Moral lessons for teachers

November 1, 1996

Teacher trainers should pay much more attention to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of young people, according to an unpublished report which forms the basis for a consultation paper on values in education and the community issued this week by the Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

The paper was produced by the National Forum for Values in Education and the Community, set up to provide SCAA with guidance on how schools might be supported in making their contribution to pupils' moral development. It says that the preparation of teachers for promoting this dimension in the classroom was a "major concern" in all of its ten working groups.

Analysis of information on initial teacher training institutions "revealed that there was no common understanding of what constitutes spiritual, moral, social and cultural development or the competencies needed by teachers to promote it". Interviews with newly qualified teachers in three institutions raised concerns that "some young teachers lack the maturity to cope with these sensitive issues".

The forum recommends to the Teacher Training Agency that initial teacher training courses should include a knowledge of relevant aspects of law, human development and religious and secular moral traditions. Courses should arm teachers with skills to enable the "management of conflict" and knowledge of what sort of teaching methods are most effective for the moral development of pupils.

Nicholas Tate, chief executive of SCAA, says the authority and the forum would like to encourage the TTA to look into these issues further. "It is a good time to make these recommendations to TTA because they are looking at developing an initial teacher training national curriculum and standards to be met in order to achieve qualified teacher status."

The forum also expresses concern for the continuing professional development of teachers. Recommendations include mature teachers being trained to lead on social, moral, spiritual and social development. A national training package on these issues should be developed and subject teachers in secondary schools "should be encouraged to see them as part of their responsibility".

In a recommendation to the Office of Standards in Education, the forum says teacher training inspections should report on the preparation of students for dealing with moral issues.

Dr Tate said: "The forum thought it extremely important that all teachers as part of their initial teacher training should be alerted to the moral dimension of the curriculum. Trainees should be encouraged to identify good practice on the part of teachers they observe on teaching practice."

He said SCAA and the forum's push to heighten awareness of the moral dimension of education should not displace the significance of delivering the specific curriculum subject matter. "It is more an attempt to sensitise teacher trainers and trainees to this area so that when one is talking about classroom management and discipline it is with an awareness of teachers being a role model in responsible behaviour."

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