‘JONK’ is an intriguing approach to improving children’s learning

‘The joy of not knowing’ might seem like an odd, even somewhat counterintuitive, statement to make in the context of a discussion about learning — after all, most people probably think about education in terms of the acquisition of knowledge — but it is at the heart of a learning-to-learn culture promoted by Marcelo Staricoff in his latest book The Joy of Not Knowing: A Philosophy of Education Transforming Teaching, Thinking, Learning.

‘The Joy of Not Knowing’, or ‘JONK’ — both the phrase and the acronym are capitalised and trademarked — is an approach to and philosophy of education developed over more than two decades by Marcelo Staricoff. After initially pursuing a career as a research scientist, he retrained as a primary school teacher, with a particular interest in finding out how children learn best.

His CV is highly impressive. He is described in the book’s opening pages as “the creator of the Joy of Not Knowing (JONK) approach, founder and director of JONK Thinking and Learning Ltd, a School Tutor in Education at the University of Sussex and an educational consultant, speaker and trainer working with schools nationally and internationally on applying the principles contained in this book … He is a Founding Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching (elected in 2019).”

In contrast to the traditional — and sadly all too prevalent — teacher-expounding-and-children-listening approach to learning, JONK promotes a learning-to-learn culture in the classroom. The difference in learning approaches is illustrated by one of Staricoff’s own examples (his book, though a contribution to academic debate, is also a practical guide and includes lots of ideas, strategies and case studies relevant to early years and primary settings):

When the plan is to teach children about an aspect of time – the concept of seconds, minutes, hours, days, telling the time, the 24 hours clock, digital time – the learning objective could be phrased as a statement, a question, or a philosophical question:

Statement – To be able to tell the time on an analogue clock.
Question – Can we learn how to tell the time using the hands on an analogue clock?
Philosophical – Does time exist?

By setting up the enquiry ‘Does time exist?’, children are drawn into a deeper understanding of the concept of measuring time than the traditional approach of ‘Here is a clock. What hour is the big hand pointing to?’ The factual knowledge is absorbed by the learners in the course of the Staricoff enquiry approach, but with the boredom element removed.

Staricoff himself notes: “The philosophical approach generates a great amount of motivation and interest as it presents the learning in a way that children find amusing, unusual and interesting as it makes them think in a completely different way about something they already know.”

The Joy of Not Knowing is certainly of relevance to anyone with an interest in aspects of the life-based learning approach. Engaging children’s natural sense of curiosity and desire to find things out, allowing them to try out possible solutions and search for answers in classrooms that are ‘communities of enquiry’, offers an intriguing and exciting approach to accelerating children’s learning.

‘JONK’ has the potential to take teaching teams on a transformational journey of understanding of their role as facilitators, providing inspirational learning by making it fun and stimulating for the children and for the adults too!

The Joy of Not Knowing: A Philosophy of Education Transforming Teaching, Thinking, Learning and Leadership in Schools by Marcelo Staricoff is published by Routledge, ISBN978-0-367-17272-5

Marcelo Staricoff features on our Changemakers page, a directory of education changemakers whose ideas on provision for primary-age children [5- to 11-year-olds] resonate with the life-based learning approach.

If you would like to be included on our Changemakers page, you can contact us here.

The Joy of Not Knowing

Click to go to the website

Life-Based Learning

Find out more

Changemakers

Our directory of changemakers in education

The image at the head of this article is by cherylt23 from Pixabay.

Two young women taking a stand against public sexual harassment

Our Streets Now is a grassroots campaign set up by two young women “demanding the right of women and girls to feel and be safe in public space”. Its aim is to end public sexual harassment in the UK by making it a criminal offence and to change “the culture that allows it”. Their petition to the government minister for women and equalities attracted 100,000 signatures in less than 100 days. Their efforts have since developed into a wider campaign for change, including a focus on what is taught in relationships education in schools.

Our Streets Now began with two sisters, then aged 15 and 21, who decided to take a stand against what they describe as the normalisation of public sexual harassment and the terrible impact that it has on women and girls. On their website they describe:

  • how they feel scared walking home at night
  • how they feel anxious in an empty train carriage
  • how they feel sexualised in their school uniform

One of the young women, Gemma, has described her first experience of public sexual harassment when she was still in primary school:

I was then, and am now, a child. I was walking down my local high street in broad daylight. A car slowed down beside me, and a man leaned out to make crude, sexual remarks about my body that I didn’t even understand. I don’t remember many things about being 11 years old, but this incident has stayed with me.

