Teaching right and wrong is scrapped


Senior Member
Sep 23, 2004
Schools will no longer have to teach children the difference between right and wrong, it was revealed yesterday.

Under new plans, the National Curriculum will be changed to say teachers merely have to help them develop "secure values and beliefs".

Learning about Britain's cultural heritage will also be dropped in favour of simply making sure pupils "understand different cultures and traditions".

There was anger and disbelief last night at the planned changes to the curriculum for 11 to 14-year-olds, coming at a time of mounting concern about anti-social behaviour and warnings of the consequences of record levels of immigration.

The Church of England said the proposals risked eroding the fundamental principle of schooling to give children moral guidance, while education experts said dispensing with right and wrong was an "alarming" idea.

Critics said that at a time when efforts are being made to strengthen a sense of Britishness, dropping the word "Britain" from the curriculum made no sense at all.

The changes were revealed in an updated version of the National Curriculum published by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

Earlier this year, Ministers asked the QCA to slim down the document to give secondary schools greater flexibility in how they teach the difficult pre-GCSE age-group.

Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, set out the proposals for changes in a letter to former education secretary Ruth Kelly.

The plan was set out in March but only revealed yesterday.

Among the existing "aims" set to be scrapped is for the curriculum to "pass on enduring values" including to "develop principles for distinguishing between right and wrong".

Under the QCA's proposals, these phrases would be replaced with an aim which simply says children should "have secure values and beliefs".

Elsewhere, the statement that the curriculum should develop pupils' "ability to relate to others and work for the common good" would see all reference to "the common good" removed.

And among the most controversial changes is the replacement of the requirement to help pupils develop a sense of identity "through knowledge and understanding of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural heritages of Britain's diverse society".

Instead, all reference to Britain is dropped, with the aim to help individuals "understand different cultures and traditions and have a strong sense of their own place in the world". The plan attracted criticism from all sides last night.

A spokesman for the Church of England said: "We would be very concerned to see any erosion of the fundamental principle of education to provide for the spiritual and moral development of pupils and of society."

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the University of Buckingham's centre for education and employment research, said: "The idea that they think it is appropriate to dispense with right and wrong is a bit alarming."

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "I'm shocked that they are suggesting moving towards a value-free curriculum which I believe would be disastrous for future generations.

"It makes a mockery of Tony Blair's talk of respect - if young people don't have a proper moral education, what's to stop them respecting thieves or even terrorists?

"Youngsters need to know the difference between right and wrong and to understand the culture in which they live if they are to become successful members of society."

Rob Wilson, Conservative MP for Reading West and a member of the Commons education select committee, said: "In many areas it seems as though some parents are abandoning children to their fate.

"With the church less relevant today than ever, it is schools that provide them with the last vestige of a moral education, and that must not be taken away.

"As for the heritage question, we know that New Labour has always been hostile to British history, but removing it from the curriculum would strike a huge blow to Gordon Brown's big idea of promoting citizenship lessons."

And a spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers said it was important for children to understand their "cultural heritage".

"To remove that requirement can undermine children's feelings of security in the country where they are living," she added.

However the NUT welcomed the proposed removal of the words "right" and "wrong", saying many teachers resented being told these were concepts they must instil.

"That is inherent in the way teachers operate," said the spokeswoman. "Removing it from the National Curriculum will make no difference to teachers."

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority stressed the new wording was only a draft as part of its review of Key Stage 3 which would be "consulted on formally" next year.

"The new wording states clearly that young people should become 'responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society'," said a spokesman.

"It also identifies the need for young people who 'challenge injustice, are committed to human rights and strive to live peaceably with others."'


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