top of page
  • Writer's pictureTom Rogers

What is values based education?

On Friday, John Gibbs was joined by John Catt Author and Headteacher Bridget Knight to discuss this important topic. You can catch the podcast and transcript below!

John Gibbs and Bridget Knight on Teachers Talk Radio Transcript

John (Speaker C): And my guest this week is Bridget Knight, CEO of Values Based Education and editor and author of a book which I've just recently read called on the Subject of Values and the Value of Subjects.

Bridget (Speaker D): Also, thank you so much because you are a working head teacher, I can see by the beautiful display of sunflowers behind you.

Speaker C: So thank you so much once again for your time.

Speaker D: It's a great pleasure to be here.

Speaker D: Thank you for inviting me.

Speaker C: Well, I think there's so much as I was reading your book, so many ideas came to me.

Speaker C: I want to ask you about values based education, obviously, but first I want to ask you two of things really about the writing of a book and some of the work that the values based education does.

Speaker C: So let's start with the book.

Speaker C: I've never written a book.

Speaker C: It must be fairly daunting and I know that you've got lots of co authors, but to edit it and to write bits of it, that must have been fairly intimidating and hard work.

Speaker D: Yes, all of those things.

Speaker D: Also a joy because of the subject matter which is so close to my heart, and all the contributors of just being magnificent people, each bringing just a wealth of experience and information and insight into this really important subject.

Speaker D: So really a joy to do.

Speaker C: Where did the idea start in the inception of writing a book?

Speaker C: Clearly this might be a good place to say talk about values based education, something you've been involved in.

Speaker C: Was it a book that wrote itself because of the work you've done and seen or how did it start?

Speaker D: I guess it did, really.

Speaker D: The values based education is a principle, a philosophy to which I've been wedded for most of my teaching career.

Speaker D: Because it just seemed from my earliest days as a brand new teacher right through to now, to be just talking to the essence of what I think we're all trying to do in education, which is make and help children be brilliant.

Speaker D: So working with schools in a range of different areas, from a range of different starting points, sort of the magic of this work and how important it is to children, staff, parents, families.

Speaker D: So the book grew out of work that was already happening.

Speaker C: Right.

Speaker C: You've been a head teacher in a number of different schools and I think advisory roles as well.

Speaker C: So you could draw upon quite a bit of experience.

Speaker D: The idea for the book, for thinking about values through subjects is new, I think, and a little bit unique, if such a thing is possible, to have a little bit of uniqueness.

Speaker D: It was really in conversation with the wonderful Professor Mick Quarters, who used to head up QCA qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

Speaker D: He's a patron of values based dedication and was just talking through with him ideas that I'd been having that were growing rarely about how we marry the curriculum, the national curriculum that we have in schools with this work.

Speaker D: And it just seemed to me that the mainstay of our work is a possibility for furthering values based education and that it merited a really deeper look into the individual subject disciplines.

Speaker D: The whole idea, really just reasonably organic, grew from conversations with Nick, with Dr.

Speaker D: Neil Hawks, the founder of values based Education, and then a host of professionals on the ground, people who spent their lives immersed in this work and coming from a variety of different jobs and disciplines within education, which brought a tremendous richness to the book.

Speaker C: Yeah, I think that was one of the things that struck me about it was the nice mixture of both essay like chapters that were trying to well, there were people that believed in something values based education and were making the case for that, and other chapters which are like a kind of user's manual for values based education.

Speaker C: So you could look at subject by subject and you could say, well, and here's some really practical ideas.

Speaker C: So it is a mixture of users manual and making the case.

Speaker C: And I thought the case for, well, what is the case of values based education?

Speaker C: And this is going to be a tough one I really shouldn't ask you this really, but what is values based education?

Speaker D: I think it's something that brings together a number of different elements.

Speaker D: Really.

Speaker D: Essentially, I think it's about perhaps a heightened awareness about living through different values.

Speaker D: And in order to do that, there's a need for a conceptual understanding of the values, what they mean to us as individuals, how they how they bear out in relationship with others in the world that we're living in, and what they might cause us to reflect upon about all and every aspect of living.

Speaker D: So what they're definitely not is a fixed point.

Speaker D: And it's not about teaching children what different values are and how to behave, as much as helping to introduce them to values and helping them to see for themselves the deeper meaning that they have so that then children and adults alike can espouse them and use them for reflection.

Speaker C: If you identified what values you might hope to find in a school, you think things like compassion and kindness and tolerance and acceptance of diversity, those are the sort of ideas that you would expect you'd hope to see them in a school.

Speaker C: Was there a feeling on your part and the other authors, the other contributors to the book.

Speaker C: This book was timely because of external things.

Speaker C: I'm thinking of things like the Birmingham School Trojan Horse affair, the sense in which there's a radicalism it's a few years ago now, but the prevent and fundamental British values were upfront in the minds of teachers.

Speaker C: Was that any sort of context to what you're doing?

