There’s an article about education in the Guardian this week that we can hardly let pass without comment. However, in order to do it proper justice 3Di readers should take a few minutes to read it for themselves before moving on to our own comments. Regrettably the article has a terrible heading –
Schools revive ‘touchy-feely’ approach.
This is bad in so many ways it’s hard to know where to start. The type of learning the article focuses on is anything but ‘touchy-feely’: it’s down to earth, it’s practical and it’s crucial for children’s wellbeing.
A growing number of schools are seeing the benefits of adopting ‘values-based’ learning in a fightback against the current competitive culture in education
Having read the article please go on to sample the readers’ comments beneath it, since they give a flavour of what schools and headteachers are up against in terms of suspicion, misunderstanding and prejudice.
This is a good article about what is clearly a very good school, but it’s tempting to wonder whether there really is anything new or original under the sun. Surely the “values” this school sets out to promote are as old as the hills, and underpin all the work of all decent schools?
It’s tempting to ask which schools and which teachers do NOT set out to “promote a peaceful and calm atmosphere” where “respect, courage, honesty, compassion and integrity” are valued and promoted, where they “build character” along with “confidence and self-respect”.
However, whilst there’s little that’s new in these aims and aspirations, it’s always good to hear about schools that put these matters at the very heart of what they do instead of simply paying lip service to them. Presumably this is what’s meant by “values-based education” – an education that begins with the individual child and with the need to develop what might be called “spiritual intelligence” based on positive human values and their associated virtues – respect, courage, etc. “Social intelligence” and the development of empathy and human relationships are also essential, and should be seen as complementary to the development of spiritual intelligence.
This school, Tower Hill, has made it clear that their approach is not linked to any religion, let alone a cult, which is important and as it should be. If only all schools could be free from control or undue influence by religious bodies and organisations, for the sake of all of their pupils. Religion should be a matter for families and individuals, and not schools – apart from helping children to learn about the whole panoply of religions around the world. The development of “spiritual intelligence” must be secular and it must be based on an understanding of human values and human virtues, if we’re to have worldwide peace and respect for one another.
That said, Tower Hill school would perhaps do well to move away from its adherence to a particular “brand” of “values-based education” and move towards a home-grown “multiple intelligences” approach which encompasses spiritual intelligence and social intelligence, amongst several others.
The Guardian article somewhat confuses the main issue by bringing in other aspects of what the school does well, such as promoting “a creative approach” to learning and teaching. Whilst this is absolutely essential – as essential as the need to “instil a love of learning”, which the article also mentions – it’s difficult for the average reader to unpick these interwoven strands within the confines of a short article. Is the article about the overall success of the school? About its adoption of “values-based education”? About involving children in setting learning agendas and in monitoring and assessing progress? About a particular approach to pedagogy?
Success for any school that sets out to do more than simply raise attainment in timed tests and exams is complex and multi-faced. A single newspaper article can’t possibly do justice to what the school does that makes such a difference.
Perhaps we should just congratulate the school for all the work it’s done to promote wellbeing and raise achievement, and praise the Guardian for highlighting and promoting enlightened leadership and good practice, regardless of how well or how sketchily these ideas and issues are presented in a single article.
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