Gemma Tutton, Why I’m campaigning to make public sexual harassment a crime

Their website sketches out a framework for how to bring about change, combining education and awareness-raising with legislation to make public sexual harassment a criminal offence.

You can visit their website by clicking here.

The Our Streets Now campaign chimes with the aims of the life-based learning Relationships theme, which focuses on primary-age children learning how to form fulfilling, empathetic and lasting relationships based on dignity and respect. Children need to be learning about the basic building blocks of healthy relationships — awareness of body language and other non-verbal forms of communication; understanding the potential impact of the words we speak and the way we speak them; the universal moral imperative to treat others fairly — in their primary school years.

Relationships education has been compulsory in primary schools in England and Wales since September 2020. However, we argued in a recent post that relationships education needs to be a central focus of the curriculum if we are truly to bring about “a fundamental, irreversible and much-needed change in our culture”. That is why the life-based learning approach includes Relationships as one of nine themes that will drive all learning in primary school.

Read More About Relationships

Children need to be able to safely enjoy and learn through play

Children need to be able to safely enjoy and learn through play

Play has huge benefits for children and families. We have repeatedly highlighted on the Forum website its benefits for children’s ...
Two young women taking a stand against public sexual harassment

Two young women taking a stand against public sexual harassment

Our Streets Now is a grassroots campaign set up by two young women “demanding the right of women and girls ...
Bringing about cultural change needs new and radical thinking

Bringing about cultural change needs new and radical thinking

The disappearance and death of Sarah Everard has propelled the issue of women’s safety to the top of the public ...

Effective learning needs a positive dynamic between teacher and pupils

Many of us have fond memories of comics like the Dandy and the Beano. Fans of the latter will doubtless have enjoyed reading about the mischievous antics of the Bash Street Kids and their fun and games with Teacher. The worldview was a static one; the portrayal of school life timeless. Indeed, a quick glance at some recent storylines suggests that nothing much has changed even today, more than 60 years after the Bash Street Kids first appeared.

The wooden desks and blackboards depicted classrooms as they were in the 1950s. I remember three adults who appeared regularly. One was the headteacher, who was (of course) male. Another was Cook, who was (of course) female.

The third was Teacher, as much a lead character as the Bash Street Kids themselves. Although Teacher himself was a figure of fun, his mortar board and cane symbolised an approach to learning that was also very much of its time: the omniscient authority figure dispensing knowledge to pupils who were expected to silently take it all in. It was, literally, ‘chalk and talk’. To question the teacher was to cross a line. The cane was not just part of the costume. It had a real and painful purpose.

You might argue that the last few sentences are as much a caricature as the Bash Street Kids comic strip itself. Of course it is the case that many children in the past benefitted from wonderful teaching delivered by caring, humane and inspirational practitioners. Sadly, however, what I described really was the reality for many of us. I still remember one particular teacher terrorising the primary school class that I was in. We were just 9 and 10 years of age, and we lived and learned in constant fear of her strap.

Education, of course, isn’t static at all. I explored in a recent post how teaching has changed over the decades. Part of that change is the growing awareness that the emotional dynamic in the classroom really matters. Progress in learning depends on children feeling safe, welcomed and valued by the teacher.

Life-based learning fully embraces the idea of establishing the right emotional climate for learning so that children are relaxed and ready for learning. It is one of six brain-targeted teaching strategies I wrote about here.

Teachers need to model the way we want children to interact with each other. This means unconditional positive regard, taking a calm, consistent and collegiate approach in the language used, tone of voice and body language.

The consultancy Pivotal Education offers training for teachers in consistent and calm adult behaviour. The Pivotal approach includes scripted interventions to help manage difficult situations calmly and restorative follow-ups to help repair and rebuild damaged teacher-pupil relationships.

Relationships is one of the nine life-based learning themes through which the Forum for Life-Based Learning believes the individual subjects of the UK National Curriculum should be taught, in order to equip children with the knowledge, skills and values to tackle the challenges they will meet as adults.

The Relationships learning theme arms children with key skills as they begin to construct an ever-expanding web of relationships at home, in school and in the wider world, including — ultimately — the workplace.

Read More About Relationships

Children need to be able to safely enjoy and learn through play

Children need to be able to safely enjoy and learn through play

Play has huge benefits for children and families. We have repeatedly highlighted on the Forum website its benefits for children’s ...
Two young women taking a stand against public sexual harassment

Two young women taking a stand against public sexual harassment

Our Streets Now is a grassroots campaign set up by two young women “demanding the right of women and girls ...
Bringing about cultural change needs new and radical thinking

Bringing about cultural change needs new and radical thinking

The disappearance and death of Sarah Everard has propelled the issue of women’s safety to the top of the public ...

