written by
David Wingfield

Why Values-Led Education Works

Thought Leadership 4 min read , May 24, 2021
Values-Led Education
Photographer: Element5 Digital | Source: Unsplash

By Mr David Wingfield, Headmaster of Eaton House The Manor Pre-Prep School

A decision to adopt values-led education puts educating the heart first. It seeks to organise every aspect of school life - academic, artistic and sporting, around a common set of values. The goal is for these values to become deeply embedded in the culture of the school over time. As Aristotle once said, ‘Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.’

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For a values-led education to be successful, everyone in the school community must communicate with each other. Staff and pupils have to model and champion the values the school has chosen. This means to use a well-known phrase, ‘walking the walk, not just ‘talking the talk’. By everybody in the school working together, values-led education seeks to underpin the more technical and practical elements of a child’s educational experience with moral purpose. It is not enough to educate the head; we need to educate the heart too.

Values-led education represents a step forward

Values-led education represents a step forward from the traditional, more authoritarian approach to influencing how children behave. Using a more traditional approach, the way children conduct themselves in school is simply ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Staff in a values-led school foster a culture in which certain values are embodied and celebrated by the community, providing the standard against which behaviour is evaluated.

The goal that is brought into view by this integration of values puts into context the work of the teaching staff in providing children with a thorough academic grounding. It is a goal that directs pupils’ emerging knowledge to noble ends rather than viewing it as an end in itself, preparing them to exercise integrity in societal roles that may not exist yet.

A continuous and emphatic focus on values-led learning habits is essential

In the Pre-Prep, a well-established approach that promotes values-led education is a continual and emphatic focus on ‘learning habits’, attributed to the qualities of various animal soft toys. The children enjoy meeting, among others, Ricky the resilient penguin, Popcorn the curious unicorn, and Lancelot, the courageous lion.

In assemblies, pupils may be awarded one or more ‘learning habits’ every week for academic and personal achievements. These awards allow me to inform all the boys how a pupil has demonstrated certain values, reinforcing positive behaviours. The awards expose all the boys to fresh patterns of virtue, with which they may learn to engage as a habit.

Building on this firm foundation, we extend the power of these values to provide benchmarks for good conduct. A good example might be the tendency of boys to run in the corridors. As teachers, we may frequently find ourselves saying ‘don’t run in the corridors!’. In a values-based school, we teach the boys the value of respect towards the building and other people to promote the benefits of walking - a subtle shift of emphasis and empowers boys to think about their choices.

Embedding good, healthy values over time is the hope and the belief that from small acorns, mighty oaks do grow.

The task of growing mighty oaks in school is an urgent one

The task of growing such ‘mighty oaks’ in schools strikes me as an urgent one, with the next generation of school leavers entering a faster-paced and more intricately complex society than ever before. Providing children with a secure grounding in universal values matters, and that’s where values-led education comes in.

Values such as tolerance, kindness, respect and empathy provide the next generation with a strong moral rock that will allow them to engage with the world and its challenges. An ability, as adults, to retreat from the noise, brashness and complications of our ‘always on’ world. Education led by values seeks to nurture a secure sense of self in pupils, allowing their future selves to ‘be still’ and exercise a critical distance from everything that competes for attention.

Led by values, our future leaders stand a better chance of finding space for compassion, kindness and generosity.

A grounding in values-led education is hopeful

This brief description of values-led education is indebted to Dr Neil Hawkes’s work. His vision sets out the need for schools to cultivate men and women whose grounding in values enables them to demonstrate hope and exercise transformational leadership in whatever sphere of life they may enter. Men and women who put people before profits and harness relationships to bring about positive change in society.

In a world where challenges include threats to human health, environmental decline and economic instability, the need has never been more pressing to cultivate a values-led mindset in the next generation - our leaders of the future.

Further information

Values-led education is an approach to education for schools and other settings. At its heart, its principles are simple yet have a profound impact on learners, schools and the wider community. The IVET Foundation is developing this new philosophical framework for education and has produced a helpful website where you can find out more.

Eaton House Schools - if you are interested in finding out more about our schools for your child, please contact Miss Sam Feilding, Head of Admissions on 0203 917 5050 or by email at sfeilding@eatonhouseschools.com if you have a general enquiry, please contact us at enquiries@eatonhouseschools.com.

Education Values Values-Based Education Schools Kindness Wellbeing for children Values-Led Education