3Di in Focus
Enforced Academy Status: May 2012
The report in the Guardian on Gove's push for schools to convert to academies is distressing.
That is an understatement. It is appalling, alarming, and needs action. The fear displayed by the headteachers in this article is akin to frightened citizens in a 1970s communist state and not free people entitled to speak their mind.
We are passionate about education and the rights of the child, and we very much believe in free speech.
Please read this article. It paints a very disturbing picture of bullying, intimidation and dictatorship.
The article explains how headteachers in Birmingham have been told they have to convert to academy status. If they 'choose' not to, Ofsted (that independent body that regulates school standards) will be invited into the school to sack the Governors on the grounds of incompetent leadership. This, from a government that advocates localism and autonomy at the grassroots whilst simultaneously developing a national 'local authority' in the shape of the Academies Department.
Furthermore, in Birmingham, this action appears to be endorsed by The Director of Education and Skills who says that underperforming schools may well be better off away from her local authority support!
"So for each of these schools with a history of under-performance, where a range of other options have not succeeded, such as changed leadership, local authority support and changed governance, a radical response is needed. Becoming an academy or working with a network of academy schools may be the best way of ensuring sustained improvement."
Talk about signing your own death warrant.
This, from a local authority that several years ago created an outcomes-led Children and Young Peoples' Plan focused on the holistic needs of children that went way beyond the necessary attainment targets, that understood the need for shared values and collaboration with other departments such as health and housing, in order to raise life chances for their youngsters.
So let's look at some facts in this case.
1. The schools that have been 'invited' to apply for academy status are NOT failing schools.
2. The trajectory for most of these schools is that they will achieve their "floor target" of 60% of pupils gaining Level Four in English and Maths.
3. The evidence for this, based on qualified and knowledgeable teacher assessment, is projected, not actual.
4. The headteachers don't want their schools to be academies, some citing the fact that there is no evidence that academy status will provide greater chances for their pupils.
Here are some more facts.
a. The government cutbacks mean that local authorities have been forced to reduce their support to schools.
b. Clusters of schools have already indicated their interest in working collaboratively in a cooperative partnership; sharing good practice and resources.
c. Ofsted is supposed to be an independent organisation. (I know we have already stated this but it is an important FACT that needs reiterating.)
A few months ago, we wrote about Downhills Primary School in Haringey that was being forced into academy status after a "Special Measures" notice was issued in spite of the fact that HMI, local authority and internal school moderations all clearly pointed to progress being made.
Gove had an agenda, and the headteacher was removed,as was the governing body, as was the local authority.
Someone has suggested that there could be a political motive at work here, whereby the timing of improvement in these schools coincides rather nicely with them converting to academy status,due to the hard graft already taking place.
It does make you wonder. And this may be why the "Birmingham Post" can quote Gove's claim that once schools achieve academy status their results improve.
Here is our opinion.
There is something insidious going on here.
When a supposedly autonomous organisation such as a primary school is forced to adopt another method of governance, then one has to stop pretending there is any sort of autonomy whatsoever. When a supposedly independent organisation such as Ofsted is asked to inspect a school in the full knowledge that those making the request, (who incidentally fund the autonomous organisation) wish for management and governance change in a school, then that organisation cannot profess to be independent.
All of this is happening, and not just in Haringey and Birmingham. All of this appears to be happening without any consultation with parents, carers or indeed children. All of this is happening in the name of aiming to help children, when we are all too painfully aware of the lack of stability in some children's lives, where their only stability comes from the adults in their school that they have built a trust in. All of this is happening without a thought about the other purposes of education i. e. their wellbeing, their social and personal intelligence, their creativity and health, their ability to think and work both independently and collaboratively. These are all key components of quality education, and if time and effort is afforded them they will help bring the "floor target" results that Gove so desperately wants to achieve.
Just as achieving Level 4 at the age of eleven is not the be all and end all solution to educational achievement in this country, then neither is a mass conversion to academy status, leaving those who refuse to budge in an inequitable position for both teachers and pupils.
We know that Gove would argue that academy status provides greater autonomy for headteachers, but is that really the case? It certainly doesn't bring equity.
