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What weighting should we give ‘Truth’?

31 Dec

Educational law requires that every school/academy promotes the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of all pupils.  In the spiritual component, faith schools and academies will ensure that the children learn about their distinctive religions.  Non-denominational schools/academies will, teach the pupils about faiths generally and encourage tolerance of all religions and none.   Good institutions, through the cross-curriculum strategy, ensure that children have access to social and cultural development as they do with moral education.

However, there is one aspect of the moral strand that vexes many. That is about telling the truth.  From an early age, responsible parents and institutions encourage children to speak the truth, even if that means getting themselves into trouble.  That is as it should be, especially in an age when we have a surfeit of fake news spouted on the internet by social media and leaders of some countries.

At election time, as we have seen recently, politicians seeking people’s votes blast out whatever it takes to get them first past the post and into parliament.  At their best, they are economical with the truth – withholding information that could be unpalatable to the electorate.

In good schools/academies, teachers warn pupils about not believing all they read and everything they are told, to be wary of people who are attractive, articulate and offering them gifts, in short, to be critical of what they see and hear.   In 2018, the Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills run by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy and the National Literacy Trust, reported that only 2% of children and young people could judge correctly whether a news story was real or fake.  Over 50% of teachers did not feel that the national curriculum was developing the literacy skills of pupils critical enough to judge whether something was true or false.

According to Ann Mroz, Editor of The Times Educational Supplement, there is “lots of examination of prepositions but less of propositions; plenty of nouns but sadly not enough nous”.

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Government nudges schools and academies to give more prominence to character education

31 Dec

On 5 November 2019, the government published a new set of benchmarks for schools and academies to rate how well they are doing to promote character education.  The guidance urges governors and headteachers develop, promote and assess pupils’ character within their normal curriculum.  They are also asked to encourage pupils to volunteer.   This mirrors the benchmarks that the former Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, set out for careers education Gatsby Foundation.  However, character education (unlike careers) is not statutory.

Ian Bauckham, chief executive of the Tenax School Trust, led an advisory group, which included representatives from other schools and academies, the unions and the voluntary sector, in the spring and summer of 2019 to create the benchmarks.

In the halcyon days, we would have described character education as the key component of the hidden curriculum, which is now being given a more prominent thrust.   In developing character education, a school/academy needs to reflect on six overarching aspects, which are as follows.

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Character education to be brought centre-stage

18 Apr

On 7 February 2019, secretary of state Damian Hinds pledged that the government would develop benchmarks for character education.  Schools and academies will be invited to assess themselves against these criteria.   The first step he will take is to appoint an advisory group to make proposals to grow “character and resilience” in pupils and propose benchmarks against which schools/academies will be rated in the area.

The benchmarks are to mirror the Gatsby ones for careers guidance. Gatsby benchmarks are statutory. (See Annex.)  Schools/academies must use them to rate their own work on careers.  However, no action – punitive or otherwise – will be taken by the government against institutions that fail to comply with them.

Addressing the Church of England’s Foundation for Educational Leadership conference, the education secretary said he expected the advisory group to report its recommendations in September, “with a view to implementing next year”.

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