Speaker D: The context more greatly for me as a teaching head teacher in a smallish primary school, was about how we make the most of learning opportunities.

Speaker D: So I'm in the classroom every day teaching the national curriculum and I see for myself how deeply engaged children become when they have a personal and emotional response to learning.

Speaker D: I could also see and feel and hear the immense pressure that there is in the system nowadays to help children to achieve achieve well, to make the most of every single minute that we spend learning together.

Speaker D: And the feeling for me very strongly came from that sense of we can do more with our material.

Speaker D: And that's what I was hoping to show through the book, that actually each subject discipline carries its own possibilities, its own wondrous opportunities for delving, perhaps slightly more deeply in through a valued look.

Speaker C: Oh, yeah.

Speaker C: And one way you could use this book, definitely, I think, is if anyone comes across it, they're thinking whether or not they'd like to be a teacher.

Speaker C: You can't help but be infused by the well, by the enthusiasm that comes out of the pages of people who believe in something really quite old fashioned, almost.

Speaker C: Although the book is essentially quite innovative, I think it's quite an old fashioned idea.

Speaker C: And the reason I say that is because when I first one of the first schools I started teaching him was a school in Milton Keynes, the Stantonbury Campus School.

Speaker C: It was a very progressive it's under a head teacher called Jeff Cooksey who wanted to promote this.

Speaker C: A lot of the values I recognise as I'm reading through this and yes, of course, a creative curriculum across merging subjects together.

Speaker C: So they took art subjects and blended them together.

Speaker C: They had every ten days, they suspended the timetable for activities and so on, trying to embed in the students some of the features through the role model, the teachers, some of the features of values.

Speaker C: And it's definitely a highly values based sort of school.

Speaker C: So when I've read that, I thought, yes, I get this.

Speaker C: And the other context I was wondering was, are there things happening in education that have mitigated against that?

Speaker C: I mean, if I went back to that school now, they'd have uniforms and fences and elves going off regularly, in many ways it would have turned into something much more disciplined, much more standard and much more in line with what they think these customers that's the parents want to do.

Speaker C: In other words, schools are in competition with each other now and ofsted is going to turn up?

Speaker C: How does that mitigate against a values based, more fluid, creative sort of teaching?

Speaker D: I love the idea of our traditional values being innovative and sparkling and fresh and new.

Speaker D: So thanks so much for that comment.

Speaker D: I think it's about it comes back to being really proud to be in the profession that we're in.

Speaker D: And I think nowadays there's perhaps a prevailing sense that we can never do enough, never get it right enough.

Speaker D: And one of the things that I perhaps subconsciously wanted to show through this book is just how joyous teaching is, what an utter privilege it is to be working with children with whom we can share a journey.

Speaker D: And that's something that in talking through subjects, through values, can really come to the fore.

Speaker D: So for me, it's partly about utter enjoyment.

Speaker D: Let's make this the best experiences we can, both for teachers and for pupils.

Speaker D: I think having something like the very light framework of values based education brings for us a constancy to that philosophy.

Speaker D: So it's the thick and thin because every single day brings pressures, challenges, something that so easily steers us off course.

Speaker D: And I think having the philosophy of a values based approach just means that we can take a bit of a breath and just think, no, it's okay, we're doing good things, we're doing meaningful things, we're helping do amazing things.

Speaker D: So let's keep going.

Speaker E: This show is brought to you in partnership with John Cat Educational, a leading publisher of books, directories, educational guides and magazines specifically aimed at forward thinking schools in the UK and beyond.

Speaker E: Have you checked out their latest releases?

Speaker E: Don't miss out.

Speaker E: Visit Johncat to explore their full range of titles and advance your own professional development today.

Speaker E: Happy reading.

Speaker B: You're listening to the Friday break with John Gibbs on Teachers talk radio.

Speaker B: My guest this week, Bridget Knight, author of on the subject of Values and the Value of subjects.

Speaker B: New thinking to guide schools through the curriculum.

Speaker B: I think one of the reasons I liked your book so much was because I think it was a necessary corrective to some of the things I saw in my teaching career.

Speaker B: That there was, over the years, an increasing level of proscription from above.

Speaker B: And teachers were to some extent disempowered by a system which suggested that parents, as customers or experts or the government, or indeed just regular members of the public knew more about teaching than teachers themselves.

Speaker B: I think the low point was when Michael Gove described, I think it was 2013, the teaching profession as the Blob, a kind of unreconstructed public service, resistant to reform, luddite in its understanding.

Speaker B: And so your book, I think, rather brilliantly, is full of what I think anyone listening to this interview will pick up, is full of the kind of optimism and empowering belief in the power of teachers to do good.

Speaker D: Absolutely.

Speaker D: I recognise all those things that you've just described having also lived through them and observed them for others in our system too.

Speaker D: And the beauty of this in part is that it's not radical.

Speaker D: It's saying, let's use what we've got because we've got it's a national curriculum.

Speaker D: We're doing a national curriculum.

