Being a School of Excellence: Values-based Education

by Neil Hawkes

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Advisory & Inspection Service


"Values-based Education"
Blueprint and sample lessons

Neil Hawkes
Senior Adviser

May 2001



Advisory and Inspection Service
   Advisory and Inspection Service, Cricket Road Centre


Oxfordshire County Council - Education Service
   Cricket Road Oxford OX4 3DW

To: Headteachers of all Nursery, First, Primary and Middle Schools & Units

cc: Headteachers of Secondary Schools
Heads of Services
Officers and Advisers

Tel: 01865:428117
Fax: 01865 428118

May 2001


Dear Colleague,

During recent years a great deal of national and local effort has been directed at curriculum development. Despite extensive innovation many schools report that pupil attitudes and behaviour are all too often negative and challenging. Such behaviour inhibits the development of a school ethos that both raises achievement and encourages pupils to be self-disciplined and develop holistically. Research, such as that undertaken by Hay McBer into school effectiveness, indicates that it is the degree to which a school can develop a positive school climate that is a main indicator for a successful school. In Oxfordshire we have been developing a vision for school effectiveness based on values and aims that will inspire a school's community. Such inspiration acts as the "mortar", with the curriculum being the "bricks" in the wall of good practice. The enclosed document aims to assist you as you continue to provide the "mortar" for being a school of excellence.

The enclosed blueprint, sample lessons and other materials will support you in developing a values-based approach to teaching and learning in your school. I am very aware that many Oxfordshire schools are using such a rationale to underpin the curriculum. However, I have been asked by so many colleagues to put together a helpful pack of resources that will act both as a check list and ideas bank that will support schools.

I am aware that I am sending this support at a time of unprecedented change. I hope that you will find the materials timely because if they are considered by the school community and acted upon then they will support you in managing the processes of change to the benefit of the whole community. They are not intended to increase workload or create stress. Indeed, on the contrary, they will help to prevent both these aspects that all too often are seen in schools.

Citizenship is currently high on the educational agenda. The vision of a values-based school contained in the enclosed blueprint will support your schools' development of active citizenship. Values-based education is not a new subject to be incorporated into the curriculum, rather it is an educational philosophy, an approach to teaching and learning that underpins the way a school organises itself, develops relationships and promotes positive human values. Schools that adopt such an approach report that there is a qualitative improvement in pupil attitudes and behaviour. Furthermore academic results are seen to improve with the added bonus of teachers finding that their work is less stressful.

The purpose of values-based education is:

  • To help the school community think about and reflect upon positive universal values and the practical implications of expressing them in relation to themselves, others, the community and the world.
  • To inspire individuals to choose their own positive personal, social, moral and spiritual values and be aware of ways for developing and deepening them as world citizens.

From my experience both as a headteacher and adviser I am convinced that values-based education supports schools in promoting an inclusive school ethos and the methods of working that raises achievement and helps pupils to raise their self-esteem and take greater responsibility for their own behaviour and learning. Overall, it enables pupils to examine the kind of life that is worth living and to consider what kind of life they want for themselves.

The enclosed document is the third in a series that will support values-based education. It follows the documents on the Role of the Assembly and Reflection. I am delighted that so many headteachers have found these documents to be of practical help in developing their schools. I know that I can rely on you that you won't consider the enclosed just as a piece of curriculum design that can be issued to staff for them to implement. It is, of course, much more complex, leading to a personal and social transformational process that effects all aspects of school life. Values are acknowledged to be at the heart of leadership by the General Teachers Council in all its recent publications. We can never be value free so the process of self-evaluation is crucial if we are to appreciate the effect that our values have on the life of the school. Values is a generic term and as such is limited and open to misunderstanding. Please don't let the term values put you off, as other terms such as principles or just good educational practice can replace it.

At the core of values-based education lies an agreed set of principles, deeply held convictions, that underpin all aspects of a school's life and work. The process is holistic and developmental, demanding a great deal from the school's community. However, the demands have a tremendous return in terms of improved ethos, relationships, pupil behaviour, quality of work and general achievement. Staff report that once the system is embedded in the school then their work becomes easier! This is a great selling point! 

I am most grateful to the Values-based Education Task Team whose schools have pioneered much of the enclosed material. The enclosed sample values lessons were produced over a two year period by staff who have worked at West Kidlington Primary School. The full set of lessons will be made available to purchase later in the year. Also in the Autumn term I shall be organising seminars, to which you will be invited to attend, that will give us an opportunity to discuss the enclosed.

