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Author: Bridget Knight, CEO: Values-based Education International


Our world, in manifold ways, needs us to have a compassion-based mindset more than ever. Values-based Education advances in everyone a more compassionate outlook, more compassionate thoughts -and so, kinder actions. We know that both the big and the tiny compassionate choices we make in our behaviour towards others will have a transformative effect on thousands and thousands of children and their families.


As we go into the new term once more as values-based teachers and leaders, we need to remember to treat ourselves with compassion too. After all, if you are reading this now, you are probably the lynch-pin for values in your classroom, school or setting. That means Values-based Education needs you – and you need to take care of yourself!


Here are some top tips about practising self-compassion from The Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science (2017):


- Learn to recognise your own emotions and communicate them positively to others: this physically changes how you perceive the emotion. Calmly saying, for example, ‘I feel angry’ makes a space in your brain for you to regain control and act positively and compassionately within yourself.


- Practice compassion meditation: this involves making time for self-reflection with the emphasis on why you like yourself, the idea is to show yourself compassion, despite intimately knowing your flaws. You then turn attention to the people you love, including them in your compassion and gratitude. Finally, think of the difficult people in your life, those towards whom you feel active hostility. It takes practice, but the aim is to wish they too might be filled with loving kindness and peace.


- Acknowledge Compassion in Others: witnessing other people being altruistic not only improves your feelings of optimism about humanity but also boosts your desire to help others. It fosters moral elevation, a powerful emotion that is part of the awe family, this emotion increases the prefrontal cortex’s control over more primitive emotional circuits that are responsible for the fight or flight response, so that you are able to deploy more executive decision making.


- Practise Gratitude We live in highly individualistic societies but we have not evolved to be self-sufficient. Our pro-social brains have developed in line with the benefits that derive from our interdependence with one another. Essentially, having supportive relationships in place helps us survive, the simple act of practicing gratitude and appreciation of others helps us to value that support.


Other great ideas include keeping a Congratulations Diary – record something that you feel you did well each day. It doesn’t matter how big or small your achievement: you will be amazed at how much you have achieved when you remember!


Be a compassion-focussed teacher. Studies have shown that the children of parents who make time to practise their own self-care benefit over the longer time. Eat well, take time out to exercise and see your friends; relax with hobbies or practise meditation- and get enough sleep in your favourite bed linen! It’s not selfish: it’s simply self-compassion!


Looking to develop Values-Based Education in your School?


If you want to begin your journey towards becoming a values-based school that you set aside a training day when all teaching and non-teaching staff can attend and be an active part of this process of transformational cultural change.


VbE will fall at the first hurdle if you make up a list of values and tell the school community that these are our values! Involvement and ownership is key to the success of VbE.


To find out more about VbE professional development training, please follow the button below...


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Author: Dr. Neil Hawkes, Founder: Values-based Education International


For ten years Amy has been my hairdresser. I am always in awe of her competence to navigate successfully the complexities of managing her salon, holding in her mind my story as a customer, relating to me AND ensuring I have a great haircut!  I have observed others with this competence and back in 2014 I began using a term, which I think describes Amy’s competence – it sounds like a bit of jargon but I can’t think of a term which is more accurate – it is personal holistic competence (PHC)


What does personal holistic competence mean?  I think the meaning of personal is probably obvious to you; holistic, however needs a little explanation.  Holistic refers to a whole range of abilities, character traits, dispositions and skills, which together develop what I describe as a ‘super’ competence.  This competence is not measured in a test but can be observed, like me for instance watching Amy working in the hairdressers.  Where did Amy and others with this holistic competence learn it?  Was it at school or working at the hairdresser’s?


Probably, school contributed to some of the elements of her PHC.  However, you will be aware that traditionally schooling has mainly focused on the development of technical competences such as the 3r’s.  In modern times the curriculum has added other subjects such as science and technology.  Emphasis has been on developing our rational ability, which uses reason – all of which was bequeathed to us from the times of the Enlightenment (late 17th Century). These subjects are now externally examined through a complex and highly expensive examination system.  In comparison, personal and social competencies such as emotional, psychological and emotional literacy, which may be learned through the Arts and Humanities, are given little time and status. 


In my view, the curriculum has become increasingly imbalanced, with the emphasis focused on the academic and cognitive. Also, increasingly young children are being subjected to a curriculum that does not account for the developmental stage that they are passing through.  Early years education is now only in the first year of English primary schools, with greater emphasis on primary pupils learning the complexities of English grammar etc.


This has resulted in the affective aspects (feelings, moods, attitudes) of the curriculum – drama, art, dance, PE being seen as of less importance.  Ironically however, there is an increasing demand from employers for employees to have so called ‘soft skills’ in order to be successful in their careers.  These skills, which VbE schools promote, include: communicative competence, relational trust, self and other awareness, resilience, agency and ethical intelligence, which are increasingly seen as of central importance for young people moving into the world of work.


