Spiritual and Moral Development (NCC 1993)
Spiritual and Moral Development
a discussion paper
National Curriculum Council
The Education Reform Act (1988) (ERA) sets education within the context of the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and of society. These dimensions underpin the curriculum and the ethos of the school. Their importance is reinforced by their place in the new inspection framework for schools which derives its authority from the Education (Schools) Act 1992. This Act requires Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools to keep the Secretary of State informed about the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils. Registered inspectors are also required to comment on these matters.
Schools have concentrated over recent years on implementing the National Curriculum and this has heightened awareness of the mental and physical dimensions of education. Although many schools have always recognised the importance of the spiritual and moral dimensions, with the statutory framework of the National Curriculum now in place, there is an opportunity to give closer attention to these issues.
This paper is intended to guide schools in their understanding of spiritual and moral development and to demonstrate that these dimensions apply not only to Religious Education (RE) and collective worship but to every area of the curriculum and to all aspects of school life. This paper has been written particularly for use by maintained schools without a religious foundation, although denominational schools may also find the paper helpful.
The Education Reform Act refers to a dimension of human existence which is termed the 'spiritual' and which applies to all pupils. The potential for spiritual development is open to everyone and is not confined to the development of religious beliefs or conversion to a particular faith. To limit spiritual development in this way would be to exclude from its scope the majority of pupils in our schools who do not come from overtly religious backgrounds. The term needs to be seen as applying to something fundamental in the human condition which is not necessarily experienced through the physical senses and/or expressed through everyday language. It has to do with relationships with other people and, for believers, with God. It has to do with the universal search for individual identity - with our responses to challenging experiences, such as death, suffering, beauty, and encounters with good and evil. It is to do with the search for meaning and purpose in life and for values by which to live.
There are many aspects of spiritual development.
Spiritual development in an educational context
Spiritual development is an important element of a child's education and fundamental to other areas of learning. Without curiosity, without the inclination to question, and without the exercise of imagination, insight and intuition, young people would lack the motivation to learn, and their intellectual development would be impaired. Deprived of self-understanding and, potentially of the ability to understand others, they may experience difficulty in co-existing with neighbours and colleagues to the detriment of their social development. Were they not able to be moved by feelings of awe and wonder at the beauty of the world we live in, or the power of artists, musicians and writers to manipulate space, sound and language, they would live in an inner spiritual and cultural desert.
The notion that pupils will develop spiritually raises the expectation that this is an area in which pupils can make progress. Whilst not advocating a model of linear progression, the steps to spiritual development might include:
Moral development, like spiritual development, cannot be defined by one simple statement. It involves several elements.
Personal morality combines the beliefs and values of individuals, those of the social, cultural and religious groups to which they belong, and the laws and customs of the wider society. Schools should be expected to uphold those values which contain moral absolutes.
School values should include:
In addition to absolute values such as these, children become aware as they grow older that life constantly throws up situations where what is right or wrong is not universally agreed. Society permits, even if it does not promote, a range of behaviour which is
considered wrong by some, often many, of its members. Examples would include drinking alcohol, smoking and gambling as well as divorce, abortion and what are called blood sports. Pupils have to make up their own minds on these and other issues, some of which will arise as part of the planned curriculum and some as a result of immediate events. The task of schools, in partnership with the home, is to furnish pupils with the knowledge and the ability to question and reason which will enable them to develop their own value system and to make responsible decisions on such matters.
Moral development in an educational context
Moral development in schools builds on the child's experience in the home. There needs to be an insistence that pupils behave in an acceptable fashion towards staff and towards each other. All schools have rules about these matters with sanctions to ensure that they are observed. These rules provide an early opportunity for pupils to become aware of and accept that an effective and just society is based on the assumption that certain rules are acceptable to a wide range of individuals. Pupils learn that there are consequences for themselves and others of infringing the rules of the community. As they get older, pupils should come to an understanding of why rules are important, and should act upon them from conviction, rather than simply from fear of getting into trouble. Pupils also learn the more difficult lessons: that rules are interpreted differently by different people, that sometimes allowances are made for people who break rules and sometimes not.
Morally educated school-leavers should be able to:
HOW MIGHT SCHOOLS PROMOTE SPIRITUAL AND MORAL DEVELOPMENT?
There are three areas of school life in which opportunities arise for spiritual and moral development. They are the ethos of the school, all subjects of the curriculum and collective worship.
The ethos of the school reflects the values and attitudes which characterise the community, the atmosphere of the school, the quality of relationships, and the way in which the school helps pupils to deal with conflict, loss, grief or difficulties. The ethos of the school reflects the values which the community intends to promote. These values determine behaviour throughout the school and particularly in the classroom. Every school claims to value academic excellence and achievement of potential. Therefore expectations governing classroom behaviour should be directed towards provision of a positive working environment. Probably all schools state that it is their aim to develop in young people a sense of respect for others regardless of race or creed. Therefore they should treat with sensitivity the views of people in the school who express their spirituality in the terms of different religious traditions. Schools should also be aware of the religious backgrounds of their pupils and should be sensitive in their response to pupils who have a religious faith.
