Blog

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

A new report suggests that a strong community spirit has been forged during the Covid pandemic and that nearly three-quarters of people would like society to be closer and more connected in the future.

The report, called Our Chance to Reconnect, was published by Together, which describes itself as “a coalition that everyone is invited to join, from community groups to some of the UK’s best known organisations. Our aim is to bring people together and bridge divides, to help build a kinder, closer and more connected society.”

One of the report’s five foundations for a more connected society is education. It talks of workplaces, schools and colleges as places “where people are most likely to meet and mix with others who are different to themselves” and of the importance of “community-minded employers and schools”.

A proposal to re-energise citizenship education includes this call:

Children’s understanding of democracy, our political institutions and what it means to be a citizen should be deepened; they should also learn about civil political debate. We should encourage greater civic participation and volunteering among people of all ages, and greater contact between people from different backgrounds.

Our Chance to Reconnect, executive summary, page 10

The report cites a poll finding that 73% of people would like society to be closer and more connected in the future. One of the ten changes that the report says people want to see is “a new, country-wide moment [sic] that celebrates communities and what we have in common.”

This is to be applauded. We need stronger communities, and the way to strengthen them is by tackling community breakdown and fragmentation. We all have a role to play — including schools.

The Forum 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. This includes:

Visit the Together website

Visit the website of the Together coalition

Our Chance to Reconnect

Read the executive summary of the report

An Urgent Priority

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

The image at the head of this article is from @togethercoalit, the Twitter feed of the Together organisation.

An idea for post-Covid education catch-up points the way forward

Dynamic, thriving communities are the bedrock of society. We urgently need to address the issue of community fragmentation and to strengthen social cohesion. One way to do this is by promoting community mindedness — and schools have a key part to play.

Schools are themselves living, breathing communities. Every day is an opportunity for children to learn about how communities operate.

We have argued elsewhere about the need to use the curriculum to promote community values of trust, respect and interdependence, and to educate children in how to contribute positively to their community.

But we can also be much more ambitious in how we involve the community in the education of children. Our communities are a priceless educational resource, a vast fund of local expertise, talent and enthusiasm. A recent letter in the Guardian newspaper gives a flavour of what is possible:

If we had someone with imagination as secretary of state for education, we would be looking forward to a summer of active, creative and inspiring activities for our youngsters. They would harness the skills of under-employed actors, writers, artists, musicians and technicians to run a festival of learning away from Zoom and textbooks. They would pay the outreach teams at museums, art galleries and theatres to restart their best projects. They would work with the community branches of sports clubs up and down the country to develop children’s physical and mental fitness.

They would fund conservation groups, ramblers, wildlife trusts and city farms to extend their work with young people and get them out into the open spaces of towns, cities and countryside. They would recognise that you can learn and “catch up” with the help of people other than a tutor. They would value teamwork and collaboration as much as individual learning and competition for exam results.

Rob Watling, Guardian letter, 27 February 2021

One doesn’t have to share the author’s obvious disdain for the current education secretary to see the merit in what he proposes. Brilliant ideas and innovations are sometimes conceived in the most challenging of circumstances. This particular letter was written in response to the government’s announcement about post-Covid catch-up for the nation’s children, who have missed months of quality face-to-face education. However, the underlying concept — that we harness the expertise and goodwill of the community around us to enhance and enrich children’s learning — is worthy of consideration for the long term and is at the heart of life-based learning.

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. It is an attempt to address 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.

Read More About Community

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

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

A new report suggests that a strong community spirit has been forged during the Covid pandemic and that nearly three-quarters ...
History is a great way to develop children’s sense of community

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 ...
Award-winning school scheme shows life-based learning in practice

Award-winning school scheme shows life-based learning in practice

A year ago the Guardian newspaper reported on a primary school in Essex that won a national dementia award for ...

Image at the head of this article is from the website Artists in Residence.

Watch our new video to find out about emotions learning

Please take a minute to watch our presentation on why we urgently need a focus in schools on learning about emotions and what an emotions learning programme would involve for children aged 5 to 11.

More About Emotions and Mental Health

Millions feel the mental and physical benefits of regular exercise

Millions feel the mental and physical benefits of regular exercise

More evidence has been published highlighting the benefits of running and jogging not just for physical health but also for ...
Birdwatching is a great way for children to learn more about nature

Birdwatching is a great way for children to learn more about nature

Birdwatching is an activity for all ages and interest in ‘twitching’ is on the increase. The Forum for Life-Based Learning ...
Act early on children’s mental health, says new report

Act early on children’s mental health, says new report

A new report on children and young people’s mental health recommends that any strategy to improve the mental wellbeing of ...

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

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

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 ...
Award-winning school scheme shows life-based learning in practice

Award-winning school scheme shows life-based learning in practice

A year ago the Guardian newspaper reported on a primary school in Essex that won a national dementia award for ...
Bold thinking to tackle the blight of relationship breakdown

Bold thinking to tackle the blight of relationship breakdown

Children learning relationship skills is crucial in their development of happy, healthy and emotionally rewarding relationships in life . It ...