History is a great way to develop children’s sense of community

As the reaction to the government’s announcement last month that it was planning to legislate to protect public statues from removal “on a whim or at the behest of a baying mob” shows, history is capable of stirring the emotions like no other academic subject (though religious education sometimes comes a close second). It is no surprise then that changes to the history curriculum in schools, such as those brought in by Michael Gove when he was education secretary, always provoke impassioned debate.

Part of the problem is that it is difficult to avoid politicising the debate about the teaching of history. The left is quick to accuse right-wing proponents of change of seeking to impose a whitewashed curriculum made up of a ‘greatest hits’ of Britain’s past glories, taught by rote. The right, meanwhile, speaks of inbuilt left-wing bias and a preoccupation with ‘woke’ issues like protest and identity, often conflating its criticisms with accusations of ‘trendy’ teaching methods that have undermined standards.

The study of history should give children a sense of what makes British society what it is today and their place in it. Through history children develop an increased sense of belonging, an understanding that they are part of something that is bigger than their close circle of family and immediate neighbours.

Life-based learning promotes the study of history through the lens of community. History helps children to identify with their community and to appreciate the benefits of community. As a result, they are more likely to be motivated to become active citizens, contributing to the making of history by sharing in the life of the community, joining in community activity and looking out for others in need of care and support.

Through the study of local history, children learn about things that have made their community what it is — the events that shaped it, the movements of people in to and out of the community, and the development of work and leisure opportunities and features of interest in the area over the decades and centuries. Through national history, meanwhile, children explore national and international events that shaped the community, particularly times when people have pulled together in the face of adversity.

Life-based learning was first developed as a response to weaknesses in the National Curriculum. Community is one of the nine learning themes of life-based learning. It is an attempt to deal with our lack of social cohesion, with too many young people alienated, lacking a sense of purpose in their lives and contributing little to society in consequence.

The use of the ‘community’ concept to frame learning in history, social geography and citizenship deepens children’s understanding of — and strengthens their commitment to — society.

Read More about Community

School-led reforms to improve levels of engagement and interest

School-led reforms to improve levels of engagement and interest

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Involving the community can enhance and enrich children’s learning

Involving the community can enhance and enrich children’s learning

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People want to see a closer, more connected society, says report

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The image at the head of this article is from the Wikipedia page of the International Slavery Museum, which is in Liverpool. The author is identified as Rept0n1x

Brain-targeted teaching is a bold new approach in the classroom

Children are not progressing well enough in their learning either to maximize their individual potential as human beings or to meet the collective requirements of a modern economy. We need to see dramatic improvements in the progress that children make in their learning. This requires bold thinking and innovative approaches to teaching and learning. The Forum for Life-Based Learning supports one such approach that is centred on teaching children the way the brain learns — ‘brain-targeted teaching’.

An online article, 6 Targets to Teach the Way the Brain Learns, sets out the basics of the brain-targeted approach in an accessible way, linking insights from neuroscience to actual classroom practice. It summarises a framework developed by Dr Mariale Hardiman, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in the USA.

The six targets (in simplified, non-technical terms) are:

  • Establishing the right emotional climate for learning so that children are relaxed and ready for learning
  • Paying attention to the physical learning space
  • Designing learning so that children connect old and new information
  • Teaching for ‘mastery’ of a topic so that children begin to store information in long-term memory
  • Encouraging children to be creative, especially with new information they have acquired
  • Helping children to evaluate their learning, particularly through assessments that give them useful and timely feedback

Although we may agree or disagree on the particular ‘targets’ (something that I will return to in future posts), it is the overall approach that I wish to draw attention to here — one that is informed by the way that the brain works.

The Forum for Life-Based Learning believes that we need to reform the school curriculum for young children. The Mind is one of nine learning themes — each with equal priority — through which we believe the individual subjects of the UK National Curriculum should be taught, in order to equip children with the knowledge, skills and values to tackle the challenges they will meet as adults.

By harnessing learning to the way the brain learns, life-based learning brings a crucial new dimension to children’s education. It is by working the way the brain learns that children will make accelerated learning progress.

