Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Schools told it's no longer necessary to teach right from wrong in Britain

By David Charter, Chief Political Correspondent
The Times

SCHOOLS would no longer be required to teach children the difference between right and wrong under plans to revise the core aims of the National Curriculum.

Instead, under a new wording that reflects a world of relative rather than absolute values, teachers would be asked to encourage pupils to develop “secure values and beliefs”.

The draft also purges references to promoting leadership skills and deletes the requirement to teach children about Britain’s cultural heritage.

Ministers have asked for the curriculum’s aims to be slimmed down to give schools more flexibility in the way they teach pupils aged 11 to 14.

Ken Boston, the chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), set out the proposed new aims in a letter to Ruth Kelly, when she was the Education Secretary.

The present aims for Stage 3 pupils state: “The school curriculum should pass on enduring values. It should develop principles for distinguishing between right and wrong.”

The QCA’s proposals will see these phrases replaced to simply say that pupils should “have secure values and beliefs”.

The existing aims state that the curriculum should develop children’s “ability to relate to others and work for the common good”. The proposed changes would remove all references to “the common good”.


The requirement to teach Britain’s “cultural heritage” will also be removed. The present version states: “The school curriculum should contribute to the development of pupils’ sense of identity through knowledge and understanding of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural heritages of Britain’s diverse society.”

The proposals say that individuals should be helped to “understand different cultures and traditions and have a strong sense of their own place in the world”.

References to developing leadership in pupils have also been removed. One of the present aims is to give pupils “the opportunity to become creative, innovative, enterprising and capable of leadership”. This is due to be replaced by the aim of ensuring that pupils “are enterprising”.

Professor Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham’s centre for education and employment research, said: “The idea that they think it is appropriate to dispense with right and wrong is a bit alarming.”

Teachers’ leaders said that they did not need to be told to teach children to distinguish between right and wrong.

A spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers said: “Teachers always resented being told that one of the aims of the school was to teach the difference between right and wrong. That is inherent in the way teachers operate. Removing it from the National Curriculum will make no difference.”

But she insisted that it was important for children to understand about their cultural heritage. “To remove that requirement can undermine children’s feelings of security in the country where they are living,” she said.
A spokesman for the QCA said: “The proposed new wording of the curriculum aims is a draft which will be consulted on formally next year as part of the ongoing review of Key Stage 3. One aim of the review is that there should be more flexibility and personalisation that focuses on practical advice for teachers.

“The new wording states clearly that young people should become ‘responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society’. It also identifies the need for young people who challenge injustice, are committed to human rights and strive to live peaceably with others.”


In citizenship classes, teachers ask pupils to discuss issues such as whether it is ever right to pass on information received in confidence and situations such as what they would do if they saw someone writing graffiti on a bus; heard friends talking about stealing; found a wallet full of cash; or saw people fighting

The current wording states that the curriculum should pass on enduring values, develop pupils’ ability to relate to others and to work for the common good and help them “to become creative, innovative, enterprising and capable of leadership”

The proposed changes remove references to “the common good”. Teachers should simply ensure that pupils have secure values and beliefs and a strong sense of their place in the world. Rather than develop leadership skills, the pupils should be enterprising.

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