Speaker D: What we're doing is deepening and enhancing the learning for children.

Speaker D: And I really believe that because I see it in my own school, I see that a deeper, better connection.

Speaker D: And ofsted parents, teachers, children, we all want better, we all want best.

Speaker D: And I think this is simply signposting a route that helps us along that path and helps us stay along that path.

Speaker D: So that's why I've deliberately chosen examples of work that would come directly from the national curriculum and all the things that I know that all the schools across the whole country will be doing at some point, as well as a few others, just to show possibilities as well.

Speaker D: And they're tried and tested ideas.

Speaker D: So I've seen at firsthand how taking what many of us would consider to be usual lessons can just be just tweaked and polished, that little bit.

Speaker D: By focusing on this approach, it just brings more but it doesn't require more time, more planning, particularly more resources.

Speaker D: Necessarily.

Speaker D: It's just about an outlook.

Speaker D: And in saying just, it's beguilingly simple for quite a profound impact.

Speaker C: But I completely agree with you.

Speaker C: I think it is profoundly simple in a way.

Speaker C: If you went into a school, you saw some of the features that you identify in your book that teachers observe themselves as well models in their relationship with students.

Speaker C: Not just as in turning up work on time and wearing a suit, but modelling human relationships with students.

Speaker C: Politeness, kindness, empathy and a certain amount of playfulness in the school.

Speaker C: I liked one of the features in the book.

Speaker C: It says that schools should have a degree of joyousness about them, they should be fun.

Speaker C: There was a bit in your book which I think all teachers would recognise from their own experiences of being at school.

Speaker C: What bits of school you remember?

Speaker C: Well, I remember the trip we went on to the Lake District.

Speaker C: I remember that time we went all out to the school field in the sunshine and sat there and read stories.

Speaker B: One of the things my guest last week, Professor Yan German from UCL who's the professor of political socialisation one of the things he emphasised was the way in which all those extras the things particularly in relation to his area which was things like mock elections and debates easily find themselves cut out under the pressure of getting kids through exams Getting kids to learn the basics.

Speaker B: Achieving the basics can push out the fun, the enjoyment, the lightness, the joy that you're describing in education.

Speaker B: To what extent are you seeing that schools do believe in a values based approach?

Speaker D: I think this is the core of schools work.

Speaker D: I can't, in all honesty, comment on all schools everywhere.

Speaker D: What I can say is that in values based education we have a number of schools both in this country and across the world who just continuously astound us by their interpretation of the philosophy and exceed our wildest dreams in what they managed to achieve.

Speaker D: And they're led by inspirational leaders, but they're pupled by people who share the conviction and see it at firsthand and generate the values based approach.

Speaker D: It's really interesting is a complexity that in our education system, in the national curriculum, spiritual, moral, social, cultural elements are all prized.

Speaker D: They're not named as explicitly as they used to be in the national curriculum.

Speaker D: There used to be a delicious dual aim which talked about learning and talked about it being underpinned by SMSC aspects and personal social development.

Speaker D: But again, if you read the national curriculum with an intent to see where values, where these other elements come in, it's absolutely threaded through same as in the offset framework, same as in the science framework for church schools.

Speaker D: So it's there and what seems to be the choice is how much it's brought out the four.

Speaker D: What I always think with this work, it's about how much we make explicit and how much remains implicit has its place, but then how much can be a bit forgotten in the hurley burley as well.

Speaker D: There's no doubt about it, there's colossal amount of hurley burley in the school day in the weekend year.

Speaker B: In the chapter in your book written by Mick Waters, he examines the question of whether an inspection regime is compatible with values based teaching and a climate of accountability.

Speaker B: Whether that in some ways restricts or allows for values based teaching.

Speaker B: And as you've just acknowledged, and he states quite clearly that in the national curriculum and in the instructions for inspectors and in the statements by Amanda Spielman, there is plenty of scope for values based teaching and it's encouraged.

Speaker B: But of course it is to some extent a case of the medium being stronger than the message.

Speaker B: The message may be creativity and flexibility and diversity and all the values you'd hope to find in schools, but it's within a framework of punitive inspections and competition in which schools, as I've said.

Speaker C: Before I'm probably overdoing the point now.

Speaker B: Are set against each other.

Speaker B: And so in that sense, the dominant value becomes set by the framework of the inspection regime.

Speaker B: In a society dominated by, you call it an ideology of competition, it's difficult to teach and emphasise values of cooperation and collective spirit.

Speaker B: I have some horrible suspicion that somewhere at some point a school manager will be assessing teachers or students or outcomes on the basis of how they've achieved their enjoyment this term.

Speaker B: And although that's being a little bit cynical and maybe a little bit satirical about it, I suspect that there is a contradiction in our education system where outcomes are narrow and expectations are broad and that creates attention which I think a lot of teachers feel and possibly find impossible to meet.

