Schools 'need lesson in teaching morals'

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Education Editor

Schools should receive national guidance on how to teach pupils the difference between right and wrong, Dr Nick Tate, the Government's chief curriculum adviser will say today.

Dr Tate is expected to tell a conference of employers, teachers, academics, politicians and trade unionists that tolerance of different values has gone too far and that pupils must be given a firm moral lead.

The death of the London headmaster Philip Lawrence, he will suggest, highlights the need for society to support schools in teaching moral and spiritual values.

The good work of schools in encouraging pupils to learn self-discipline and team spirit through sport is undermined by parents on the touchline who abuse referees and the opposing team.

Teachers, Dr Tate will argue, are spending too much time on teaching "self-esteem" and too little on traditional moral values.

And he will attack the widespread view that "morality is largely a matter of taste or opinion", and that there is no such thing as moral error.

The School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, which Dr Tate heads, is inviting proposals for a list of values that schools should teach and society support. "There are some moral matters which should not he called into question," he will say in his speech.

A recent Mori poll showed that nearly half of 15-35-year-olds did not believe there were definite rights and wrongs.

Other research shows that many trainee teachers are so worried about being accused of sexism or racism, that they are unwilling to teach any values at all.

Dr Tate is concerned that personal and social education lessons may be promoting the view that there is no such thing as right and wrong by overemphasising self-esteem.

Controversially, he will also ask whether such lessons can be used to boost the two-parent family.

He believes that schools need guidance about what to teach on moral matters because of the decline in religious faith, which has weakened the hold of morality, and because people have tried to be less judgemental about others' views.

Too many schools are neglecting religious education, which is a vital part of moral education, he will argue.

Pupils are ignorant of rules such as the Ten Commandments, which used to be taught to children both at school and at home.

Dr Tate blames advertising and the materialism of the consumer for young people's failure to distinguish between morality and taste.

Leading article, page 14