Character Education – About the Boys

Culture, camaraderie, character – Building interschool relationships
Mr James Thorpe

This lightning session will reflect on character education by exploring two contexts: Michaelhouse [Natal, South Africa] and The King’s School in Sydney. The session will look at three short video clips reflecting on the unique learning environment and culture each school exhibits. For Michaelhouse, we will focus on the school-wide War Cry model as a microcosm of the unity and camaraderie of the student population and their recent campaign ‘Armour for Life’. Why is this important? This highly complex, orchestrated fanfare is a reflection of the school’s culture, the character of the boarding students and the essence of leadership. In creating this type of commitment, are there some practical, actionable building blocks for us to embed? Is it possible for a new school to adopt these practices as a way to develop a ‘band of brothers’ atmosphere amongst students, staff, parents and the broader community?

The presentation will also focus on the concept of ‘great schools’ and the importance of international relationships in boys’ education. We will consider the value of student and staff exchange programmes. In particular, we will use the relationship between The King’s School and Michaelhouse as an example of why inter-school friendships are so important in developing character education programmes. What can Michaelhouse teach us? What can The King’s School teach us?  The session will conclude with a number of observations conducted by James between 2012 and 2016, involving interviews with five CEO/Headmasters across schools in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.


James Thorpe (MEd Leadership) is an experienced English teacher. Hailing from South Africa where he was a boarder at Michaelhouse, James was destined to be a teacher of boys. He has had experience as a Housemaster, Head of Department, Officer of Cadets, and Dean of Students, as well as both a cricket and rugby coach. James has worked at Saint Kentigern College and Saint Kentigern Boys’ School in New Zealand, followed by the Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie) and The Southport School (TSS). He is currently a teacher of English at The King’s School, Sydney.