Speaker E: This show is brought to you in partnership with John Cat Educational, a leading publisher of books, directories, educational guides and magazines specifically aimed at forward thinking schools in the UK and beyond.

Speaker E: Have you checked out their latest releases?

Speaker E: Don't miss out.

Speaker E: Visit to explore their full range of titles and advance your own professional development today.

Speaker E: Happy reading.

Speaker A: This is teachers talk radio and this is teachers talk radio news.

Speaker F: With the majority of pupils returning to schools this week, the new year has brought new announcements and new challenges for many in the education sector.

Speaker F: Government advice about illness and staying away from education settings if you're sick was shared and the issue of strikes remains a hot topic.

Speaker F: Pressures on school leaders continue with the Guardian reporting that many head teachers are broken, at risk of heart attacks and exhausted as a result of the erosion of services for children and families, meaning the burden of support is falling on the shoulders of schools too often.

Speaker F: So, as the new year begins on a dollar note than any of us might like, here are the top stories that have caught the eye of Teachers Talk Radio news this week in Manchester.

Speaker F: The Morning Star reports that students at one of the city's universities have launched a rent strike.

Speaker F: Students at the University of Manchester are using the strike to press their demands for an end to what they describe as extortionate rents and their requests for a 30% cash rebate.

Speaker F: Organisers say that more than 30 students per day are joining the protest, spurred by the combined effects of the cost of living crisis and poor quality accommodation provided at too high a cost.

Speaker F: According to the National Union of Students, half of England students are facing financial difficulty, with three quarters of these saying they expect this to have an impact on their studies.

Speaker F: A previous rent strike in Manchester in 2021 was successful and students hope to replicate this outcome in this new wave of action.

Speaker F: Every week reports on Of QUAL's decision to disband its committee of experts who advise on exam standards in favour of a more flexible approach on policy advice.

Speaker F: The Standards Advisory Group has been active for more than a decade and was set up to help the exam watchdog maintain standards.

Speaker F: Ofcqual confirmed that the committee will be replaced to reflect a broader remit such as expansions in vocational and technical qualifications and apprenticeships of qualifiers, criticism and upheaval over decisions and communication during the pandemic.

Speaker F: Deputy Chief Regulator Michael Hanton described the change as positive and will secure quality and fairness for all those who take and use qualifications.

Speaker F: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who recently announced his ambition to have all young people study maths to the age of 18, has faced a barrage of criticism about his plan.

Speaker F: The I newspaper reports that Robin Walker, Chair of the Commons Education Select committee feels that the PM should be focusing more on the early years sector to boost education levels.

Speaker F: Instead, he calls the maths plan highly challenging, citing the nationwide shortage of subject specialists as the biggest barrier.

Speaker F: Mr Walker, Conservative MP for Worcester and a former education Minister, highlighted issues around recruitment and retention, as people with maths qualifications are quite employable elsewhere, so it is a highly competitive market when it comes to drawing people into teaching.

Speaker F: He added that focus on the early years sector would be the most effective way of supporting children, describing it as embarrassing that England's child care system is rated so poorly compared to other countries.

Speaker F: The Eye also carries news of the decision by Catherine Verbal Singh to step down from her role as social mobilities are.

Speaker F: Ms Verbal Singh, once dubbed Britain's strictest head teacher, has made the surprise announcement because she believes she comes with too much baggage, going on to say that her propensity to voice opinions that are considered controversial puts the commission in jeopardy.

Speaker F: Ms Berbel Singh wrote of her decision in a column in Schools Week.

Speaker F: A controversial figure for many, but with an equally vociferous fan base.

Speaker F: Ms Berbel Singh also commented that she felt the role of social morbidities are meant, that she was becoming a politician, but that this was not a skill set she wished to develop.

Speaker F: Finally, ITV News reports on how parts of a Turkish Airlines plane have been delivered to a school in Alveston, south Gloucestershire, to be turned into a new library.

Speaker F: The project, named Flying High by Pupils, will see parts of the plane turned into a new outdoor reading area.

Speaker F: Full details can be found on the ITV website with artist impressions of the final project showing children and adults enjoying new space.

Speaker F: This has been your teachers talk radio news with Joe Fox.

Speaker A: This is two minute tech with Steve Woods.

Speaker A: Your tech briefing on Teachers talk radio.

Speaker B: Hello.

Speaker G: Did you know I've been doing this show for a year now?

Speaker G: Well, if you didn't, now you do.

Speaker G: So shower me in gifts and love.

Speaker G: I'm kidding.

Speaker G: But there is one person or group of people I want you to think about as this term draws to a close your tech support.

Speaker G: They may, in your mind, be the people that say no to a lot of stuff.

Speaker G: They may stop pupils playing games and stop a lot of the web getting into your classroom.

Speaker G: But they keep you, your data and your network safe.

Speaker G: This week, as some of us are off and others are desperate to be roll on Wednesday, spare a thought for your teching.

Speaker G: They'll be coming in over the break to patch and update.

