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Soul is neglected, says schools report

14 March 2014

SHUTTERSTOCK

SCHOOLS are sidelining education in personal values and cultural understanding because of examination pressures and the need to respond to new government initiatives, a new report from the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) says.

The report Schools with Soul, published on Tuesday, concludes that spiritual, moral, social, and cultural (SMSC) education, a legally required aspect of the school curriculum, is being increasingly neglected, particularly among the 14-plus age group. It blames the neglect largely on a "constantly changing terrain of policy initiatives".

The report pleads for a 12-month moratorium on new initiatives during the academic year 2015-16, which should, the RSA says, be designated "a year of reflection" to give schools time to refocus on their core purpose and vision.

Schools have been obliged to nurture the spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development of their pupils since the 1944 Education Act. SMSC is not a separate subject, however, but is taught across the curriculum, mainly through the humanities and creative arts, but also in maths and science lessons, which are seen as important for developing broad cultural awareness.

The marginalisation of religious education, often perceived as essential to SMSC, exacerbates the problem.

The report is largely based on in-depth discussions with head teachers and staff at a range of schools, and teacher-trainers, and through the detailed analysis of OFSTED reports. It argues that the overcrowded syllabuses, and increased pressure on schools to achieve better exam results, have pushed wider values to the margins.

"Just at a time when SMSC may have most to contribute to both formal attainment and to wider outcomes in and beyond the school, it is losing prominence, and given neither space nor high value," the director of education at the RSA, Joe Hallgarten, said this week.

The RSA's investigation was backed by four charities, including the RE research organisation Culham St Gabriel's Trust, whose director, Dr Mark Chater, promised support for measures to strengthen understanding of SMSC education.

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