Rosemary Dewan is the CEO of the Human Values Foundation which promotes the importance of teaching human values in schools. Since 1995 it has been providing practical, cross-curricular programmes for personal development and behaviour management, integrating SMSC, PSHE education, Citizenship, PLTS and SEAL.
We are living in an increasingly enlightened time when the understanding of the roles of teachers, parents and the power of 'values literacy', as an integral part of a school’s curriculum, are coalescing. The prospects are exciting.
Children and young people need to be empowered with values literacy. The inspirational process engenders a rewarding sense of purpose and motivates participants so that they take more responsibility for their learning and behaviour.
Pupils, teachers and parents notice how standards, behaviour and performance all improve and together they enjoy the enhanced outcomes.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
When we understand how something works, we can manage it better and are more likely to use it to good effect. The same is true of values, which impact every aspect of our lives but so often we are not consciously aware of their significance.
Take, for example, identifying what makes you “click” with someone. Start by considering what it is that you have in common and what it is that enables you to enjoy each other’s company and want to work together. How does the “clicking” manifest in terms of:
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.
The Olympics brought into sharp focus just what can be achieved when individuals are set alight so that they can blossom and realise their full potential - and the sense of wellbeing when the spirit of service flourishes.
So what qualities shone as the Olympic torch travelled the length and breadth of the country? What characteristics were identified during the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony? Which elements of the Games themselves demonstrated what can be accomplished when people are fired up?
Considering that any person who serves as an example and whose behaviour is emulated by others is a role model, the big ask is: What kind of attitudes are young people learning from us? Which skills are they developing from us? What knowledge are they gaining from us?
With a new academic year just over the horizon, the summer holidays could be a particularly good time for personal reflection and development, and consideration about how we can consciously motivate young people to make the most of their rich education opportunities and inspire them to become the best they can be, realise their full potential and live their dreams - while remaining true to themselves.
We are constantly making decisions, some of which are pretty routine but several can have significant, far-reaching effects on our lives and the lives of many others. Sometimes there is plenty of time to think through a matter but there are also occasions when split-second decisions are required – and one of the factors affecting our choices are our VALUES.
The strapline of The Decision Education Foundation is “Better Decisions – Better Lives”.
Considering how our values play such an important part in guiding our thinking, decision-making and ultimately, our actions and behaviour - and even how we shape our life chances and those of our children - it is vital that children and young people are educated in uplifting values-filled environments in which they are given plenty of real-life learning opportunities that enable them to experience, understand and commit to living by values that will enhance all aspects of their existence.