We are a newly forming group of leaders and organisations in the UK who have come together in the call for educational models that better respond to the growing global call for systems that better nurture human wellbeing and potential within the context of a sustainable world.
The Context - an urgent priority
There is growing global understanding that success and well-being require a ‘whole child’ approach to learning and development and that current education systems are failing to provide this. Instead, international data reveals disturbing levels of personal distress and pathology in young students. The members of the alliance feel that there is currently an urgent need to assist policymakers in better understanding and promoting the need to move away from the less informed systems of the past, to ones that strengthen and nurture all aspects of student wellbeing. This includes a sense of meaning and purpose, care and responsibility for others, and a deep connection with, and concern for, the natural world.
What is being proposed is the creation of a blueprint for transformative school cultures, along with internal practices and processes, that will support children in becoming thoughtful and caring citizens, in touch with themselves, others and the natural world.
Aligning the Inner with the Outer
For thousands of years mankind has been on a quest to understand the nature of the universe and our place within it. It has always been understood that there is both an outer quest (for rational, mental understanding) and an inner quest (for intuitive, emotional understanding), but ultimately it is the balance between the two that really matters. Science is now increasingly showing us that there is an innate interconnectedness, multidimensionality and unified nature to reality and that human beings are an expression of this process.
To feel truly whole, students need to be able to 1) integrate both the inner and outer aspects of their lives 2) maintain a sense of personal meaning and purpose and 3) recognise their contribution to something larger than themselves. To this end:
Spirituality is understood as an innate human quality, that pre-exists cultural or religious differences, that stems from a unified reality and that is grounded in connection and love. As such, it is an essential element for human flourishing.
Moral development should explore the core values and ethical narratives that we want to see in the world
Social development is about celebrating and promoting human diversity within an essential unity, and
Cultural development should foster an understanding of what shapes identity and belonging within an appreciation of interconnectedness and service to others.
" In past years, it has been increasingly difficult for schools to think about anything other than short term gains in relation to short term attainment outcomes. Deeper thinking about purpose, aims and ethos of schools, and the development of those values and skills which are anything but soft is not impossible. However, such thinking has been rendered far more difficult by the constantly changing terrain of policy priorities and the attendant focus on narrow priorities, policed by Ofsted through the inspection framework.
Of all the four aspects of SMSC, it is the spiritual which is most at risk of neglect. The current UK context warrants a serious conversation about the relationship between spirituality and wellbeing.
At a time when the number of adolescents in the UK diagnosed with depression has almost doubled in recent decades (Hagell, 2013), and according to the last census, religions plays a decreasing role for young people (ONS, 2011), there is a strong case for protecting spaces for spiritual development because many aspects of spirituality, particularly practices like meditation, but also and most simply a richer experience of life’s meaning, can serve to promote wellbeing.”
RSA Schools with Soul Report, 2014