Many parents believe home is the best place to teach morals and values to children, but that doesn’t mean they don’t think that schools have a duty to help. According to a poll conducted by University of Birmingham’s Centre for Character and Values on behalf of Populus, 87% of over 1,000 parents taking part believe that teaching values like honesty and fairness should be as important as delivering academic results when it comes to schooling priorities.
Yet the Centre’s professor James Arthur thinks parents should not hold their breath. According to him, schools are just not equipped to teach these kinds of lessons – to put it simply, they do not know how.
As a example, Arthur points to the values statements typically featured in a place of honor of schools’ websites. Instead of laying out explicit goals, they offer platitudes and “bland paragraphs” that don’t really figure at all into what goes on the classroom.
Some 84% of the parents polled said it was part of the role of a teacher to encourage good morals and values in students – while 81% agreed schools should set out the core values they aimed to instil in students.
An overwhelming 95% said it was possible to teach a child values and shape their character in a positive way at school through lessons, team-building exercises or voluntary work.
Only 5% said children would pick up these traits from their peers and experiences at school.
Some 13% said schools should focus on delivering academic results rather than shaping character.
Of this group, most said their child learned good values at home and about a third said it was not the government’s role to guide a child’s life.
According to Judith Burns of the BBC, parents feel that schools have put too much focus on exams to the exclusion of almost everything else. Three-quarters of the respondents thought that schools needed to pay more attention to teaching students how to be upstanding members of society.
The Centre’s Deputy Director Tom Harrison believes that the poll is a clear indicator that teaching of values and character is important to parents. And, as Harrison points out, doing so requires more than just religion classes or citizenship education.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Teachers and heads overwhelmingly support teaching values as well.
“They know that it supports academic achievement and employability.
“Academic skills are vital but you also need the character to use your knowledge well. Resilience, curiosity, courtesy, initiative – they matter.
“I think people will be surprised by how much is actually going on in schools, but we must be careful not to crowd out character building with too many assessments or a narrow vision of the curriculum.
“Sport, adventure, volunteering, performing arts and cultural visits can all contribute, as can the study of great literature and history.”