Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 19 Feb 2009

Should schools really teach children moral values, like a new report says? Or is this a job for parents?

Hillary's Advice

Of course parents should teach children good values but plenty don't, so the recent Good Childhood report says that schools must lead the way in fostering respect and helping children manage their emotions. The report is the result of a two-year enquiry into children's lives in Britain, and makes many suggestions about how children's lives could be improved, but central to them all is the assertion that society has become too self-centred and needs to change.

I agree that our values are out of skew - who doesn't, these days? -- but have grown increasingly worried that many of the resources being used in schools to promote social and emotional well-being actually promote the very self-centredness that seems to lead to problems. Children are taught to navel-gaze about their own emotions and happiness, without being encouraged to look up and out to other people.

A very different approach is the “We All Do Good Things” programme, recently piloted by the charity People United, whose aim is to promote kindness in daily life. For a year, primary schools were helped to celebrate and encourage all the good things that people do, and to uncover stories of kindness and generosity in their local community. Everyone was involved, from the dinner ladies to the head, and University of Kent researchers found that the project had a real impact on children's willingness to care and share, and on their feelings towards others. One head said it “quite transformed” her school.

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