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

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

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

A new report suggests that a strong community spirit has been forged during the Covid pandemic and that nearly three-quarters ...
History is a great way to develop children’s sense of community

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 ...
Award-winning school scheme shows life-based learning in practice

Award-winning school scheme shows life-based learning in practice

A year ago the Guardian newspaper reported on a primary school in Essex that won a national dementia award for ...

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

We need to transform our relationship with nature, says the UN

A major United Nations report has characterised humanity’s relationship with the planet as a war and called for a fundamental reset in order to secure a prosperous and sustainable future for us all.

The report, called Making Peace with Nature, has been published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Its focus is the triple threat the world faces: the climate crisis, the devastation of wildlife and nature, and the pollution that causes millions of early deaths every year.

You can read more about the report here.

In his Foreword to the report, Antonio Guterres, the UN’s secretary-general, opens with the words: “Humanity is waging war on nature.” The result, he says, is a “broken planet”. But the report also offers hope for a better future, alongside the depressing description of the current crisis. Part II is entitled ‘Transforming humankind’s relationship with nature is the key to a sustainable future’.

It is a huge report, long on jargon and academese as well as on detail. It is addressed, in part, to governments, to intergovernmental organisations, to global financial and business actors, and to others who bestride the world stage.

All of which can make it seem a world apart from the everyday lives of ordinary people and thus all the easier to dismiss. But it isn’t a world apart, of course. It is the same interconnected world that we are all part of, and the catastrophic failings it documents will ultimately affect us all. We cannot afford to do nothing.

The report’s final section is headed: ‘All actors have a part to play in transforming humankind‘s relationship with nature’. To prove the point, the report’s authors even devote a section (on page 140 of the full report, reproduced on page 39 of the executive summary document) to “individuals, households” and others in civil society.

There we find, for example, the call to engage in initiatives that promote sustainable consumption as well as “education and citizen-science” initiatives. There we find a plea to make “climate-friendly everyday choices on transport and consumption.” And there we find encouragement to “promote the links between environment and human health.”

The key message of Making Peace with Nature accords with the UK government’s recent Dasgupta Review, which also called for an urgent reset of humanity’s relationship with nature, including greater priority for environmental education in the curriculum at all stages of learning.

The Forum for Life-Based Learning believes that we need to reform the school curriculum for young children to meet urgent life challenges. Three of its nine proposed themes — Plant Life, Animal Life and Physical World — directly address our relationship with and appreciation of the natural world. A life-based curriculum will help children adopt the skills, values and practices that ensure they live sustainable lives in harmony with the needs of the planet.

UN Report (Full)

Click to read and/or download the full version of the report

UN Report (Summary)

Click to read and/or download the review’s main messages

Life-Based Learning

Click to learn more about the life-based approach to learning

Image at the head of this article by Sergei Tokmakov, Esq. from Pixabay

Academics put outdoor play at the heart of children’s recovery

A group of child development experts have been in the headlines this week, asking the government to prioritise outdoor play over extra lessons and longer school days for children in the coming months as the country emerges out of lockdown and begins to return to something like normality.

In their letter to the education secretary, the academics, who call themselves PlayFirstUK, wrote: “There is understandable concern about children’s education but children will not learn effectively if their mental health is poor. Social interaction, play, physical activity and good mental health needs to come first.”

You can read the letter in full here.

The points made by the academics reflect priorities and concerns that life-based learning aims to tackle.

Dr Kathryn Lester, of the University of Sussex, said: “While there is an understandable focus on children catching up academically, we know that children cannot learn effectively when they are struggling emotionally.”

The Emotions and Mind learning themes are both predicated on the idea that emotional wellbeing is essential for effective learning, and that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

The letter also said: “As part of a wider recovery process, children should be encouraged and supported to spend time outdoors, playing with other children and being physically active.”

The Body learning theme focuses on children learning healthy habits for life and includes a whole-school activity programme so that regular physical activity is part of children’s daily lives. The social interaction that comes with outdoor play boosts communication and relationship-building skills, both of which are life-based learning themes. Meanwhile, recent posts on this website have highlighted the benefits of children learning about nature and the merits of outdoor learning more generally.

The Forum for Life-Based Learning believes that we need to reform the school curriculum for young children to meet urgent life challenges. Life-based learning addresses those challenges directly. It gives children the knowledge and skills to look after themselves, to create positive, long-lasting relationships in vibrant communities, and to live in an environmentally-friendly, sustainable way.

Life-Based learning

Find out more about what life-based learning is all about

Mission

More detail about what life-based learning is aiming to do

MAC

A framework for a proposed new life-based learning curriculum

Image at the head of this article by Marzena P. from Pixabay.

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.

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.




Copy link
Powered by Social Snap