The promotion of a positive ethos in schools was not a soft option, Professor Pamela Munn, of Moray House, told the third national ethos conference last week. It was also a key ingredient in meeting targets and raising standards, she added.
Professor Munn, who is director of the Scottish Schools Ethos Network (SSEN) which organised the conference, said: "People often think ethos is about the 'touchy, feely' side of being human.
"But personal and social development is important in its own right and it is also a means to an end. It's not a case of either or. It's bothand. Ethos development is no soft option.
"We know that pupils who are well motivated and secure are more likely to achieve, and the SSEN is about linking the whole school atmosphere and the whole range of achievement. By systematically evaluating this, we will promote better schools."
She was backed by Mike Baughan, acting chief executive of the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum, who called for specific research on school ethos and achievement to show how the two are linked.
But, despite what the leaders of the ethos movement see as its self-evident attractions, schools do not appear to be convinced. Mr Baughan suggested all schools should be members of the ethos network.
Although entries for the Educational Ethos Award have doubled since they were introduced last year, they still amounted to only 19 from Scotland's 3,000 schools. This year's winner was Cramond Primary in Edinburgh, which also picked up a pound;2,000 cheque (See The TESS last week).
Frank Crawford, the chief inspector who heads the HMI audit unit, believes an ethos-driven school has the potential to "crush the seeds of social exclusion". He suggested local authorities could parallel the national award scheme.
He told The TESS: "A lot of authorities do take ethos very seriously and I think we could work towards a network of layers."
In his keynote address, Mr Baughan described effective schools as the ones "seeing the bigger picture".
He added: "We don't want rhetorical development plans that simply sit on shelves or development plans that are the exclusive property of the school management team. We want a corporate plan that relates to the day-to-day running of the school, that lives in the hearts as well as the heads of teachers and pupils, that has been internalised and that is acted upon."