Neil Hawkes and Peter Dunmall On 22 September 2013, Radio London interviewed Dr Neil Hawkes (NH), founder of IVET, and Peter Dunmall (PD), Head of Addison Primary School in West London.
Interviewer: "What is Values-based Education" NH: VbE asks schools and parents to decide what dispositions or values do we want for our children, which makes them successful learners and lovely people as well.
"Do parents support teaching values in schools?" PD: "Parents tell us they support VbE because they want their children to grow up to be the best possible people they can be"
"What differences have you noticed in your school since you introduced VbE?" PD: "We have noticed a huge difference with the children. Their attitudes were poor. They didn't get on with each other. Adults had poor relationships with children. And now we are in a position where we have much warmer relationships, children are much kinder towards one another. The situation is just far, far more positive, and a much better climate for good learning to take place."
"What have you been teaching them that has changed them so dramatically?" PD: "The values framework underpins the whole ethos of the school. Also, it is the way we model as adults the values we have set. So we are very strong and positive role models. It is the way our assembly program will then teach the children, through video, through drama, though stories, what these values look like in real life. It is the way that learning in the classroom will then focus on discussing and understanding what those values mean, through to then the way the values are woven through the lessons. Take for example a lesson I saw this week, a super maths lesson looking at number sequences, a very traditional maths lesson in many ways. But the teacher got so much more out of it, because the number sequences lesson was challenging and difficult and she was clear with the children that she was expecting them to persevere which is one of our values, and be self-motivated, another, because they would not find the answer first time. And that is a very good learning, because you want the children to be challenged. The children got on with that challenge, had difficulty with it, overcame it, because they were expecting to persevere and show that value. And then at the end of that lesson, and very skilfully, the teacher drew back in a review of it, that the lesson had focused on the Fibonacci sequences of numbers that occurs naturally in the world, and she drew in the awe and wonder of that sequence in the natural world, and focused on simplicity, another value. So it really weaves through everything you do and absolutely underpins some top quality learning."
"Is this the same as RE or Humanities?" NH: "No. Just to re-iterate what the head was just saying, I visited his school when they were just starting VbE, and I visited them again recently to do the audit for the International Quality Mark as a Values-based school. And it was outstanding the difference. And one of the main differences is the consistency between adults is outstanding. All adults are modelling the values they are expecting from the children and that is one of the keys to this method. You asked about whether this is religious or spiritual. What we have found is that we work on positive human values. There are limiting values, such as greed and anger. But we ask schools to focus on the positive values, which are human values which all the religions say that they support and people that don't have a religious background. So what we are finding is that all people, and in all the countries around the world where I have worked, we have yet to have a parent say: I don't agree with this."
Bridget Knight In May 2014, a researcher interviewed Bridget Knight, head of Eardisley Primary School and Trustee of IVET.
In your opinion, why do you believe that Values education is important? The understanding about values and their meaningfulness to us as individuals and to society actually underpins all society – but many or most are unaware of them as an active force. This is because all too often values are implicit in our world, but when they become explicit they can make a positive difference to our responses, our impulses and our intentions. In other words, they inform our thinking, our behaviour, and both our outer and inner worlds. When schools can support parents by helping to equip children with their own ethical framework for thinking and behaving in this way, they are giving them a lifetime’s gift: a recipe for successfully negotiating an ethical path through life in a way that honours the best of themselves and honours others too. It teaches self respect as well as respect for others.
In simple terms, a values based approach helps children to develop a self understanding that in turn leads to the development of empathy, and this can result in ‘self actualisation’ – the realising of the best of an inspanidual, and in creating social cohesion – the ability to operate and co-operate collectively and largely harmoniously. In other words, it brings out the best in people!
So in schools the exploration of values, their meaning and their application, helps children to develop a personal and owned framework for evolving positive behaviours, positive attitudes to learning, a curiosity about themselves and their world and a curiosity, acquaintance and comfortableness with the spiritual, moral, social and cultural dimensions of ourselves and our world. Most excitingly, children are not merely being compliant when they show they are able to conduct themselves in a reasonable way and fulfill the learning expectations of the teacher: they do it because they want to function in this way and are motivated to do so. This motivation builds with time as it becomes increasingly embedded.
This is important because, it we are serious about education in a holistic sense, it is equipping children with many of the skills, characteristics, and attributes and thinking patterns they will need in tall aspects of their current and subsequent lives.
How do you promote the use of values in your class/school? To be most effective, a values-based approach must infuse the entire life of the school, be prevalent in every interaction a teacher makes with a child, a parent or another teacher, and must inform and inspire the curriculum too. These elements are sometimes intangible, but they build an atmosphere that is easily recognisable as one of trust, purpose, support and happiness.
One of the most powerful teaching methods is a facilitative approach whereby the adult opens up deep thinking about how a value is pertinent in a particular context, e.g. with the value of grace, how we might be able to use our own given talents to make a positive contribution to our family, school, local community or the wider world. This approach is always, in my view, far more effective and meaningful than any didactic teachings.
