing it, and saying it, planning for it, rewarding it, and it just became something that was a part of Breens. So the challenge now was to keep that going. So it’s evolved now into our appraisal system, it’s evolved into my appraisal system, and being an 80 week school, we’ve got half of our students changing over every year. I now use the tree to talk to all the parents and talk to the kids as they come in.

Taking this real ownership of the values and really breaking them down and examining actually what those five values really mean, that really does add to a person’s character. It really builds them to be the very best that they can be.

Published on: 17 Jul 2013