Why we decided to adopt VbE
Each year we seem to try a different approach to our PSHCE curriculum and to date we’re still to find the right fit. We did SEAL for a few years and that was adequate, but merely adequate. The problem was it was very prescribed and and no one followed it as stipulated BUT the whole school themes and the assembly ideas bonded us from year 1 to 6 with a common language. Ultimately though it was too unwieldy and we looked for an alternative. We spent a few years just relying on assemblies and whatever happened to have gone wrong in the playground for our PSHE focus. Then last year we came out of the wilderness and used the ideas of Sean Covey, son of Stephen R Covey, and took the Seven habits of happy kids and some aspects of the US leader in me programme. http://www.amazon.co.uk/7-Habits-Happy-Kids/dp/1847384315
Although American and quite cheesy in parts the children responded well and began to use the language of the habits in school and at home. Parents were informed of our approach and some even went online and purchased the books that accompanied the programme. It was a successful year but I didn’t feel the programme had the scope to repeat so again I was looking for something new an inspirational to fill the void and meet of schools unique needs.
I have already spoken in previous posts about the new curriculum leading to many changes and how we, as a primary team, decided we needed to focus more on the skills needed for society in our school curriculum. In our discussions we identified the need for more work in the area of values and moral choices. Although identified as an issue for the children if you were in our staffroom on occasion, the administration area when the photocopier breaks down or the dinner hall watching the dinner staff you’d know the adults still have a way to go in this area too! With this is mind I spent the summer researching approaches to values and came across
http://www.valuesbasededucation.com and the book From My Heart from Values based Education Trust founder Dr Neil Hawkes.
Dr Neil Hawkes is an ex headteacher, adviser and all round passionate individual who truly believes that the future of humanity depends on our children having strong values. He also believes these values should be taught throughout school as well as in the home. He is inspirational and extremely accessible and the more I researched the more I became a fan and a believer!!
You can also watch Neil talking at
Neil’s approach to embedding values into the school curriculum was such a simple idea and I could see so many opportunities to get children and staff excited about values and using the language of values. I also really liked the idea that VbE isn’t just about children but the whole school community, including parents and governors.
The Values Based Education Trust (VbET) also have many quality marked schools that are happy to share their experiences of embedding values in their schools. You can find them here http://www.valuesbasededucation.com/quality_mark_schools.html
It’s always a challenge to find face to face or even voice support for new developments working in Spain but while I was looking for a possible school to ask to visit I found a VbE workshop was taking place in the UK near to where my parents live. Best of all it was a free workshop! I got in touch with Nigel Cohen at VbET and he kindly organised for me to attend. I’m very much looking forward to hearing more about VbE at the end of September and in turn sharing this with staff.
I wanted to begin the process of embedding values at the start of term so I had to rely on my own research to introduce it and get started. This was also when I struck gold and saw this blog entry from Andrew Cowley http://newdht.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/building-values-based-education.html
It was great to know someone had the same plans as me for the year ahead and had introduced it to staff already. I contacted Andrew and he very kindly shared everything he had with me for which I am extremely grateful.
The staff session
Values based education was an easy sell due to the fact that it addressed many of the the issues we had raised as a staff at the end of the previous term. Staff we on side from the outset.
In this first session before any discussion it’s important to share Neil’s definition of what a value is “ A Value is a principal that defines our actions and behaviour”
Once the theory was over I used the two questions that Andrew had used to focus staff on a discussion about values.
1. Can you think of 5 people who embody postive values?
2. Can you think of 5 positive and 5 negative values prominent in today’s society?
These questions were excellent and generated some brilliant observations of society and the behaviours that adults and students exhibit because of the values that society encourages. The discussions really opened up the language of values and made us all look deeper into our own values and actions. We could all see that we too needed to be more mindful of our values on a day to day basis.
And so it begins – after much polite discussion!!!
Our first 10 values are:
September -Politeness and Manners
October – Respect
December- Empathy and Conpassion
January – Positivity
February . Resilience and Determination
March – Courage
April – Caring for the environment
June- Friendships and Relationships
Introducing values to the children
I introduced the idea of values in key stage assemblies and was very careful to pitch the concept at the level of the children I was addressing. I was really pleased with the children’s thinking during the assembly and they gave some wonderful answers to my questions.
“My mum has the value of love because she cares for me and makes me feel happy inside” Year 1 child
” My friend Carlos shows the value of friendship because he always plays with me and shares his things” Year 2 child
” I admire Nelson Mandela for his values. He valued equality and peace because he wanted everyone to be the same and not fight” Year 4 child
” I think Jesus had good values because he cared about other people more than himself so he had the value of sacrifice and modesty” Year 6 pupil
Once the children had, like the adults in the staff meeting, started using the language of values I introduced the grand plan for values education and explained our first value.
We decided that the children showing values should be celebrated so we have a values tree in the entrance hall for all to see and when the children consistently show values or do something special related to values they are given a leaf to help our tree grow stronger. Children can also give each other and adults leaves for the tree.
Finally for the first steps I have introduced VbE to the whole school team using a personally addressed letter to each member of support staff. They too can give students leaves for our tree. Parents will also receive details of the VbE project and will be asked to participate.
I would have very much liked to have involved parents and other members of staff in the initial decision about our first year Values but time was against us. I do however plan to involve parents in the evaluation of the process and I intend to canvas them on the second years values which will make our school values complete.
The Early Impact
Within the first few days I have seen more polite language being used but best of all I have heard the children speaking about values with each other and other members of the school.
While I was covering a year 4 class art lesson the children were busy working on their Picasso self portriats and one girl asked a boy on her table for the brown. She asked in a rather abrupt manner ” Give me the brown now!” The boys response ” That wasn’t very polite, I think you should remember our Value this month is Politeness and I think you’ll find you were missing something from the end of that sentence” Upon which the girl put her hand over her mouth and said ” Ohh yes, sorry. Please could you pass me the brown thanks” The boy passed the brown and said “There you go and thank you for asking so nicely!”
I was so pleased to hear this conversation and I know without the values focus it would not have happened.
In another conversation the day after the one above I gave a PSHCE lesson with the same year 4 class. It was all about the language of politeness. At the end of the lesson a boy, not normally known for his maturity or sharing of ideas, came to me and said. ” All those words and phrases we’ve throught of, I think you should type them up and laminate them and put them around the playground to remind people these are the words we should be using. Because it’s easy to be polite in class because you and the teachers can help us but when we are on the patio it’s really easy to forget”
I thought this was a great idea and I’ve invited the boy to come to my office on Monday and type the words up and laminate them himself to give him ownership of the idea. He was beeming as he walked away.
Both the children in question have a leaf on display recounting these moments.
Let’s hope week 2 of our journey continues to be as successful.
Resources for sharing- Please feel free to download and use these templates
Year 1 and 2 – Introduction to values and our first value of politeness
Year 3,4,5 and 6 – Introduction to vlaues and our first value of politeness
Letter to non teaching staff about VbE and how they can support the development