One of our greatest challenges today is to reap the massive rewards that are there for the taking if we build on and integrate appropriately the range of strategies now being developed and implemented with the aim of all children experiencing successes in every area of their lives, during their highly critical formative years, their school careers and beyond.
Report after report concerning young people emphasises the difference well informed parental support can make to a child’s wellbeing and achievements and many recent initiatives are aimed at creating conditions that enable parents/carers and educationalists to operate in harmony and pursue goals which, while not necessarily identical, contribute significantly to children being able to fulfill their potential.
The aims of education
After three years of independent enquiry into the condition and future of primary education in England, the final report of the Cambridge Primary Review was published in October 2009. The review’s treasure chest includes 12 interdependent aims for primary education that are worth looking at again while the National Curriculum debate continues and we consider how parents, schools and other professionals supporting children’s development can collaborate most effectively in the best interests of our young citizens and their futures. The aims are set out in three groups.
Self, others and the wider world
- Encouraging respect and reciprocity
- Promoting interdependence and sustainability
- Empowering local, national and global citizenship
- Celebrating culture and community
Learning, knowing and doing
- Exploring, knowing, understanding and making sense
- Fostering skill
- Exciting imagination
- Enacting dialogue
Values – guiding principles
Individually and collectively our values guide our thinking, our decision-making and ultimately our actions and behaviour. Studies around the world have shown that when children are given the opportunity to experience good quality, explicit, systematic values education, they, their teachers and all other staff, as well as parents/carers, enjoy a wide range of positive effects, enhancing and enriching all aspects of their lives and their communities.
So, for our children to thrive from a very young age onwards, what core values should we espouse and which principles should we uphold and advance to enable the formation of true partnerships between families, educationalists and others striving to achieve high quality emotional, social and academic learning? Perhaps some clear answers will emerge from the research and development activities to be undertaken by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Values launched on 16 May, partly as a result of the August 2011 riots in pockets throughout England and which subsequently revealed the significance of positive character traits and values in helping some people make good choices in the heat of the moment.
Values Education – modelling by parents/carers and educationalists
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the home and schools are among the most powerful environments to impact children’s development. Interacting with key adults in these settings provides important opportunities that enable children to develop essential emotional, social and cognitive skills.
But, have we stopped to consider what preparation and training is taking place to ensure these key adults understand the effects on the children around them of the values they are constantly modelling and transmitting? The potential rewards for society as a whole are massive if families, schools and children’s support services can join forces effectively so that across home and school contexts they proactively endorse each other’s complementary goals and create consistent expectations around shared values and social and emotional behaviours.
Early Intervention – Smart Investment, Massive Savings
In 2011 Graham Allen MP published two independent reports about ‘Early Intervention’, “to ensure that every baby, child and young person grows up with the basic social and emotional competencies that will give them the bedrock skills upon which all else is built”. He acknowledged that countless parents are achieving this, possibly in an unconscious way, through the development of attachment, attunement, empathy and communication with their children. However, recognizing the staggering financial and social costs to society on account of the culture of late intervention, which has been largely ineffective in remedying social problems already well entrenched in certain teenagers, Graham Allen called for those basics that many take for granted to be put in place for ALL babies, children and young people, so that every single individual can realise his or her potential.
With ever greater emphasis on promoting partnerships that will increase parental understanding and informed engagement in their children’s development, be it through the new Early Years Foundation Stage that will take effect from September 2012 or programmes such as Families and Schools Together® (FAST) or efforts being made to transform the life chances of children growing up in severely troubled families, the signs are there that all of us as stakeholders can look forward to many positive outcomes.
Undoubtedly more and more families and schools are collaborating and being armed with enlightened and empowering multi-faceted approaches, so that ever increasing numbers of our young citizens, from diverse backgrounds, can confidently begin to overcome any barriers and establish secure foundations for building healthy, happy, productive lives.