Besides observing people at work, such as hairdressers, I have the privilege of witnessing the incredible impact of schools that have embedded the educational philosophy, which I promote, known as Values-based Education (VbE).  In such schools, with their emphasis on core values such as trust, honesty and resilience etc, I see young people being engaged in a school life that develops personal holistic competence. This is because VbE argues for a balance between the development of personal and academic capacities with the result that students are empowered to develop holistically – able to meet the challenges of living in an ever-increasing complex world, as well as being prepared academically. The outcome of VbE is that students will begin to develop the overarching competence of personal holistic competence (PHC).


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This multidimensional competence cannot be measured in the abstract through traditional written exams (sorry examiners and data gatherers) – only observed as a whole in real life situations. It is demonstrated in performance in complex relational situations in the world.  A friend jokingly said to me that it could be seen in young people who are planning sleepovers! 


PHC therefore is as the overarching competence, which equips students with the values, attitudes and behavioural traits that are increasingly needed to solve complex personal, social and work related challenges. It enables students to develop the ability to work effectively in relationship with others to meet important challenges in an ever-increasing complex world – multidimensional challenges, such as balancing the various demands that modern life brings.  PHC foregrounds relationships and qualities, such as compassion and emotional intelligence and cannot be observed or exercised except in relationship with others.


The development of PHC, arguably the most important overarching competence, requires the right conditions to nurture and sustain it; hence the urgent need for values-based schools, colleges and places of work. Above all it needs a shift in the mindset of society, which limits real change in the educational system. Our national and local leaders need to have the will to create schools that will prepare young people for life in the 21st Century not the 19th!  We must not let them duck this challenge, as our children’s future depends on a creative transformation of the educational system – worldwide. 


Please join me in bringing about this change. 


If you would like to know more about Values-based Education and how it can help transform your school and enable each child to flourish and look back on their school days with affection, then please follow the link below...

What is Values based Education

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Author: Bridget Knight, CEO: Values-based Education International


The recently-announced intentions of OFSTED, to focus on learning and to disregard year-by-year in-school pupil tracking and assessment may momentarily lift the spirit of the care-worn teacher. But is this followed only moments later by a cold realisation that the demands of end of key stage results will be just as great, only differently wrapped?


‘It’s good enough for OFSTED, but…’


“Let’s face it, the days, the weeks, just aren’t long enough to do everything we need to do. I need to get in my assessments to my headteacher before the end of tomorrow and I haven’t finished teaching the full curriculum for this term - so, I’m going to have to take a short cut. ‘Quick, everybody. This is what a subsidiary clause is – now can everybody put one in their story: now!’”


An exaggeration, of course but how many of us have been compelled to take short-cuts in our teaching, at the expense – perhaps – of deeply embedded learning?


We do it because we have to conform to rigid and demanding requirements imposed on us because if our children don’t ‘pass’ the tests we will be judged to be failing them. And because we could lose our jobs, and we frankly can’t afford that.


In the drive to achieve result-related success, efficiency is prized above all else. Above the acquaintance with, for example, a broad canon of fabulous children’s literature. Or of establishing a real connection with a range of art forms, inspired by some of the world’s greatest creative thinkers. Maybe they will get to know them later – when they’re older and no longer need to be at school – we hope in a distracted moment. For now, we have more pressing matters at hand.


And here is our contention: ‘real’ teachers, motivated by an understanding and appreciation of what constitutes and results from great teaching and learning, feel nonetheless compelled to teach very differently.


So where do we go from here?




Author: David Gumbrell, Associate: Values-based Education International



‘So, what did you do over the summer?’



That will be the question that is asked of you during the INSET day when you get back in for the new academic year. You may also ask your students the same question too – it could even form the first activity that you ask them to do, after all, it would make a lovely early display!   



Will you be the one that adds the vacation to the conversation, or are you the one that will contribute your trials and tribulations from your staycation (a portmanteau that has in recent years become part of our vocabulary)?



Those of you with children may also have had the challenge of keeping them occupied and the cinemas know this and offer the latest blockbuster to lure you to spend your hard-earned money on popcorn and a few seats!



One film that has vied for this title this Summer is Toy Story 4 – the continuing adventures of Woody and Buzz – that have revolutionised animation since 1995! It is a clever combination where children are enamoured by the story whilst the adults are inwardly saying ‘I had one of those when I was a kid’ at the same time!



Did you have a Mr Potato Head? (that, before legislation in the 1960s, had parts with such sharp ends that they were capable of puncturing vegetables easily)! Did you have an Evel Knievel? (that, in 1972, promoted itself with adverts promising "Gyro power, sending him over 100ft at top speed… Or, did you have an Etch-A-Sketch? (the grey surface of which is coated with aluminium powder)



All appear in the Toy Story films, but it is the latter toy that I would like to draw your attention to, as it is one of these toys NOT in the 4th iteration of the films. (Indeed, it was only in a flashback scene in the third). However, I remember giggling at the scene that goes as follows . . . 



"Hey, Etch. Draw!" (Etch draws a gun at a rapid pace and makes a ding)


"Oh! Got me again. Etch, you've been working on that draw”.