We are deeply committed to the wellbeing and the achievement of children and young people. We are also very committed to supporting our professional colleagues who are working in extremely trying conditions for the benefit of their children.
If through writing our opinions we can speak for those who feel frightened to do so, then we will continue to voice our concerns about political interference in education in this country. By looking at the below the line comments beneath the Guardian article, we can see we are not alone.
The Basic Act of Education
In Britain there is not a written constitution and it is something that those who believe in democracy find rather challenging.
There is no point at all in setting out guiding principles if they are going to be ignored or not adhered to. However, the constitution could bring forth a clear set of shared values for the governance of the country and the development of a truly democratic society.
When setting up a charity or even a business, one has to develop a constitution or consider what the aims and objectives are going to be that will guide the work or organisation.
The National Health Service has a written constitution. It states categorically the rights of the patients, and protects the NHS workers from abuse. It outlines clear modes of behaviour and intention with which patient and practitioner have to comply.
Does education have the same sort of constitution? Is there anywhere where it sets out in clearly accessible language the entitlement, the accountability, the aims, the value for money, the rights of the child for a quality education that will lead them into a lifetime of learning?
Although there are guiding principles outlined in education acts, and entitlement is evident within this, there is no document that collates the principles of education in this country, and it is something that would be of such value.
For instance, would we have this constant fluctuation of principles, initiatives and amendments to the National Curriculum if there was an all-party, democratically agreed constitution for education that had been developed by educational experts, children and young people, and agreed and signed off in the Houses of Parliament?
With a constitution for education, the entitlement to care for wellbeing, for instance, would be explicit for all to see and consider.
Sometimes it feels as though the guiding principles to education in this country are governed and developed by whatever is in the Ofsted Evaluation schedule rather than the true principles and values of a comprehensive education.
Why isn’t there such a document? If various governments have deemed it important and vital for the NATIONAL Health Service, then why has this not been developed for the NATIONAL Education Service too?
If we were fortunate enough to develop such a constitution, then what would be the fundamental statements within it? What do we want for children? What would be the actual entitlement for every young person in the land?
Surely we need to consider such questions before we embark on yet another round of politically motivated objectives for the National Curriculum?
Surely, the likes of Robin Alexander, through the Cambridge Review of Primary Education have made very clear headway on this issue?
Let us consider, therefore, the possible content of such a constitution.
Here is a possible example of what we might want included in such a Basic Act of Education.
The Aim of Education
Education shall aim at the full development of personality, striving to nurture the citizens, sound in mind and body, who shall love truth and justice, esteem individual value, respect labour and have a deep sense of responsibility, and be imbued with the independent spirit, as builders of the peaceful state and society.
Is there anything to argue with here? Ask any parent what they want for their child, and the usual response is that they wish for their child to be happy. If our fundamental aim of education is the FULL development of the person, which obviously includes the ability to be literate and numerate, then are we not fulfilling this ultimate parental aim as well as providing what children and young people really need and want?
In this country we do have a set of shared values; - ask most people in the street about this statement above and they would agree that we want people to understand, honour and respect truth and justice, that we believe in independence of spirit and the rights of the individual, that we understand the need for a sense of responsibility and duty to one another, and ultimately we aim for peacefulness.
Education can do this, especially if it is written down in an agreed constitution for all to see as the guiding principle.
So what sort of objectives would we like for education, and how can we get consistency?
The aims of education shall be for all occasions and in all educational settings. In order to achieve the aims, we shall strive to contribute to the creation and development of a multi-cultural society by mutual esteem and co-operation, respecting academic and personal freedom, and having a regard for life, cultivating a spontaneous spirit.
Spontaneity, respecting academic freedom, co-operation, development of culture? Who can argue with any of these objectives?
- to foster an attitude to acquire wide-ranging knowledge and culture, and to seek the truth, cultivate a rich sensibility and sense of morality, while developing a healthy body.
- to develop the abilities of individuals while respecting their values; cultivate their creativity; foster a spirit of autonomy and independence; and foster an attitude to value work while emphasising the need for work-life balance.
- to foster an attitude to value justice, responsibility and equality, mutual respect and cooperation, and actively contribute, in the public spirit, to the development of society.
- to foster an attitude of respect for life, care for nature, and contribute to the protection of the environment.