The Mind

Click to read more about the life-based learning Mind theme

Brain-Targeted Teaching

Visit the brain-targeted teaching website

An Urgent Priority

Why we need a long-term strategy around learning and the brain

Image at the head of this article by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Showing children how we form strong bonds is vital for social vibrancy

The breakdown of relationships — in our personal and working lives — is a major cause of stress, anxiety and mental ill-health, all of which are on a seemingly inexorable rise. Modern living is driving people apart. Yet quality of relationships is at the heart of human existence.

Figures published by the charity Relate in September 2020 lay bare the impact of lockdown on people already struggling in their relationships. However, as in so many areas, the Covid pandemic has merely exacerbated and exposed pre-existing problems, concerns and inequalities.

The health of our relationships is a long-term issue. We need to address the difficulties in maintaining positive personal and workplace relationships in a rapidly changing world. The Forum for Life-Based Learning believes that how we teach children and what we teach them are both essential to making a difference in the long run.

All relationships between two or more people — from family and friendship circles to school- or work-based connections and even everyday fleeting encounters, say between two strangers in a shop — involve action, reaction and interaction.

In the context of the school classroom, the teacher provides the action, the pupils react and between the two there is interaction.

For the interaction to be positive, it needs to be seen by the teacher and by the pupils as of benefit to both — in other words, that the outcome is a ‘win-win’.

The best teaching ensures that everyone in the class is a winner, including the teacher. Children learn the key concept that ‘win-win’ is good for everyone involved.

Win-win requires the nurturing of basic social competencies such as cooperation, empathy, adaptability and responsibility. It encompasses positive attitudes and values, and the universal moral imperative to treat others fairly and with respect.

The Forum for Life-Based Learning believes that we need to reform the school curriculum for young children. Relationships is one of nine learning themes — each with equal priority — through which we believe the individual subjects of the UK National Curriculum should be taught, in order to equip children with the knowledge, skills and values to tackle the challenges they will meet as adults.

The Relationships learning theme aims to equip children with key relationship-building skills as they begin to construct an ever-expanding web of relationships at home, in school and in the wider world, including — ultimately — the workplace.

Relationships

Find out more about the Relationships learning theme

Life-Based Learning

Learn more about what life-based learning involves

An Urgent Priority

Why we need a long-term strategy to tackle relationship breakdown

Image at the head of this article by CDC on Unsplash.

How were you taught when you were in primary school?

How often do we hear people say that our schooldays were the best days of our lives? It’s a cliché, of course, evoking a sense of a happy and carefree time before the demands and responsibilities of adulthood weighed down on our shoulders. But I wonder how many of us look back with fondness at what actually went on in the classroom itself, and in particular at the way we were taught.

Which of the following approaches to learning do you recognise from your days at primary school? And which do you perhaps feel you most missed out on?

(1) Did your teacher have you repeating things over and over as a way of getting you to remember them?

When I was 10-years-old the teacher made us repeat the following sentence ad nauseam: “The numerator is on the top line; the denominator is on the bottom line.” When I was studying for my O levels — nowadays they call them GCSEs — at age 16, the teacher of French would ask each student in the class, one by one: “Que préfères-vous? Ce crayon ici, ou ce crayon là.” And each student would reply with which pencil they preferred — in French, of course.

Teachers still teach by repetition, but perhaps not in such obvious ways. Maths is often taught by setting lots of examples of the same type of sum to solve. In this learning approach the teacher teaches from the front of the class and does most of the talking.

(2) Or were you taught to learn the way the brain learns?

This is where you reflect on the learning process: knowing what the learning task is; thinking about what senses are picking up the information; aware of using your short-term memory in keeping information in mind just as long as you need it; keeping your attention focused; manipulating information to complete the task; and finishing the task in such a way that you will remember what you have learned.

In this approach the teacher helps the learner to understand the different levels at which the brain works and encourages practice of each. You become a genuine self-learner.

(3) Or were you a ‘constructor’ of knowledge, establishing what you know already, for example about Norman castles, and building on your knowledge?

In this learning approach, you are in charge of the learning, perhaps working with other learners, sharing knowledge, establishing shared questions and finding out together. The phrase ‘pupil as teacher’ comes to mind. The learning frequently starts with a discussion of what is already known and builds from there; this includes identifying known vocabulary and extending it.

The teacher is actually more of a facilitator than a teacher — acting as a learning guide and scaffolding the learning, for example by raising questions about Norman castles and encouraging discussion of the meaning of words about castles.

(4) Or were you aware of the teacher putting you at the centre of the learning, making sure you were comfortable in your learning and valuing you for your efforts?

