What can help children and young people develop consistency in their thinking, decision-making and behaviour, especially when they consider and then try to put into practice the range of important topics that are raised during Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, Citizenship lessons and in connection with their Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development?
A simple answer – simultaneously learning to understand and apply VALUES in everyday life, because these are principles that establish standards, act as reference points and empower.
What does this mean for individuals?
It means coaching children and young people, as an integral part of the school curriculum, so that, in conjunction with their parents and carers at home, they are constantly learning to identify values that are important to:
- themselves – as individuals, who are capable of spiritual, moral, social, intellectual and physical growth and development
- their relationships – as fundamental to the development and fulfilment of happy and healthy lives and to the good of the community
- our society – which is shaped by the contributions of a diverse range of people, cultures and heritages, and
- our environment – as the basis of life and a source of wonder and inspiration that needs to be protected
Is there a key to enhancing pupils’ development, elevating their performance and engaging parents and carers in their children’s education? Yes – and it’s superb for promoting best practices and integrating and cementing PSHE education, Citizenship, SEAL and pupils’ SMSC development.
The education of a child is a shared responsibility and effective partnerships - between key adults in children’s home environments (whatever their roles) and members of staff in school environments (whatever their roles) – are invaluable for all concerned. Informed, active collaboration can make a world of difference to children’s successful development.
Teachers have one of the most important roles in society today because of the profound and lasting effects their work has, individually and collectively, on influencing and shaping the lives of young citizens in the making.
Along with parents and carers, teachers are significant role models for children and young people. When youngsters look around and out into the world beyond their school gates, they cannot help but become aware of scandals rocking the fabric of society - to the extent that they wonder what they are eating. High-profile cases make clear how the lives and relationships of some people have disintegrated because they have been tarnished by behaviour based upon undesirable values. For example:
A primary school that has been in Special Measures since January 2012 is now reaping the benefits from introducing the Education in Human Values programme.
The school has 9 core values that are the cornerstones of its ethos and form the basis of the collective worship timetable. The EHV materials have been used to supplement them as the 5 human values of truth, peace, love, right conduct and non-violence, which children remember on one hand and which form a framework for the programme, are almost the same as the school's values. Staff found the EHV materials were easily adapted to fit with both the school’s weekly and termly themes.
It is said that money can’t buy happiness but we know that one’s state of happiness affects one’s performance – be it as an adult or a child – and that before long, for more teachers, there is likely to be a stronger link between their pay and performance.
The education landscape is in a state of flux and increasingly there is a move towards listening to young people’s views. But who are the stakeholders – children, their parents and carers, teachers and others involved in the development of young people, future employers? Pupils may well find they are being encouraged to take more ownership of their learning. Teachers are asking themselves whether they need to teach differently and if so, how, in order to best meet the needs of their various students.
Socrates said, “Education is not the filling of a vessel but the kindling of a flame.” What a pleasure it is watching that flame glow, especially if you have been instrumental in fanning the spark by helping the child or young person to be happy and well motivated.
Experience shows that when teaching is actively underpinned with positive, uplifting values, children become enthused and engaged, resulting in profound improvements in their wellbeing and an extensive range of exhilarating rewards for the individuals, with the benefits rubbing off on their families, schools and communities.
The ability to respond and adapt efficiently when under pressure is a skill that can make a huge difference to the future of secondary school students. Whether it’s having the strength to say no to a situation they are not comfortable with, the confidence to talk in front of a large group, or the aptitude to come through a difficult day smiling – mental toughness is key.
It was a skill which I was forced to learn at a young age when, aged just eight, I discovered that I was losing my sight. My initial reaction was a complete loss of heart and I felt my future dreams had been shattered but taking up running gave me a whole new identity. I quickly progressed from the back of the pack to the one leading from the front and that changed my entire attitude towards myself and my disability. I stopped pigeon-holing myself as the only blind kid at school and, drawing on my own courage and resiliency, made the positive decision to focus on my future career as an athlete.
I may now be a professional athlete but there are still plenty of occasions when I have to be psychologically strong, from forcing myself to get up and out to training at 5:30am on a cold, wet, winters day, to competing in front of 80,000 people at an athletics competition. The students I work with on behalf of the Youth Sport Trust each have their own challenges to face and I feel it is vitally important to ensure they are equipped to cope with school and life in an increasingly fast moving world.
When we begin to appreciate just how much the past was shaped by people’s values and understand the extent to which positive and negative values are affecting the present, we realise more and more how, with well considered, carefully chosen values, we are empowered to create the kind of future we would like to experience and leave as a legacy for generations to come.
Values in action and the school curriculum
Whatever subject we look into, whether it’s History, Geography, Art, Music, Literature, Languages, Sciences, Physical Education, Religious Education or ICT, we can soon find instances that illustrate the effects of positive values, such as honesty, compassion and respect, and the results of applying negative values such as intolerance, irresponsibility and deceit.
PSHE is an interesting subject area in the UK. Much government policy and school rhetoric depict its importance, yet the status of PSHE as a subject is complex (PSHE Association, 2010). To over simplify a little, it is statutory to teach PSHE, but there is not a statutory curriculum which sets out what should be taught... to my mind this was the perfect opportunity to try something new.
My students did not need instruction in how to practice teaching; what I decided would be valuable to them is an invitation to explore their thinking, to examine the area of PSHE and, upon examination, explore what a curriculum could look like. For the last few years I have been following the work of Ewan McIntosh and his colleagues on ‘Design Thinking’ in eduction, and the structure this gives for creation seemed an ideal vehicle for this exploration.
Photo credit: Standford d.school
The London 2012 Games were a morale booster as influences from the powerful, universal Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect spread and brought out so much goodness in so many people – from all walks of life and from all age groups.
The performances of all those involved in the London 2012 festival of sport – Olympians themselves, the organisers, all those who designed the superb and imaginative venues, those who took part in the impressive and enjoyable ceremonies, the Games Makers and even spectators - set many hearts and minds alight by their examples. They demonstrated just what can be achieved when talents and abilities – not only sporting - are nurtured and allowed to blossom to their full extent. They made abundantly clear what can happen when we have a purpose, live by and share what we treasure and value.