- to foster an attitude to respect our traditions and culture, love the country and region that nurtured them, together with respect for other countries and a desire to contribute to world peace and the development of the international community.
The government in Britain today is very keen to look at understanding and knowledge. Within the emerging language for the new National Curriculum, the word “attitude” has slipped off the agenda, and yet, if we are to develop a nation with shared values, surely the development of attitudes should be an integral part of the educational objectives of the country.
Again, is there anything that we can really argue with in these bullet points?
At 3Di Associates we are very concerned about the concept of lifelong learning, so a statement to that effect would be of paramount importance to us.
Society shall be made to allow all citizens to continue to learn throughout their lives, on all occasions and in all places, and apply the outcomes of lifelong learning appropriately to lead a fulfilling life.
We are all entitled to learn, even if we are foolish enough to think we are the finished article. Everyone can grow, everyone can learn, everyone can reflect and change their behaviour and learning according to their personal discovery. Learning is vital for us all.
And what of the specific problem that countless governments have failed to tackle in Britain – that ever-present state of inequality?
Citizens shall all be given equal opportunities to receive education according to their abilities, and shall not be subject to discrimination in education on account of race, gender, sex, social status, economic position, disability or family origin.
Economic position should not be an obstacle for receiving an equal education to those who can afford to live in big houses in suburbia? This would mean that those who live in social housing accommodation are as entitled to quality education as those who pay for it in the many private schools around the country. No child should be given this inflated start in life just because they already have the advantage of economic security.
Once more, can you really argue against this as a guiding objective of equal opportunity?
And to ensure this happens perhaps there could be an additional statement.
The national and local governments shall take measures to provide financial assistance to those who, in spite of their ability, encounter difficulties in receiving education for economic reasons.
A perfectly egalitarian principle that would mean children and young people from poorer backgrounds would have the weighting they deserve to be able to access the greatest learning in the greatest centres of learning in our nation.
A statement about compulsory education would be required.
There will be a statutory obligation to all parents and carers to ensure that children and young people receive an entitlement of thirteen years compulsory education from 5-18 years.
No tuition fee shall be charged for compulsory education in schools established by the national and local governments, other than payments for school journeys and trips which will be encouraged.
“Education is a right, not a privilege”.
One that is particularly close to my heart is co-education. Single sex teaching is important in certain subjects, on occasions, such as PSHE but single sex schooling is anachronistic.
Co-education, therefore, shall be recognised in education.
Here are some more statements of intent that could be part of a written constitution for Education.
- The schools prescribed by law shall be of a public nature and, besides the national and local governments, only people prescribed by law shall be entitled to establish them.
- Teachers of the schools prescribed by law shall be servants of the whole community. They shall be conscious of their mission and endeavour to discharge their duties. For this purpose, the status of teachers shall be respected and their fair and appropriate treatment shall be guaranteed.
- University autonomy, independence, and other unique characteristics of university education and research shall be respected.
- Taking into account the public nature of privately established schools and their important role in school education, the national and local governments shall endeavour to promote private school education through subsidies and other appropriate means, while respecting school autonomy. (If we must…..)
- Parents and carers, having the primary responsibility for their children’s education, shall endeavour to teach them the habits and values necessary for life, encourage a spirit of independence, and nurture the balanced development of their bodies and minds.
- The national and local governments shall endeavour to take necessary measures to support education in the family, by providing guardians with opportunities to learn relevant information, while respecting family autonomy in education.
- The national and local governments shall encourage education carried out at home, in places of work and elsewhere in society.
- The national and local governments shall endeavour to attain the aims of education by the establishment of such institutions as libraries, museums, community buildings, etc., by the usage of school facilities, and by other appropriate means.
- Schools, families, local residents, and other relevant persons shall be aware of their respective roles and responsibilities regarding education, and endeavour to develop partnership and cooperation, with a statutory obligation of safeguarding children.
With such a written constitution, everyone knows where they stand, what their responsibility is and more significantly, what is the entitlement for every child. Schools should be seen as communities of learning for the whole community. Local and national government should be held to account for libraries, museums and community facilities in order to further develop that guiding principle of education outlined at the beginning, which means education for all, and not just children and young people. Encouragement of education in the home is written down for all to see. Support for this learning is a duty of the government, for example, ensuring that everyone has access to wifi and computers in the home.