In this approach the teacher considers the emotional connection to learning. It is important that the pupil has a good environment to work in and is comfortable in the learning space. A sense of belonging and positive self-esteem are also important for effective learning to take place. See Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for more about this. Children who are uncomfortable in their environment, disengaged with schooling and lacking self-esteem are not in a good learning space.

So, which style of teaching most applies to when you were at school? And which one did you most miss out on?

How children learn is so important to the life-based approach to learning that it devotes one of its nine life themes solely to children making best use of their brains. In the Mind theme, children are taught a combination of 2, 3 and 4 above:

  • learning the way the brain learns
  • constructing their learning from what they know
  • ensuring they feel comfortable in their learning environment, whether in school or studying at home

Learning by rote and repetition are not a feature of life-based learning. This does not mean that children are discouraged from learning the words of songs or poetry. It means that the emphasis is on the learner leading the learning, not the teacher. The teacher spouting from the front of the class for extended periods of time is a no-no! And yet I would guess that this is the way most of us were taught when we were at school. Too much of it still goes on today.

My thanks to Denicia Padgett for her article outlining the behaviourist, cognitive, contructivist and humanist learning theories: Learning Theories: Understanding the 4 Major Ones for the Classroom.




Image at the head of this article by Vlad Vasnetsov from Pixabay.




Change children’s school education and you change the world

Life-Based Learning, focus of the Forum’s most visited webpage, gives meaning and purpose to education.

The central idea of a life-based approach is that young children’s learning is delivered through nine life themes. The context of the proposal is England where life-based learning (LBL) was developed. The reference for LBL is the National Curriculum in England for 5- to 11-year-olds. However, LBL is an alternative in all countries which run similar curriculums across a similar age range.

LBL talks about ‘nine life themes’. Teachers will know — and I have a lifetime experience as a teacher — a ‘theme’ has connotations of a ‘topic’, or a ‘project’. A topic is where you bring together aspects of different subjects, without fundamental change to the purpose of education, as a bunch of subjects to be learned.

A typical example of a topic is ‘Fairtrade Fortnight 2021 bringing together National Curriculum subject aspects of geography, science, environmental studies, food and nutrition (part of the design and technology subject) and the theme of citizenship.

The topic approach to learning is a great way of learning and the theme ‘Fairtrade is engaging and important learning.

However, LBL is much more than the word ‘theme’ implies.

LBL is a shift of curriculum focus to children learning about themselves and looking after themselves [Self]; interacting more effectively with other people [Society]; and improving their understanding and sensitivity to the environment, leading to sustainable living [World].

This adoption of the three areas of life as the principal purpose of education requires reviewing all content, learning and assessment in a fundamentally different way to the establishment National Curriculum view of education.

A major feature of LBL is the determination of curriculum content by the life purposes attached to it.  

For example, the key life theme of society/citizenship gives greater purpose to children learning the history of what makes Britain today, how communities functioned in the past and how communities function now. The content of the history curriculum would be adapted to reflect the change in emphasis. Children’s understanding of community would be enhanced by the learning.

For example, the key life theme of sustainability gives greater purpose to children learning science in the context of the environment, such as the properties of water looked at in the context of global warming. Children’s learning and motivation to learn would be enhanced by children seeing a purpose to the learning.

For example, the key principle of children learning how the brain learns has implications for teacher training and teachers’ ability to facilitate learning. The implications for children are considerable as the brain is unlocked by the application of cognitive science learning.

Full consideration of the child’s physical, emotional and thinking life would additionally impact on the current norm-referenced examination system and first-past-the-post syndrome. The current system of assessment squeezes the initiative out of learning. It acts against society’s best interests to have an educated population for the contribution it can make to society more broadly and to meet the increasing demands of commerce and industry.

I have attempted to set out the study action areas for the nine life-based themes in an indicative curriculum that I have referred to as MAC (Merged Action Curriculum).

I have to say, the key word is indicative. Much more work has to be done to flesh out what a life-based curriculum would look like.

I’ll finish with this point:

LBL is not about doing away with the subjects of the National Curriculum. It is about realigning the subjects into more relevant ways that meet not only children’s learning needs in our rapidly changing world, but also the urgent challenges facing societies and environments at home and around the world.

The opportunity to take a life-based approach to learning is there for the taking. The country that truly does this will be a world leader, a beacon of light for the rest of us.

Your comments, points for discussion and disagreements are welcomed and needed.

Thank you.