Speaker G: They'll be taking those broken machines and making them work again.

Speaker G: These people who in most schools are like ghosts.

Speaker G: If Charles Dickens had had the privilege of tech support, they'd have been the spirits of modern day make doing men.

Speaker G: They wouldn't be draped in chains and padlocks but come bearing an endless acceptable use policy as you wind down or if you have already a thank you to your tech support will make your New Year that little bit easier.

Speaker G: Remember, next time you use tech in your lessons, everything is working because of them.

Speaker G: As always, I'd love to hear what you want to know about tech.

Speaker G: Let us know at TTR 2022.

Speaker G: I'm Steve Woods and that was Two Minute Tech.

Speaker G: Have a lovely break.

Speaker A: Two minute tech with Steve Woods.

Speaker A: Your tech briefing on teachers talk radio.

Speaker B: You're listening to the Friday break with John Gibbs on teachers talk radio.

Speaker B: My guest this week, Bridget Knight, author of on the Subject of Values and the Value of Subjects new Thinking to guide schools through the curriculum.

Speaker D: Personally, to be in a job where I find joy is the thing that keeps me vibrant, well and happy.

Speaker D: And again, to use that phrase, that's through thick and through thin because I've got meaning in my work and I can see that I'm creating, helping to create meaning for other people too.

Speaker D: And I think that's what we have to do, we have to find what is best, what's meaningful, what's lovely here and make that shine.

Speaker D: And that sounds idealistic and perhaps not like being in the real world, but I am in the real world and I work with colleagues who are also in their real world in a range of different contexts in their schools across the country, across the world and they're making great things happen.

Speaker D: To me that just seems so uplifting empowering and it's got it feels right.

Speaker D: Why wouldn't we choose to do this?

Speaker C: You said in a school, values will be overt and they'll also be visible.

Speaker C: If someone were to walk into your school or you were to walk into your school as an outsider and say well, I'm going to look for those things, where would they see the overt and the implicit delivery of values?

Speaker D: I hope the first thing would be that they would feel it.

Speaker D: I hope that they would feel, as I have done, going into other values based schools, almost tangible sense of warmth and nurture because those things actually do vibrate through the atmosphere of these schools and of many schools.

Speaker D: So I think that would be the first thing.

Speaker D: I hope that would be the first thing that any visitor would feel and that's shown in body language, responsiveness staff and children.

Speaker D: I hope that everyone walking through the school would feel a sense of greeting and a sense of welcome.

Speaker D: I hope that they would see beauty in the school because I think beauty is perhaps sometimes an underestimated element of what we're trying to do in our schools with our children.

Speaker D: So helping children to feel that they're in an atmosphere which really values them, values, values nature, values creative endeavour, values, the hard work, the hard grind that goes into creating wonderful things so beauty and joy together.

Speaker C: Is beauty and joy going to be something that's easier to locate in a primary school where you've got a natural inclination to put subjects together and to work on broad project work.

Speaker C: And you've got a sense in which the teachers are not going to lock in sort of specialist silos, and then off they go to secondary school and it's your math teacher, your English teacher, geography teacher.

Speaker C: These subjects are separate and less of a connection between the two and much and almost an implicit sense in which these are the skills for this subject, they don't really touch the other ones.

Speaker C: And this is what you need to do.

Speaker C: You leave this lovely, nurturing, caring atmosphere of primary school and end up in a big old world of subjects and you lose a lot of those connections.

Speaker D: And the idea that that's the real world, really, I think it's implied.

Speaker C: I think it's implied by our education system that you're leaving childhood in some philosophical sense and that your narrative journey through education is away from childhood to yeah.

Speaker C: The harsh realities.

Speaker C: I hope I've never said it, but I certainly have heard teachers say it, but if you want to get a good job, they'll say to a secondary school student, that's not the way to behave.

Speaker C: You'll never get employed at that thing.

Speaker C: And that feeling like one day you'll realise just how serious all this was and it wasn't fun at all.

Speaker D: Yeah, absolutely.

Speaker D: Well, now, I've seen some amazing secondary schools take this approach on and when they make it work, it's a real wow, because those schools exude all the things we've been talking about at scale.

Speaker D: It's really wonderful to see and it's wonderful to see the direct correlation between the culture, the thoughts and atmosphere and surroundings, and how the students seem to have absorbed and then reflect back.

Speaker D: So in their self confidence, in their equilibrium, in their sense of being really quite at ease with themselves.

Speaker D: And that is such a privilege to witness.

Speaker D: I think it's true to say we would dearly love that values based education, to see more secondary schools wanting to take on this challenge, because it is a challenge.

Speaker D: It is a challenge because it demands differently of us, because if we make a declaration, this is how we're going to be, but actually, it means that we do have a responsibility then to be true to it, to try our very best to live out what we're all talking about, otherwise, of course, there's no point.

Speaker D: So there is a challenge to it and courage is needed.

Speaker D: Passion and courage, yes.

Speaker B: I really agree.