Some tangibles help this process:
Posters displaying the value of the month and our school charter of values.
Displays showing pupil work and thinking based on the values.
Certificates and awards for children displaying that value.
Our outside Values Sculpture that is a proud exemplification of our philosophy to the local community.
Regular newsletters to parents demonstrating the pattern of the discussions about the value that month, along with children’s responses and suggestions for things to do at home.
Collective worship is based around the value of the month.
Pupils talk about the value and take part in reflection on a daily basis.
The most important thing, though, is that all the adults believe in it and do their best to live and work by these ethics or principles: it must be real, authentic and have true integrity. We can expect our philosophy and our principles to be tested at every turn, which is why even the smallest interaction is so important and why, when life is especially difficult and stressful, it is particularly important to demonstrate that we are still holding true to our ideals.
Are you able to structure each of your lessons to promote the use of values as well as covering all aspects of the school curriculum? If so how? Very often, the curriculum subject dictates the main purpose of the lesson – but all lessons can have a link to values. At EPS our medium and short term planning structure is formulated so as to require that the link to values and SMSC is made explicitly in the planning – so values can infuse every subject. However, there are also times when values can be taught explicitly – our Collective Worship, Philosophy for Children, art, RE and PSHE plans are examples of this – and this is when time can be spent purely in exploring the values. Very often the children will introduce the values themselves and make link between these and the work they are studying. The more you teach and learn in this way, the more obvious the links are.
At EPS all classes take one minute to have a period of quiet reflection. This is part of a values-based approach as it develops in children the ability to take control of their impulses, to sit still, experience peace and calm, and to gain a sense of the spiritual and engage in deeper thinking. Children become amazingly good at this, and report that they enjoy these times when they can be still and quiet.
How do you monitor the pupil’s understanding of values? At EPS we regularly talk to children about their understanding of values. Collective Worship is very often organised deliberately so that children’s thoughts and response are pivotal. We teach increasingly through a P4C approach, a way of deliberately facilitating children’s thinking, speaking and listening and ability to engage in profound and searching debate.
Our ethos committee is assiduous in monitoring children’s views and understanding and evaluates ways in which we can enhance and improve the experience.
Furthermore, children regularly contribute prayers, writing and artwork,which often demonstrate astonishing levels of understanding. However, some of the most powerful understanding of children’s thinking comes through unexpected, overheard comments and observations of their interactions together – these are when we realise the richness of their inner worlds that have been developed through a values framework.
In your opinion, what positive effects, if any, do you feel that values education has on the pupil’s attitudes to learning? I know that our values-based approach that deliberately focuses on a ‘Constructivist’ or facilitative theory of learning, whereby the teacher facilitates and promotes deep thinking and enquiry and fosters a love of learning is having a profound effect on pupil attitudes to learning. To be in with my class where my children cheer at the prospect of learning and make so many contributions to discussions that take our learning in new and fascinating directions is truly, truly wonderful. This makes them vibrant, engaged learners and I hope they will always have this attitude to learning. The very recent OFSTED inspection concurred with my view:
The outstanding behaviour and safety have not only been maintained since the previous inspection but improved further through the introduction of a range of values which have made pupils vastly more effective learners.
Teachers create a very positive and purposeful climate for learning in classrooms. A large part of this is based on the values introduced to the school by the headteacher.
Pupils and staff are able to talk about how these help create the conditions for excellent learning. For example, pupils themselves decided ‘determination’ was one of the most important values that would help them become successful learners. Pupils talk positively about how they enjoy lessons and how the teachers help them learn new things.
In your opinion, do you think that children are able to utilise the values that they are taught within school when faced with different challenges/experiences outside of school? Oh yes! Parents often share experiences and details from their home life that demonstrate very clearly that our children put their values in to action beyond the school gates. I am privileged to still be in contact with a former pupil – now a post-graduate with a degree from Cambridge – who has cited some unimaginably traumatic episodes of cyber-bullying and resulting depressive episodes in her life - and who attests that values played a vital role in enabling her to ‘get through’ those periods and build towards a better life. It is wonderful to glimpse the life-long positive effects of this work.
International Baccalaureate Interview In 2014, the IB included VbE resources in the resources available to their schools. They interviewed Bridget Knight to help teachers understand the deepening role of Values in schools.
What do you see as the emerging challenges for middle level education in the decade ahead? Education is an eternally turbulent field. Currently there is a relentless and urgent demand, by both governments and parents, for higher standards.
Many professionals cite this along with increasingly challenging behaviour and a lack of ‘taking school seriously’ (by both pupils and parents), as making their job almost untenable. Recently, the emphasis on the acquisition of information, to the possible detriment of understanding, has divided professional opinion.