The knowledge and understanding essential to both spiritual and moral development, and the ability to make responsible and reasoned judgements should be developed through all subjects of the curriculum. In most aspects of the curriculum pupils should encounter questions about the origins of the universe, the purpose of life, the nature of proof, the uniqueness of humanity and the meaning of truth. They should be encouraged to reflect on the possibility of certainty, and to question the often exaggerated view of the infallibility of science as the only means of understanding the world, and the equally exaggerated view of the inadequacy of religion and philosophy. Moral issues will arise, for example, in science (issues of life and death), geography (environmental issues) and history (development of tolerance). In particular, schools should ensure that all pupils receive Religious Education which promotes spiritual and moral development in the light of the teachings of the great world religions. For schools teaching an agreed syllabus in line with ERA, most attention should be given to Christianity which has contributed so forcibly to the spiritual and moral values of this country whilst also introducing pupils to the other major religions in our community.
Religious Education has a particularly important part to play in pupils' spiritual and moral development. Most Agreed Syllabuses require pupils to be challenged by the ultimate questions of life and death such as, 'Who am I?', 'What's wrong?' 'What's the remedy?', 'Are there absolutes of right and wrong?' Pupils should be encouraged to address such questions elsewhere in the curriculum, but it is in Religious Education where they should be explicitly required to do so. They must be free to respond to such questions or not, and their response cannot be pre-determined. However, informed responses to such questions can only be made in the light of knowledge and understanding of the wisdom of others. Pupils should be challenged by hearing the claims to truth offered by people with a different religious or philosophical perspective on life.
The spiritual and moral development of pupils implies the need for a variety of learning experiences which provide opportunities for pupils to:
If collective worship is genuinely to stimulate reflection and growth, it needs to involve all members of the community. This involvement requires planning, and it is important that schools can demonstrate precisely how collective worship has been planned to promote spiritual and moral development within the framework of the law.
PREPARING THE SCHOOL POLICY
The Government will soon be consulting on regulations which will require all schools to produce a clear statement of their policy in relation to spiritual and moral development of pupils. Individual teachers and other adults in schools transmit values to pupils consciously or unconsciously, and it is important that these values are consistent with those which the school claims to promote. Parents have a right to know, and are concerned about, the messages their children pick up, especially from teachers who are often seen as role models. Schools and governing bodies which have not already done so need to clarify the school's policy in these areas and the set of core values which define the school's approach.
A Statement of Values
The ethos of the school may be apparent through a statement which sets out the values the school intends to promote and which it intends to demonstrate through all aspects of its life. For the school, the production of such a statement provides opportunities for all those involved to engage in the spiritual and moral debate, and to agree to core values which are acceptable to all. This means that all members of staff and governors need to agree to uphold these values and exercise their authority when agreed values are ignored. Parents and children need to agree that, having selected the school in the full knowledge of those values, they are prepared to abide by them. It is important to remember that children, especially older pupils, are more likely to feel
a commitment to abiding by the values of the school if those values are openly and explicitly discussed with them.
Values and Behaviour
The standards of behaviour expected by a school are those which reflect its values. It is important that a school establishes those values which determine behaviour throughout the school and particularly in the classroom. 'The most effective schools seem to be those that have created a positive atmosphere based on a sense of community and shared values' (Discipline in Schools - the 'Elton Report' 1989).
Children are more likely to behave responsibly if they are given responsibility. But this can only be really effective in a community which gives that responsibility within a framework of clearly stated boundaries of acceptable behaviour, and where teachers respond firmly and promptly to pupils who exceed those boundaries.
Values are inherent in teaching. Teachers are by the nature of their profession 'moral agents' who imply values by the way they address pupils and each other, the way they dress, the language they use and the effort they put into their work.
Values lie at the heart of the school's vision of itself as a community. Procedures for giving praise, appointing officers, rewarding and punishing, all give messages about what qualities are valued. Policies about admissions, especially regarding children with special needs, are equally indicative of values.
Developing a statement of values is not simply a process aimed at producing glossy documentation. It is an essential and honest statement about the school and what it stands for. While many schools share common values, they will differ in others, and those differences are critical in affecting parental choice.
The most important point about a statement of values is that it should be implemented - that it should not only be seen but should be seen to be effective. Perhaps the most difficult task for schools is ensuring that its values truly underpin expectations and rules, and that they are taken seriously by all members of the community. The fact that some aspects of the statement should be kept permanently under review will automatically involve new members in deliberations.
PUPILS' SPIRITUAL AND MORAL DEVELOPMENT - INSPECTION CRITERIA
Inspection arrangements vary across different types of school to take account of the status of Voluntary Aided, Special Agreement schools and others.
Schools are strongly advised not to attempt to assess pupils' spiritual and moral development. Such an activity could be regarded as intrusive and any judgements made highly subjective. However schools should evaluate the curriculum and other areas of school life to ensure that appropriate opportunities for spiritual and moral development are being provided.
From 1993 OFSTED will be inspecting and evaluating schools' provision for spiritual and moral development and pupils' response to this provision. Evidence of such provision will be gathered through:
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
Schools should evaluate the curriculum and other aspects of school life to ensure that opportunities are provided for the spiritual and moral development of pupils. The following questions may be helpful in initiating discussion.