Speaker B: I think that to be passionate about schools that are able to create meaning as well as transfer knowledge, that see themselves as more than simply instruments of the economy, that does require courage.

Speaker B: Especially, I think, when there are, as I talked about earlier, some countervailing pressures.

Speaker B: I remember in the.

Speaker B: Early 1990s, I taught at a school that had been led by and designed by a head teacher, an innovative head teacher called Jeff Cooksey, who, inspired by the progressive school movement and schools like Countersthorpe, created a school whose features have largely gone out of fashion.

Speaker B: There were no uniforms, there were no bells.

Speaker B: The teachers were referred to, addressed by their first name, even though that's commonplace in many parts of the world.

Speaker B: There were integrated subjects.

Speaker B: English and history and geography were all taught by the same teacher.

Speaker B: Sciences were amalgamated.

Speaker B: Since subject divisions are largely culturally derived any, in any case, they allowed for a kind of creativity and a kind of experimentation.

Speaker B: And a lot of the joy and fun that was found in that school at that time was challenged, I believe, over the years by a belief that it got in the way of producing acceptable levels of exam results.

Speaker B: Although it did.

Speaker B: Although the exam results were never bad, I think it was a fear that there was a lack of discipline.

Speaker B: And I suspect that as the 1990s turned into the new century, an increasing sense that children need to be disciplined and ordered said something about the wider society that we found ourselves living in.

Speaker B: So that school now, if we went back to it all these years later, you'd find there were bells and uniforms and fences and discrete subjects and so on.

Speaker B: And that was driven by, I think, a resistance to what was then progressive education.

Speaker B: What you're describing, therefore, I say, I would think does require some degree of courage.

Speaker D: Yeah, I think that's really interesting because our experiences is that where values based education, all the things we've been talking about, have been really vibrant at primary level.

Speaker D: There's been a surge upwards and a compulsion led by the pupils and their parents to influence the secondary level.

Speaker D: And in some cases it's happened that the primary school has encouraged the secondary school to work in this way because people have seen for themselves and felt for themselves its efficacy.

Speaker D: From everything I've seen, this way of working only serves to make academic standards, behaviour wellbeing, learning behaviours better.

Speaker D: None of this takes away from meditates against the other agendas that we work with in schools, which is all about turning everybody on to learning.

Speaker E: This show is brought to you in partnership with John Cat Educational, a leading publisher of books, directories, educational guides and magazines specifically aimed at forward thinking schools in the UK and beyond.

Speaker E: Have you checked out their latest releases?

Speaker E: Don't miss out.

Speaker E: Visit to explore their full range of titles and advance your own professional development today.

Speaker E: Happy reading.

Speaker B: What you've just said there about turning students on to learning reminds me of a guest who anyone who listens to this show will remember from a couple of weeks ago.

Speaker B: Dr Jennifer Chung at a lecture at UCL University, who carried out a study into the education system in Finland.

Speaker B: Now, Finland is very interesting because it has, according to the Pisa study, the Pisa system of comparing schools across the world, one of the best education systems in the world in terms of achievement and turning students onto learning.

Speaker B: And yet it has a very high degree of autonomy for teachers and a higher degree of freedom for teachers to be creative and be experimental and have the kind of light touch.

Speaker B: I think in many ways values based education would be seen as the norm in somewhere like Finland, which absolutely suggests, as you suggest, that there's nothing intrinsically oppositional to the idea of academic success, learning, achieving, and the kind of education system you're describing, or the kind of approach to education you're describing in a values based approach.

Speaker D: Yet this is the thing and I was just reflecting, as you were speaking, Don, about some students who have sort of kept in touch with us, having experience for themselves, a values based primary school, and have written and spoken very movingly about having held on to that philosophy through their own lives and how it's directly contributed to helping.

Speaker D: In one case, one of the students overcome some really quite deep mental health problems, in another case took her on her pathway to her particular career choice.

Speaker D: Children who have left us have spoken strongly about the sense of values that they take with them, even when sometimes it doesn't feel as though it's continued.

Speaker D: And the fire is not still a light, actually, it is still there because individuals are using it very privately to help them to navigate their course through life.

Speaker D: And of course, there's just a few examples that I've given there.

Speaker D: It would be fascinating.

Speaker D: We'd love to do a longitudinal study on the impact of this work all the way through people's longer lives.

Speaker D: But anecdotal evidence.

Speaker D: And the evidence before my very eyes, day by day, shows me that the subtlety of this should not be underestimated.

Speaker D: That there is a wisdom for being that arises from it, that there is a kindliness in the air, that there is a will to work, a will to put all our collective energy to the wheel, to make good things happen.

Speaker D: And I also know if that's sounding a little bit like a fairy tale now, I also know just how easily it vanishes.

Speaker D: So it's something that paradoxically endures because the children have said to me, it's in the very air we breathe, but it's quite easily lost if we choose to look away.

Speaker B: You're listening to the Friday break with John Gibbs on Teachers talk radio.

