The purpose of this paper is to examine the linkages and relationships between the officially prescribed school ethos and that which emerges from social interaction. Qualitative data drawn from one Grant-Maintained-Integrated and one Catholic primary school in Northern Ireland show how school ethos, defined as the observed practices and interactions of school members, often departs considerably from school ethos defined as those values and beliefs which the school officially supports. On the basis of the data it is argued that much of what we understand of school ethos is superficial and contradictory. With this in mind the paper concludes by presenting a new angle on ethos which, when taken in conjunction with the other perspectives, further enhances our understanding of how schools work.
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