How about political education at a time when we really need young people to be empowered in the politics of the country?
- The political literacy necessary for sensible citizenship shall be valued in education.
The schools prescribed by law shall refrain from political education or other political activities for or against any specific political party.
And now let us turn our attention to religion.
- The attitude of religious tolerance and the position of religion in social life shall be valued in education.
The schools established by the national and local governments shall refrain from religious education or other activities for a specific religion, whilst educating children and young people in all world religions.
So now we turn to the administration of an educational constitution.
- Education shall not be subject to improper control, but it shall be directly responsible to all citizens.
(Might ‘proper’ control mean that education development is taken away from the jurisdiction and interference of politicians and policy makers, and returned to the experts, where it belongs?)
Education administration shall, on the basis of this realisation, aim at the adjustment and establishment of the various conditions required for the pursuit of the aims of education.
- The national government shall comprehensively formulate and implement education measures in order to provide for equal opportunities in education and to maintain and raise education standards throughout the country. (with guidance from experts)
- The local governments shall formulate and implement education measures according to local need and circumstances in order to promote education in their respective areas. (with guidance from experts, including school managers who know their children and young people far better than any local authority administrator or adviser)
- The national and local governments shall take necessary financial measures to ensure the smooth and continuous provision of education. (and not the knee-jerking party political fluctuations that we currently get which leave people in a complete limbo as to what precisely they are supposed to be doing).
- In order to facilitate the comprehensive and systematic implementation of measures for the promotion of education, the government shall formulate a basic plan covering basic principles, required measures, and other necessary items in relation to the promotion of education. It shall report this plan and make it public through a written educational constitution.
- Local governments, referring to the plan set forth in preceding paragraph, shall endeavour to formulate a basic plan on measures to promote education corresponding to local need and circumstances, according to a Children and Young People’s Plan.
An overarching conclusion might be……….
Appropriate laws and regulations shall be enacted and amended to carry these educational principles into effect.
So there we have it. A written educational constitution for all to sign up to, agree and comply.
Is there really anything within there that is fundamentally controversial? Could anyone really argue against these shared values and underlying principles of equality, lifelong learning and community based development? Can anyone really go against the idea of education being about developing the whole child, the whole personality, and indeed every intelligence?
Of course, here is the final confession.
This is the Basic Act of Education.
It was first devised in 1947 and was amended according to an act of law in 2006.
It is statutory and all educational establishments have to adhere to the basic and shared principles outlined in these articles. It complies with the United Nations Rights of the Child and offers a holistic education to all its citizens – for life.
This is the Basic Act of Education in Japan. A few amendments for poetic licence have been made but the full version can be found at the link below.
And if Japan can implement it, and have the effect of a nation full of understanding, thoughtful. Considerate, helpful, articulate, generous people, then why can’t we?
As we have already pointed out, Finland also has a set of guiding principles of education. Their teachers are respected and valued. The system ensures that there is a holistic and child-centred approach to education where outcomes are driven by need rather than dictact.
How many other countries have a written educational constitution? Is there a link between the successes in these countries and the fact that they have a constitution that is known and agreed by all?
There are some educational issues in Japan, and their educational leaders and governors need to ensure that the Basic Act of Education is applied, adhered to and recognised for the values based constitution that it is.
3Di Associates believe that it would serve this country to have a similar statement of intent, clearly focused in one place rather than having to wade through various education acts over the last century to ascertain what education in this country is really about.
Ofsted and Progressing Schools
“There is a clear trend of improvement. School data and pupils’ books indicate improvements in attainment………progress has accelerated……….after significant changes to staffing, the school has a core of experienced senior staff with high levels of expertise.”
“In the most effective practice, the teachers planned outcomes that were challenging for the pupils and they drew high quality responses from them.”
“Teaching was well structured and delivered at a suitably brisk pace.”
“There was a good range of teaching styles that successfully engaged pupils and enhanced their understanding.”
“Teachers’ expectations were well pitched and modified to meet pupils’ different needs.”
These are all quotes from the Ofsted monitoring report on a school that was given “notice to improve” as an outcome of an inspection earlier in the year.