Simple, yes. Funny, yes, and that is the beauty of these films and the reason why the film has been a box-office phenomenon and the Etch-a-Sketch has sold over 100 million units!


Can you remember how to erase your picture of a gun, or other masterpiece that you created out of vertical and horizontal lines (I never did master the diagonal!)?


That’s right, you turn the toy upside down and shake it (which causes polystyrene beads to smooth out and re-coat the inside surface of the screen).


In a similar way, I hope that the Summer holidays will enable you to shake yourself ‘clean’, to allow you to feel refreshed and ready to draw a new picture that will be entitled as ‘Academic Year 2019-2020’.


That initial grey morass, set within its red plastic frame, is daunting at the beginning but just get started, draw that first line, make that first mark.


Next year, find out about your class and let them find out about you. Respect them and their interests and they will reciprocate. Have fun moments too, you are allowed to smile before Christmas after all!


I said that I never had mastered the diagonal line on an Etch-A-Sketch, but maybe I should be saying that I haven’t managed it . . . yet!


Maybe next year, maybe this will be your moment to try something new, to master a new skill, to develop my practice. If you are stuck at a rectangle then try a cube. Or, maybe you have already reached the skill level of this guy, Jerry Sartarama, whose website is full of rather impressive Etch-A-Sketches!


Either way, see the next academic year as an opportunity. A chance to do something new. As Buzz Lightyear himself once said . . . ‘To Infinity and beyond’!




Author: Dr. Neil Hawkes, Founder: Values-based Education International


As we journey through life we absorb the culture in which we live and form limited impressions of other cultures. Having the privilege to visit and be immersed in other cultures and traditions has challenged my own biased and partially formed views.


In all countries citizens are bombarded with political and media rhetoric, which does little to create harmony between peoples.  My great learning is that people like you and me the world over are so similar, as we all share the same humanity. We all appreciate the love shown by others and we hope for health, peace and happiness.


Values-based Education (VbE), proposes the building of relationships based on universal positive human values such as respect, trust, honesty and harmony. These values have the potential to give us personal holistic competence (PHC) and unite us as one human family, whereas the holding of exclusive beliefs, as history shows, divide people. 


It was with these thoughts in mind that I accepted an invitation from Beijing Hireader Education Co Ltd, 北京弘书阁教育科技有限公司  to take part in their 12th annual conference to promote the teaching of quality English teaching in China. The company’s Chairman, HUO Qingwen, has brought to China quality teaching materials from the UK, such as The Oxford Reading Tree.  His aim is to transform the teaching of English in China so that pupils are able to converse fluently. 


Currently many children learn English to pass tests but do not possess the competencies to communicate effectively.  There is a realisation in China that formal rote teaching has severe limitations and its leaders are encouraging teachers to be able to teach using a wide variety of teaching methods.  This point seemed fascinating to me, as politicians in the UK are so often encouraging teachers to copy what they think are the good formal practices in China and other Eastern countries, such as South Korea and Singapore.


The Conference held in Beijing gave me, supported by my wife and co-presenter Jane, two hours to introduce Values-based Education to 500 teachers and school Principals. It would not be an exaggeration to tell you that we were overwhelmed by the reception we were given.  I have rarely felt such a genuine desire to learn and understand VbE in order to implement it in classrooms.  China’s moral philosophy is based on the teachings of Confucius, so the messages of VbE were complimentary to their understanding of the role of values in society.




Following the presentation about VbE, I was invited to critique two demonstration English lessons: one primary and one secondary.  The quality of teaching was excellent and I was told that my evaluative comments were well received. 


Besides working at the Conference, we were giving opportunities to visit some of the historic sites of China, such as The Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. The visits have given me a thirst to read and understand more about China’s history.


There is no doubt that China has gone through enormous changes, some of which have been painful for its peoples. However, China seems to be at a point in its development where it has to balance economic development and the prosperity that this brings with a revisiting of the values that it wishes its society to be built on in the 21st Century. It is a paradox that human beings seek more social and personal prosperity but on gaining it begin to loose the moral compass to live in harmony. Some Western countries are clear examples of what happens when there is an excess of consumerism and materialism.  Individual greed replaces cooperation and collective responsibility.


Finally, I would like to share some thoughts with you that I shared at the Conference. I was talking about Aristotle’s notion of the Golden Mean.  This may be explained as follows: if you consider a value such as harmony, we should talk about what this word really should mean in our society. 

What does harmony look and feel like?  Aristotle suggested that in answering such questions we consider what words such as harmony looks like at the extremes.  At one end of the continuum harmony can be seen as excessive collectivism (the individual is of little consequence). At the other end is excessive individualism, what I call libertarianism, which means that the individual does exactly as he or she wants without any thought for the wellbeing of others. 


I believe that we can create a new universal narrative, based on values, in which such issues as the above can be considered and society can be balanced so that we can all live in true harmony on this planet.


Thank you to my friends in China for giving me such a rich opportunity to work in harmony with Chinese colleagues.




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