In order to retain and develop worthwhile pedagogy, it seems to me that professionals must reflect upon the nature of education, and define the essential values and principles that form its foundation.
Values-based teachers recognise that an effective learning process is a holistic one, deeply contingent on the development of respectful and nurturing relationships, and of healthy and robust personal, emotional, mental, and social skills. In everyone, these are fragile until and unless we give them our full and best attention. They recognise that learning is something that requires personal connection that children need to be tempted to taste the world of knowledge and understanding. They recognise, too, that learning is a serious business: that only the highest aspirations are good enough, but that our pupils deserve to be helped to develop independence of thought as an imperative.
We all know the demands of living in an increasingly complex and fast-changing world. Added to this, the education backdrop now is one of inadequate funding from national government, and the collapse of traditional support services - for both schools and families. There is a demonstrable increase in societal issues related to poverty and health, especially mental health. Schools have to not only cope with but make a positive difference to their families while still meeting the unrelenting demands of attainment expectations and OFSTED inspections.
Values-based teachers demonstrate their enduring resourcefulness and creativity as a result of their commitment to their educational principles. Values-based teaching is characterised by attention to high standards of attainment through a vibrant curriculum that respects the contribution of a broad balance of subjects, and is infused with the progressive and purposeful development of personal and learning skills.
How do you think teaching and learning are changing? We need clear and coherent values-based thinking to ensure true quality education is the birthright of all our children. There is no question that the current and increasing demands placed on schools and teachers as outlined above bring threats, but they also offer real opportunities to the profession.
In recent years, we have learned so much about the importance of making learning meaningful, coherent and connected to both the personal and the global context. The current strong encouragement towards ‘non-negotiable’ knowledge and skills can be seen as an invitation to polish subject content, and therefore improve what we can offer.
Curriculum development possibilities are emerging at a thrilling rate and in thrilling ways. Values-based schools find ways to embrace these and, in so doing, retain their teachers’ creativity, passion and innovation – the life-blood of learning.
So the future is rich in possibilities for education. Nevertheless, we must avoid finding ourselves simply being tossed around in the maelstrom of political expediency. That every teacher and school leader should embrace a values-inspired anchor in their philosophy of learning is not just important, but imperative.
What new opportunities are available for students and teachers today? Values-based Education is an enduring approach that gives permission to schools and educational settings to put pupils’ emotional growth at the heart of schooling, whilst still embracing changing and increasing academic expectations and demands. The international Values Education Trust (IVET) supports and facilitates teachers and leaders to make and maintain these changes in their schools and links them to a worldwide network of successful values-based schools.
For teachers, the access from home or school to podcasts and seminars, enables increased and specialised understanding, knowledge and professional skills as never before. We are able to access advice for both SEN and higher achievers. Meanwhile, the fragmentation of traditional school structures and services may be said to have revealed some hidden opportunities for connectivity with a wider pool of other professionals, resulting in a richer school experience for pupils, parents and staff alike.
What is the purpose of the International Values based Education Trust and how did it start? IVET is a UK charity, founded by Dr Neil Hawkes in 2008 to promote Values-based Education internationally. Its registered number is 1159650. Its Trustees and Patrons are eminent and highly respected educators who share a commitment to the development of a values-based approach to leadership, teaching and learning across the world. It is independent, non profit-making, non-political, has no religious affiliation and is not aligned to any business or corporate organisation.
How does your work support student well-being and social-emotional development? Values-based Education is an approach that nourishes, and enables learners to flourish, making a difference to the world through who and how they are.
When we actively engage with values we start to understand their implications for making choices about our attitudes and responses. A values-based approach develops an ethical vocabulary, enabling pupils to access and develop understanding about themselves and others, and encourages reflective and aspirational attributes and attitudes. These can be nurtured to help people discover the very best of themselves, which enables them to be good citizens and prepare them for the life of work.
A values-based approach encourages daily quiet reflection, enabling pupils to access an inner and spiritual part of themselves that in turn develops mindfulness, self-mastery and wisdom. It equips pupils with social capacities that help them work with, and relate to others effectively. It provides them with the self-esteem and confidence to explore and develop. Used purposefully, it leaves no pupil behind, irrespective of background. It is therefore an instant approach and free resource that helps teachers fulfil the requirements, of the International Baccalaureate, bringing conceptual teaching to life with effective cultural transformation.
If you could recommend a valuable resource for our IB teachers, what would it be? Why is it important? How can it benefit schools, teachers and students? The Values-based education website, valuesbasededucation.com, has a multitude of reference material and resources, which are continually updated with contributions from a range of schools. We strongly encourage the use of the Values Self Assessment tool: this enables schools to see what exemplary practice looks like in terms of the full range of school improvement areas and enables schools to see how far along they themselves are on their values journey. The use of this tool along with the VBE action plan, can then lead into schools applying for the Values Quality Mark. These tools, along with further information, are available on the website. Please do contact us: we will be delighted to support you on your journey.