The previous Section Five inspection had stated, “This school requires significant improvement, because it is performing significantly less well than in all the circumstances it could be reasonably be expected to perform.”
It went on to say that there were inconsistencies in teaching, that work was inappropriate for the levels of pupil understanding and that the more able pupils were not being stretched.
On a more positive note, it said that the pupils had a “strong sense of wellbeing”.
However, improvements were made, and things appeared to be progressing well, as further comments from the monitoring report made clear.
“Regular evaluation” “Good subject knowledge” “Setting realistic targets” “Perceptive questioning” “Rigorous procedures have been implemented for tracking pupil progress” “robust analysis of the quality of teaching and learning”.
This all seems to be a successful case of Ofsted’s “ability” to diagnose a problem in a school, and the management of that school having the “capacity” and “capability” to make changes that adhere to the guidelines and protocols for an effective place of teaching and learning.
Changes in schools do take time, and it is positive to hear that this school managed to turn their criticisms into actions that significantly improved the quality of education for their pupils.
So why did the head teacher feel a need to resign from his position a mere five months after receiving a note from Ofsted in September to say that progress was indeed on track?
Leslie Church resigned from his job after another Ofsted inspection in January 2012. Why did a school receive a full inspection within twelve months of the previous inspection? It wasn’t even placed in Special Measures.
When a school is placed in Special Measures they receive a series of monitoring visits, not a full Section Five inspection. So how did this school receive this special treatment?
Apparently Mr. Michael Gove ordered it.
The governors and senior management of the school did not want to change the status of their school but Mr. Gove had other ideas.
“The school has been told that either Gove will make an "academy order" or the governors can vote to do so themselves "by no later than 27 January 2012". The school will be run by a private sponsor, possibly an existing academy chain, a business, university or private school.”
The Guardian – January 2012
Mr. Church complained about the undemocratic process involved here.
"We have a democratically elected governing body, a democratically elected local authority. If you are dissatisfied with the performance of the school you have the right to un-elect these governors, un-elect these local authority councillors. In an academy, that is not the case."
So how did Mr. Gove manage to do this? How does he suddenly have the power to intervene in a situation and order a school to change its status from a local authority maintained school to academy status – i.e. under the direct charge of centralised government?
He managed it by sweeping in a range of subtle or rather unsolicited changes within the Education Bill that was passed at the end of last year. The Secretary of State for Education now has more power than the position has ever had, and fifty more powers were introduced within the bill.
On a whim, the Education Secretary now has the power to intervene in any situation, and not just in the case of a school being placed in Special Measures. He or she (when there is a change in management) can decide on the fate of a school, on the fate of the pupils within that school, on the fate of the careers of the professionals within that school if the local authority are concerned about the school, if Ofsted gives a “notice to improve” or if it is placed in Special Measures.
Furthermore, the Secretary of State has the power to order an inspection as and when he feels like it.
The irony of this is mesmerising and terrifying. The government espouses a clear direction of accountability, stating clearly within their manifesto and their coalition agreement that they want services for the people in the hands of the people – true, real, effective, localised democracy. So how do the powers of the Secretary of State link into this philosophy of governance?
The ideal is that schools are self-governing, free from the constraints of local authority doctrines, able to make decisions about their teaching and learning without the restrictions of a prescriptive National Curriculum, and yet simultaneously, the government wants all schools to become academies or free schools which essentially places the accountability and the governance right back at the heart of central government, in the jurisdiction of THE Secretary of State for Education.
The case of Downhills Primary School in Haringey is frightening for so many reasons. The lack of democracy is appalling. The powers of the Secretary of State are all too clear. The consistency of Ofsted and their independence is massively under question here, and the sad truth is that this is surely not the only school in this position.
Had the governors and the head teacher complied with the original plea for the school to become an academy, would they have had this further Ofsted inspection, and let us remind ourselves what Ofsted allegedly stands for.
It is the Office for Standards in Education and is supposed to be independent from government, enabling them to make objective decisions and judgments.
Is this really the case here?
What would have happened, for instance, if the Ofsted inspection had found out that, further to the improvements recorded by one of their inspectors in September, the school was progressing well?