Speaker B: My guest this week, Bridget Knight, author of on the subject of Values and the Value of subjects.

Speaker B: New thinking to guide schools through the curriculum.

Speaker E: This show is brought to you in partnership with John Cat Educational, a leading publisher of books, directories, educational guides, and magazines specifically aimed at forward thinking schools in the UK and beyond.

Speaker E: Have you checked out their latest releases.

Speaker E: Don't miss out.

Speaker E: Visit to explore their full range of titles and advance your own professional development today.

Speaker E: Happy reading.

Speaker C: I think that's such a valuable point because teachers who have the experience of people saying, well, I remember your lessons and I remember your being at that school and it changed the way I thought about the world and that has been great for me.

Speaker C: And you think so?

Speaker C: Yeah, I'm very important to these people's lives and often the next year goes through the next year goes through us.

Speaker C: You don't necessarily see that result when even now and again, you'll meet someone ten years after that school and you realise how powerful you are and how easily you can lose it with that student in just a moment.

Speaker C: One cruel remark that they can remember when they're 50.

Speaker C: I can recall some nasty old things some teacher said to me once, and she thinks when I was at a primary school in the days and they saw hit children and so on, and that feeling that you can just blow it like that.

Speaker C: Especially if a student comes out of school having experienced cruelty or humiliation which was not unknown once in our education system, unfortunately.

Speaker D: Yeah.

Speaker D: And it stays with you, doesn't it?

Speaker C: It does.

Speaker D: We all have our own experiences or have met people who will say that so readily because it still burns.

Speaker D: And, yeah, that's not what we want.

Speaker D: So, yeah, our job is challenging and it doesn't seem to become any less challenging through the days and the weeks.

Speaker D: But for us, I think this way of working is the thing that not just keeps us going, but keeps us blossoming again.

Speaker C: Those things, they can sound like apple pie and sunshine, but it's, of course, school should be if there anything, let them be apple pie and sunshine.

Speaker C: Before we finish, I'd like to just talk to you a little bit about values.

Speaker C: Right at the very beginning, in the sense you addressed this and said, values aren't static, they would naturally change.

Speaker C: My father sat in a school and we're showing a map of the British Empire.

Speaker C: The map on the wall shows the north at the top and the south at the bottom.

Speaker C: In a sense, everything.

Speaker C: We're surrounded with ideological values that will undoubtedly express where we are right now.

Speaker C: No matter how persistently universal we think those values are, they will undoubtedly change.

Speaker C: So is there a sense in which, if they will, the government identifies universal British values, but they undoubtedly won't be universal in 50 years time?

Speaker C: Whatever those values are today, many of them will be there.

Speaker C: So is there a danger that we are asserting the dominant values of our era rather than something universal?

Speaker D: Yeah, that's a really interesting question.

Speaker D: I'm just thinking about just thinking in particular about the value of kindness, which I think when we talk about values in our school, almost all things that we say could distil into kindness and the effect of kindness has never been negative, I don't think.

Speaker D: One of the things perhaps we haven't talked about too much, about values, is this whole approach about critical thinking and establishing an ethical vocabulary that enables us to be both aware of and cognizant of nuance in life.

Speaker D: In terms of this approach, I think I said at the beginning, we don't say, look, this is what love means, this is an interpretation of peace, this is kindness.

Speaker D: Off you go.

Speaker D: It's all about looking at subject matter through that particular value and looking at the diverse and complex and paradoxical nature of the values.

Speaker D: So we might look at the value of care, for example, and think about how it pertains to caring for ourselves, caring for the people we love.

Speaker D: What do we need?

Speaker D: What do them we need to do?

Speaker D: Looking at caring more broadly in society, what does that look like?

Speaker D: Is there enough of it?

Speaker D: Where are the gaps?

Speaker D: Could we do more?

Speaker D: What are the systems in our society that help us to care for one another and taking a look at our laws and digital processes, charities, bodies that are set up to support us?

Speaker D: Caring, then, in the wider world, where is it happening?

Speaker D: Where isn't it happening enough?

Speaker D: Why isn't it happening?

Speaker D: How do we care ethically for people we've never met?

Speaker D: What can we do to be empowered in a way of caring?

Speaker D: How can that be borne out in our lives, actually?

Speaker D: Can care over be bad?

Speaker D: What about caring for things that maybe don't warrant care?

Speaker D: How does that come about?

Speaker D: So the span is enormous and the depth of critical thinking required, both on the part of the teacher and the pupils, is profound about enabling children to have a capacity for taking on unanswerables imponderables.

Speaker D: And how am I going to thread through all of this?

Speaker D: What do I think?

Speaker D: Which is a dynamic process, because none of us are at that point of there we are, then sorted, that I'm fine, it's an inconsistent vibration and the vibrations change in relation to what we're talking about, what's just happened, different people's opinions.

Speaker C: I would hate to live in a world where kindness wasn't valued, but I can see that within kindness there's a sort of implicit paradox.

