Schools get ready for compulsory lessons in the new morality

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Ministers yesterday paved the way for compulsory lessons about moral values in schools. But, in approving a statement of agreed values as guidance, the Government was not seeking to prescribe a set of "Ten Commandments" which schools would be forced to follow, curriculum advisers said.

Following government approval of the values statement, devised last year by a 150-strong National Forum for Values in Education and the Community, schools will now pilot teaching materials based on the guidance.

Dr Nick Tate, chief executive of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA), which is leading work on values education, said that - if Ministers wished - the pilot would be taken into account in a review of the national curriculum due to start next spring for implementation in 2000.

He called on schools to use the statement of values as the basis for lessons promoting pupils' spiritual and moral development, adding: "The time has come for doing rather than saying - for a national push on values education in schools and for a concerted plan of action."

Though he dismissed the idea of an "A level in morality", Dr Tate said there were some aspects of pupils' social and moral developments which could be formally assessed and recorded.

However, SCAA is anxious to stress that work on the values statement is not intended to force schools to indoctrinate pupils in strict moral code.

The statement, which covers values relating to the self, society, relationships and the environment, was intended to represent a moral consensus on which society could agree.

The move to a clearer definition of moral education in schools was backed by schools minister, Estelle Morris. She said: "The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of our children is just as important as academic knowledge. We encourage schools to take forward SCAA's work in this area."

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, also wants to see the introduction of classes in parenting and citizenship in schools.

Self, relationships, society

Extract from the statement of values developed by the National Forum for Values in Education and the Community.

The Self: "We value ourselves as unique human beings capable of spiritual, moral, intellectual and physical growth and development."

Relationships: "We value others for themselves, not only for what they have or what they can do for us. We value relationships as fundamental to the development and fulfilment of ourselves and others, and to the good of the community."

Society: "We value truth, freedom, justice, human rights, the rule of law and collective efforts for the common good. In particular, we value families as sources of love and support for all their members, and as the basis of a society in which people care for others."

The Environment: "We value the environment, both natural and shaped by humanity, as the basis of life and a source of wonder and inspiration."