If that had been the case wouldn’t Mr. Gove have a considerable amount of egg on his face in such a high profile case? So what choice did the Ofsted team have other than to comply with the request from their boss?
It is cases like these, and they are not single cases at all, that need to be highlighted.
Referring back to the Will Hutton report in the Observer, many schools and many good managers in schools are only too happy to receive objective and helpful criticism of their work. Most managers in schools are there for the purpose of supporting and enabling young people to enjoy learning and flourish in life.
Accountability is essential, and no manager is going to shy away from that.
However, it is the manner of that accountability that is in question, and its independence and objectivity, as well as its over-emphasis on one aspect of learning and one aspect of intelligence.
Referring back to the first inspection report on Downhills Primary School, it stated that the children felt secure and calm in school, that there were good relationships throughout the school and the pupils were aware of their self-worth.
Surely, a more positive intervention would be to see this essential and vital positive description of a school and see how these relationships and the security that the children felt in school could be used to enhance and develop their learning experience?
The school has 40 languages in the school. The proportion of pupils that receive free school meals is “well above the national average”. Pupil mobility is a significant issue with many children transferring in and out of school within each and every year.
Added to this the school is in one of those precarious and ridiculous situations whereby they are placed on an outer London per capita funding for their pupils but they have to pay their staff Inner London weighting. Before they have even had to deal with the difficult circumstances to improve and enable learning, they are at a financial deficit.
This is preposterous.
How can Ofsted possibly be seen as an independent, consistent and objective organisation of accountability to support and critique schools with the new powers that have been granted to the Secretary of State for Education?
How can we, as parents, teachers and management trust in the judgments of Ofsted when such mixed messages and contradictory comments about a school are reported on in such a short space of time?
How can we trust in democracy and accountability if the real power of decision making is placed in the hands of one person?
Isn’t it about time that we really looked at what schools are being judged on and whether these are truly the essence of effective education and not just effective schooling?
Spiritual Intelligence and Human Values
Many people appear completely baffled by, or have real problems with understanding, the idea of spiritual intelligence. Whilst learning to be spiritually intelligent may not be easy, it’s fairly clear what we need to do.
The foremost task of parents and of schools is to teach pupils how to learn and how to become independent learners – how to ask questions, and how to seek answers. Intelligent schools and homes see learning as something that’s as natural and as desirable as breathing and eating, and something that’s crucial to every individual’s growth and well-being. Such schools and homes try to help all members of their community or family towards a love of learning, and recognise the truth in the saying, “More than wealth or power, education is the key to human dignity”.
We need to recognise that individuals learn in different ways, and must ultimately find their own answers, beliefs and truths which will enable them to fulfil themselves as individuals and as members of communities and societies. Lifelong, self-directed seeking after knowledge, truth and meaning inevitably leads to greater enlightenment, peace and productive living for us all.
So what? you may say. The problem is that many schools and homes do exactly the opposite – they expect their children, their students, to be passive and not active learners - they tell them what to think and what to remember. They operate a “transmission” model of teaching and learning, and they teach in a didactic manner, which is traditional in many societies. (Even though as far back as Socrates many scholars and philosophers have believed that learning should be based on dialogue and not didacticism.)
Back in the 19th Century, at the beginning of the State education system in Britain, Charles Dickens, a truly great writer in the English language, wrote a wonderful book called Hard Times, which is in part a satire on an education system that he believed stifled, strangled and stunted children. The book begins with the words, “Facts. Give these children nothing but facts.”
Whose facts? Which facts? In modern societies we recognise the difficulty in believing there are so-called key facts that should be ‘understood’ and assimilated by everyone. Such beliefs are especially problematic in multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-faith societies populated by diverse peoples of different traditions, different beliefs, and different values. Whatever is recognised as factual and true in one section of the community is nothing of the kind to many other people.
Consider the struggle in the United States between “creationists” and others – those who consider the words written in the Christian Bible to be literally true, and those who do not. There we see prosecutions of individuals whose only crime or misdemeanor has been to reiterate the tenets of ‘Darwinism’ and the theory of evolution – the belief that human beings have their origins in and are descended from the family of the apes, and not through creation by a Divine Being. Imagine this situation in reverse – with fundamentalist Christians being prosecuted, victimised and demonised by Darwinists.
