An article appeared on the Guardian’s website at 00.05 this morning, but you’ll have to look quite hard to find it – in spite of its important content:
Nicky Morgan urges ‘curriculum for life’
It’s unfortunate that the Guardian chose to focus its article on what Ms Morgan said about sexting and revenge porn. No – what’s said here is much broader and deeper, and much more significant.
The Guardian’s decision to downplay this story may be due to the Telegraph putting out its report on Nicky Morgan’s latest speech [to ‘Bright Blue’] as early as 10.00pm yesterday, under the byline of Christopher Hope, the paper’s chief political correspondent.
Nicky Morgan unveils ‘lessons for life’ for all children
The education secretary ‘paid tribute’ to the Telegraph’s campaign to modernise sex education guidance to include the internet, saying that while the internet was a ‘force for good’ she wanted children to be taught how to deal with ‘both online and offline situations’
All schoolchildren will be taught a “curriculum for life” to give them the “emotional resilience” to cope with the modern internet age, Nicky Morgan has said.
In a speech to a Conservative think-tank, the Education secretary said sexualised images on the internet, bullying and incidents of “revenge porn” are creating “unimaginable” pressures for young children.
Schools must start doing more to help pupils to “manage their lives” and “stay safe”, Mrs Morgan said.
She said that teachers will be urged to improve sex education lessons but also help children to “make the right decisions” so that they can “thrive as individuals”.
“A good PSHE education should cover all of the skills and knowledge young people need to manage their lives, stay safe, make the right decisions, and thrive as individuals and members of modern society.”
[Mrs Morgan’s predecessor Michael Gove had previously said in 2013 that sex education guidance in schools will not be modernised because “changing social mores” will make fresh advice out of date]
“Some say that things like character, personal and social skills, and emotional intelligence are innate and can’t be taught. I simply disagree. You need only go to some of our finest schools operating in some of our most difficult communities today to expose this as a lie.”
The new formalised subjects, which could be taught from September, include first aid, volunteering, financial literacy, budgeting at home, “enterprise education” and leaving school and going to university.
The Education Secretary has now asked officials to draw up new areas to be covered in Personal, Social, Health, and Economic (PSHE) education lessons in schools.
And there’s the potential problem with all this good news. We agree with Ms Morgan that young people should understand the principles and practice of first aid, volunteering, financial literacy, budgeting, seeking employment, staying safe, etc. We’re in favour of them having “enterprise education” – especially since so many young people would rather be self-employed and run their own businesses than be an employee. But why should Westminster politicians and their officials lay down what should and should not be taught in England’s schools? Why not let those who actually do the teaching decide on curriculum priorities and programmes, and let them learn from one another’s current good practice – at a time when PSHE is non-statutory?
Our other major concerns continue to be the ones we’ve outlined in previous posts on this blog – that personal, social and spiritual learning can’t simply be handed out as a body of knowledge in PSHE ‘lessons’ – as important as certain items of knowledge undoubtedly are. Emotional literacy is learned as a result of everything that happens in a school – the types of relationships that are formed between teachers and pupils and between the pupils themselves; the ways in which conflicts are discussed and resolved; the insights that are gained into oneself and other people; the amount of empathy that is encouraged day in and day out; the amount of collaboration and cooperation that takes place, as opposed to hostility, selfishness, rivalry and competition. [And we’re not saying that rivalry and competition shouldn’t be allowed – only that children should see such things for what they are – and think about when they might be inappropriate] The whole panoply of values and virtues that we may espouse and aspire to needs to be up for discussion – but none of it drilled into young people as the ‘right’ ones to have and to hold. We may count on rebellious teenagers to opt for the opposite of what adults say they should think and feel – especially if they feel we’re deliberately setting out to condition them or brainwash them.
We’ve been arguing for a very long time that schools should put equal emphasis on the personal, social and spiritual intelligences, as well as the intellect, and children should be enabled to become rounded, creative and resilient individuals who have a good understanding of the human condition, as well as high levels of emotional literacy. What we don’t want at this important juncture (when it appears everyone is either piling on to the ‘character education’ bandwagon or trying to push it off a cliff) is more central dictat and prescription as to the actual form and content of PSHE and SRE. Above all we don’t want Ofsted inspectors, who may or may not have good insights into these areas of learning, to be visiting schools with a brief to somehow measure the ‘delivery’ of these ‘subjects’ against prescribed ‘standards’.
Let’s now take stock and allow the trained and experienced professionals we trust to work with our children to determine the right way to proceed with education in the 21st Century, both locally and nationally. And let’s thank our current secretary of state, whose own background is in finance and economics, for at last putting these crucial areas of learning on an equal footing with everything else that takes place in schools. No more sacrifice of personal, social and life skills in the relentless quest to “drive up standards” in the pursuit of “academic excellence”. We can, and must, have both.
See also the CBI report on education:
What the CBI is saying is that as a nation we need to rethink the purpose of our education system, which has become too narrow in its perspective and its approach. It criticises the exam culture and indeed the fixation on it that currently exists, and the mentality of teaching to tests that prevent children and young people from developing the core skills that are needed for life and for the workplace; from developing skills that we highlighted in our previous post such as communication skills, the ability to be innovative and to use imagination, the aptitude for working independently and also collectively, and knowing when and where it’s right to do so.
Educational changes in China – NB pages 89 & 90