Michael Mac
Author, ‘Life-Based Learning’

Life-Based learning

Find out the list of the nine Life-Based Learning themes

The National Curriculum

Find out the list of subjects making up the National Curriculum

MAC

Proposed new curriculum – indicative study-action areas for development

Our schools can help us to tackle the loneliness epidemic

The loneliness epidemic is emphasised by the hands of an old person. Many old people live alone and isolated.

As my website article ‘Fragmented Communities’ makes clear, our communities are in trouble. Fixing them is an urgent priority. Too many lives are blighted by prejudice, discrimination, intolerance, violence and anti-social behaviour. Perhaps receiving less media attention but no less socially destructive is the impact of loneliness, isolation and separation. We have a loneliness epidemic.

Social isolation is a reality in every neighbourhood. It affects the young and the old alike, as well as everyone in between. The Jo Cox Commission claimed that loneliness “is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and affects nine million UK people.”

The demographics don’t help. As the number of older people increases, so does the number of people living alone following the death of a partner. More than two million people in England over the age of 75 now live alone.

Being alone does not necessarily mean loneliness, of course. However, as the Jo Cox Commission makes clear, loneliness is an urgent problem for many, one amplified by the Covid pandemic. In November the BBC reported that more than four million people were “always or often lonely”.

The solution is neither quick nor easy, but — as I argued in a recent post — any long-term strategy to build stronger communities must involve looking at what we are teaching children in school. Today, more than ever, we need to raise the profile of community education, contributing to the work of repairing what is broken and building stronger communities in the longer term.

There is much good practice already taking place. In many areas, schools are the beating heart of the local community. We need to go further, using the curriculum to educate children in how to contribute positively to their community, as well as promoting community values of trust, respect and interdependence.

For example, we could adopt a more systematic approach to developing links between schools and those who are at greatest risk of isolation and loneliness, something that is surely more practicable that ever in this age of digital interconnectedness.

The Forum for Life-Based Learning advocates the introduction of a life-based curriculum for primary-school children, with ‘Community’ as one of nine equal themes through which all subject learning can be delivered.

Community

Find out more about the Community learning theme

Life-Based Learning

Learn more about what life-based learning involves

An Urgent Priority

Why we need a long-term strategy to tackle community breakdown

Image at the head of this article by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

Let’s not squander young children’s natural love of reading

Children's love of reading is depicted by the image of the young child in bed using a torch to read under the duvet.

Children’s love of reading needs to be fostered and cherished.

Many of us doubtless have fond memories of hiding a torch under the bed covers at night — blankets rather than duvets, for those of a certain age. Off went the bedroom light as we pretended to settle down to sleep; after all, it was important to be bright and alert for school the next day. On went the torch as we used its flickering light to enjoy a few more precious moments with a favourite book or comic.

Nowadays, children are probably more likely to use the light built into a mobile phone rather than an actual torch. But the time-honoured ritual is the same and the reasons behind it are the same as well. Children love stories, they are innately curious and inquisitive, and they also possess a wide-eyed willingness to accept and embrace — rather than fearing and shunning — what is new and unknown.

That is why, from a very young age, children love to read.

And yet, when we look at reading or indeed other key aspects of communication — written, verbal, mathematical — we find that the evidence of the government’s own figures indicates that too many of our children are not meeting agreed minimum standards.

Something is lost somewhere along the way. We are letting our children down.

Proficiency in writing, numeracy and especially in reading is perhaps more important than ever in this digital age. For many of us, the internet is the go-to place for information, advice, opportunities for networking, shopping and work. We also have access to an inexhaustible supply of fiction and non-fiction reading material on every subject imaginable, much of it online.

Communication is one of nine learning themes — each with equal priority — through which we believe the individual subjects of the UK National Curriculum should be taught, in order to equip children with the knowledge, skills and values to tackle the challenges they will meet as adults.

Nurturing the ability of 5- to 11-year-old primary school children to read and write remains at the heart of the life-based learning approach. It harnesses the power of reading and writing across all subject areas, as well as developing skills in other means of communication.

Children’s learning is improved through vocabulary building, phonics and a structured and committed approach to teaching. Children are encouraged to delve into Britain’s rich literary heritage and historical narrative for the social understanding and sense of belonging such reading provides.

Communication

Find out more about the life-based learning Communication theme

Life-Based Learning

Click here to read more about the life-based approach to learning

An Urgent Priority

Why we need a long-term strategy to improve communication

Image at the head of this article by Amberrose Nelson from Pixabay