Herein lies the key problem for our societies and our schools – how to promote pluralism, tolerance, and respect for others of different backgrounds, beliefs and values.
We must consider the extent to which our schools are truly inclusive places:
* Open to pupils of all abilities and backgrounds
* Free from the need to promote particular beliefs
* Able to help all pupils consider for themselves, and to make decisions about, different sets of values and beliefs
* Able to help all pupils become “spiritually intelligent” - to learn proper respect for themselves, and respect for others who adopt different beliefs and values.
So how well do schools perform according to these criteria? Is there a respect for children, and a determination to treat them with kindness, and with the same courtesy and consideration we would show to adults?
At 3Di we value high academic achievement and the development of the intellect, but we don’t consider these forms of learning and intelligence to be superior or of greater priority – indeed it’s difficult to see how children’s academic and intellectual potential can be optimised without the underpinning of a balanced development of all their intelligences, all their potentials, through meeting all of their needs – personal, spiritual, social, emotional, physical, instinctual and intellectual.
In a spiritually intelligent community, where there is also a high degree of emotional intelligence and social intelligence, there is the potential for harmony and non-aggression, for cooperation rather then competition, and collaboration rather than isolation and suspicion. In other words there is an atmosphere of peace and trust, of sharing and giving, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Where all of this comes to fruition, in certain high-performing schools for example, to the average visitor it might seem like stepping on to another planet, and entering a place where lives are lived according to different rules, different values, different expectations. It seems almost impossible to understand – how children who can be seen acting with aggression and violence and hatred in other contexts – in the streets and estates and parks – can be seen exercising self-discipline, cooperation and respect for others in an inclusive, spiritually intelligent community called a school.
The curriculum for spiritual intelligence consists for the most part of the ‘informal’ learning that goes on from the moment a child enters the school – whether as a 4 year old or as an older child transferring – and they discover that “this is the way we do things here, this is how we interact, how we solve problems, how we relate to one another”.
This curriculum promotes what the Japanese call “zest for living” – developing an appreciation of how good it feels to live, learn and work in a community where there is the appreciation and love of other people, where there is an appreciation of beautiful and stimulating surroundings, of freedom from aggression and injustice and fear, appreciation of being accepted and respected for who one is and what one believes, whatever that might be, whatever one’s current level of ability or learning. Such places develop high levels of enthusiasm, and feelings of joy and well-being, as well as greater commitment to learning, and confidence that one can be successful.
Certain key concepts for developing spiritual intelligence can be found in 3Di’s schemes of work with a sharp focus on human values and human virtues. These are values that are subscribed to by humanists and also by people of no particular religion, as well as by members of the many different faith communities throughout the world – values that give meaning to life and help to direct our most positive beliefs and actions. They are values that help to make our families, our communities and our societies better places to live in for all of us. Without such values we descend into strife, conflict, selfishness and aggression.
The following list is a summary of the key words and concepts we need to understand as part of our curriculum for human values and spiritual intelligence.
If your children score highly in understanding these key ideas, and also in living life according to these human values, then they will indeed be high in emotional, social and spiritual intelligence, which means that their school will almost certainly be doing a good job, and their parents will too.
Curiosity, Equality, Honesty, Integrity, Intuition, Optimism, Truthfulness, Self-knowledge, Reasoning
Caring, compassion, friendship, forgiveness, generosity, helpfulness, joy, kindness, tolerance, sharing, sympathy, patience
calmness, contentment, dignity, discipline, happiness, honesty, humility, understanding, patience, reflection, self-confidence, self-control, self-discipline, self-respect, optimism
Contentment, Courage, Dependability, Duty, Ethics, Gratitude, Good behaviour, Healthy living, Helpfulness, Leadership, Initiative, Unity, Respect, Responsibility, Sacrifice, Self-confidence, Self-sufficiency, Simplicity, Perseverance
Appreciation of others, brotherhood/sisterhood, citizenship, compassion, concern for all life, consideration, cooperation, unwillingness to hurt, equality, forgiveness, global awareness, good manners, loyalty, social justice, service to others, respect for people and property, unity, universal love, collaboration
© Gary Foskett 2011
This is a revised version of an article that was first published in The Promota magazine in 2008