Speaker C: I can't be kind to people who are unkind.

Speaker C: Should I be?

Speaker C: Should I be intolerant of intolerance?

Speaker C: I want people to have free speech but not shut fire in a crowded cinema.

Speaker C: All those things that are limits and will be ongoingly, negotiated by our society as time goes by.

Speaker C: So even if I flew off into the future in a time machine and found that things I thought were very entrenched and naturally common sense today were no longer believed, in fact, I should expect to find that society is constantly changing and evolving and renegotiating these values.

Speaker C: And that's the spirit, I suppose, isn't it.

Speaker C: The spirit of values is to be critical, you said.

Speaker D: It to be thoughtful.

Speaker D: To be thoughtful, thinking people, which gives agency both to our pupils and to our teachers.

Speaker C: I once had a part time job working one very low when I was a student working at the Working Man's College in Camdentown, and they had an archive of old photographs of art, class 19 two.

Speaker C: And so there they are, people sitting there in front of the easels, and there's a bowl of fruit, and they're sketching the bowl of fruit, and presumably the instructors walking around saying, bit of more shading there, a little less shading there.

Speaker C: I thought, well, yes, that is art.

Speaker C: Of course, it got to be the shading.

Speaker C: Shading is art, which I've been taught to draw properly.

Speaker C: But also you want to put up a painting, like Three Figures at The Foot of the Crucifix by Francis Bacon or something like that, and say, look at that.

Speaker C: What does that tell you about the essential nature of humanity?

Speaker C: And you say, Critically engaging with art is as important as sketching.

Speaker C: Although I wish I wanted to talk with a sketch.

Speaker D: Absolutely, absolutely.

Speaker D: It's to a responsible degree, embracing that the paradox of life, and offering to children a sense that you can have views and you can have insights and you can have opinions and you can be open to the world.

Speaker D: I think this is what we share with children when we share learning in this way.

Speaker D: It isn't a closed book, you don't need to be closed off from it, and you can experience the wonders of things.

Speaker D: That's a great gift for us as practitioners, and it's a great gift we can give to our students.

Speaker C: Well, I'm going to say that's a very good place to end, Bridget.

Speaker C: That's been an absolute delight talking to you about that.

Speaker C: It made me think about several aspects of my own career, and I think it's quite an uplifting, inspiring manual, by the way, if you're thinking teachers, listeners out there, if you want to look at this book, he's actually got lots of practical stuff in it as well.

Speaker C: Many thanks for your time.

Speaker D: It was a sheer pleasure to talk to you.

Speaker D: And you took so much genuine interest in the subject matter.

Speaker D: It was an absolute pleasure for me to talk to you, John.

Speaker B: And that brings you to an end.

Speaker B: Another episode of the Friday morning Break on Teachers talk radio with John Gibbs.

Speaker B: What are schools for?

Speaker B: My guests over the last few weeks have given me a number of answers to that question.

Speaker B: And this week, Bridget Knight and her book on the subject of values and the value of subjects led me to think rather more positively than I have been of late about the possibilities of education in schools.

Speaker B: This isn't just because a long teaching career will tend to mean that you see ideas that were once commonplace go out of fashion and then return as new ideas, but also because schools are such contested places of meaning and they reflect so many of the contradictions of our society.

Speaker B: But I don't think we can be reminded too many times of the necessity to see a kind of beauty and joy in what we do.

Speaker B: And although beauty and joy may be.

Speaker C: Not what you're thinking as you face.

Speaker B: The year nines on a Friday afternoon, it's still something worth striving for.

Speaker B: Looking further back to my childhood, I remember a particular occurrence when I was at primary school.

Speaker B: Primary school in the 1960s, must have been about 1967 or so, when a friend of mine I think his name was Graham, whose father worked in a local factory.

Speaker B: A byproduct of that work was the long, flexible stick made of something like plastic that Graham had brought into school that day.

Speaker B: Graham was running around the playground, whacking us on the back of the legs.

Speaker B: A teacher called Mr Pappa saw this and it became Mr Pappa's wacking stick, the thing he hit us with.

Speaker B: Mr Papa crunched our heads together if we were found in the changing rooms, pinched our ears, twisted our hair and hit us with his stick.

Speaker B: Years before, my mother, when failing to spell something correctly in class, was told to stand on the desk that the rest of the children could love.

Speaker B: It isn't so long that the idea that secondary school pupils in ordinary schools across Britain should find beauty and meaning and joy would have seemed hopelessly idealistic.

Speaker B: Or it's worth it a bit of a reminder.

Speaker B: I hope you've enjoyed this episode, and if you have, you can find it now on a podcast on multiple platforms, including Spotify.

Speaker A: You've been listening to teachers talk radio.

Speaker A: Tune in live and listen

Speaker A: We look forward to hearing from you.

Speaker A: Next time on Teachers talk Radio.

30 views0 comments


bottom of page