Can we all be positive?




[Executive Summary: Neil McLennan will share the rationale and learning gained from a wide-ranging exploration of character and values in Scottish education. A national conference was held on Character, Culture and Values in 2015 and from there a subsequent ‘Pathway Project’ Group was designed to work out a coherent plan of action. This led to a shift in thinking from ‘traditional’ forms of character education to a broader construction of ‘character development.’ The approach to making change has similarly taken a new approach.]

Today I travel to Dallas, a city wrenched by the atrocities there of over a week ago. Whoever would have thought that within ten days another such atrocity would occur. Horrific events are occurring the world over. Many of you will recall a recent blog post which was the paper I delivered at the UK Thinker of the Year awards on “Can we bring an end of global terrorism?” Amongst the solutions offered was education, as one would expect.

The conference I am attending next week is about bringing balance back to education between on one side, academics (attainment),and on the other side, character & well-being. In 1998 UNESCO offered a helpful definition of the purpose of schooling:-
Learning to know
Learning to do
Learning to live together
Learning to be

These could almost translate into:-
Knowledge and attainment
Skill development
Cooperative approaches
Health & Wellbeing, Values & Character Development

In Scotland we have done much to work towards parity of esteem in education between knowledge and skills. Cooperative learning is emerging but is no means embedded or consistent. However, are we doing enough for “being human”? Are we explicitly planning for character development or opportunities to consider, develop and learn about values? This is the perhaps next paradigm that needs attention and perhaps some balancing of approaches in Scotland.

Those attending my presentation at the conference might find the following useful pre-reading as it charts the journey of the Pathway Project & Lighting the Sparks report in Scotland. The group are looking at how we form education going forward in Scotland. We have inadvertently capture some of the things which seem to be universally wanted but for some reason are not filtering through in consistent every day practice. Hopefully sharing this with others will help spark conversations in other countries. Moreover, my own learning next week I hope will fan the flames we have already sparked. The time is right for change in education. The evidence is clear, the aspiration is there, the narrative is clear- all it needs now is combined action.The time to be doing something about character and values education could not be more appropriate as we start to consider not just ‘what kind of people does the world need’ but ‘what kind of world do people need.’

Character Scotland 2014 Conference Report:-

Gary Walsh, Lead Author “Lighting the Sparks” Report blog piece on Character Development:-

Gary Walsh International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement Paper:-

Key Sparks of the Report:-

Sparks 1Sparks 2

What has been so powerful about the Pathway Project/Lighting the Sparks group has been the collaborative and collective way in which diverse views have come together for common good. The groups work is only just at the beginning. This in itself is refreshing. Real and sustained change takes time, effort, buy in and willpower. At a recent CPD course the presenter suggested to make significant and sustained change in a primary school takes up to 5 years; a secondary 5-7 years and a city or local education authority 7-10 years.

Over the next week I am looking forward to hearing where everyone else on their change journey, learning lessons from around the world and hopefully sharing some of them via Scotland’s group of Character Development champions.

Keep an eye on twitter over the next day or two- I will be using the hashtag #SpeakingofValues


About neilsgleeeclub

Educator, writer, speaker and leader. Views are my own and not those of the organisations I work for or represent.
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