I am very keen to hear about your experiences using a values-based approach so please send me samples of your own work and anecdotes of your own good practice. I am very conscious that there are many schools which are developing similar approaches and I would very much like to share their practice.

I am aware that this introductory letter has been longer than I would normally have wished. I am sure though that you will appreciate the necessity for giving a rationale so that you will share my enthusiasm for values-based education as a philosophy for developing and supporting schools of excellence.

With warmest wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Hawkes
Senior Adviser

One Headteacher's experience of introducing values-based education

Stonesfield Primary School, along with an increasing number of schools in Oxfordshire, has embraced an approach to education called vales education. In assemblies and class lesson times staff and children explore on a rolling programme values such as tolerance, respect, patience and hope. We are on a journey together as we develop and deepen our understanding of these values, of ourselves and of each other.

In our modern society values education helps to fill the void in our collective consciousness that has been left by the widespread rejection of centuries of religion. Although we are still guided in our morality by the state and judiciary, our laws and the complexity of their consequences are not easily translatable for young children. Values education offers an accessible moral code to a society which prides itself on individualism and yet which seems to be desperately adrift and searching for answers to our existence.

Values education offers a gentle introduction to the complexity of most of life's moral issues. Because values in turn are explored over a period of weeks, and are not presented as isolated matters, it allows us to delight in the extraordinary nature of things. We discover in our explorations that patience is an admirable virtue but that it is not always an appropriate response for every situation: patience can lead to inaction and this may not be healthy or positive. Values education does not insist on one 'right' view point of the world but encourages instead the individual to ponder, engage with, examine and explore issues, see life from different approaches and thereby develop an innate sense of empathy for different view points and considerations, as well as an intellectual curiosity about our world.

There are many apparent paradoxes within this philosophy: values education is, to a large extent, intangible and yet the effect of it in a school is palpable; it is supremely gentle and yet extraordinarily powerful; it does provide a clear framework and yet allows, even relies upon, freedom of thought and response. This enables the child to have a window on the world that is by its very nature complex and, at times, uncertain.

For a class teacher, values education provides a clear reference point for talking about things that pertain to all children in school: behaviour, relationships, self-worth and any other every day issues. It is egalitarian and has relevance to all children's lives: it is not set within a specific time frame, is relevant to children of all ages, ability, social class, culture and religion.

Through engaging in values education it has become clear to me that many children have an innate sense of their own spirituality and are in the process of developing a personal morality. I have seen such enthusiasm for this work from the children themselves that fills me with a certain hope for the future of our society.

I commend values education to you.

Bridget Knight



Values Education

Blueprint: how to introduce a values-based curriculum

1. First principles

  • Decide why you want to introduce values-based education and what it is about. Values are principles, fundamental convictions, ideals, standards or life stances that act as general guides to behaviour or as reference points in decision making.

  • Are you willing to act as its main role model and advocate because it embodies your vision, aims and values not to mention the school's pedagogy? Values education is most effective when the headteacher acts as a role model and ensures that it is at the heart of the school's philosophy. Consider issues to do with the school's context that will impact on how you introduce the process of values education. Consider carrying out an audit so that you can canvass staff, governor and pupil opinion and enlist their help. This is important as values education is a community activity and not an imposition from one person or a pressure group. If possible, consider visiting a school that already has a values-based curriculum, to get a 'flavour' of how it works.

  • A question could be, what positive values should we promote at school?

  • Be clear about the values that you wish to emphasise in the school. These should be adopted as a result of a consultation which could include a staff/governor workshop. In my experience all groups produce very similar lists of values as they are not dependent on race, culture, class or religion. A set of universal positive values will emerge that may include: honesty, peace, humility, freedom, cooperation, care, love, unity, respect, tolerance, courage, friendship, patience, quality and thoughtfulness.

  • Remember that the way you introduce values into your school will be dependent on your particular context and the needs of your pupils. This will include an understanding of the needs of the adults too! The effective care of staff is a fundamental principle of values-based education. Considering how your school meets the needs of staff and pupils is a crucial aspect and will draw out issues concerning the valuing of all pupils, showing pupils respect and being authentic as a person - the pupil soon spots inconsistencies between what teachers say and what they do. A good sense of fun and humour is also a prerequisite.

2. Method

  • Audit your school's institutional values. How are visitors greeted? How do staff interact with each other? What do displays and the general care of the school say about the school's values? Such an activity will help focus attention on developing a positive school climate where values are seen as vital in underpinning the curriculum. Talk about the school's ethos with staff, parents, governors and pupils by looking at the way you do things in your school. By being self-reflective and encouraging others to be so you will develop a reflective school - one that is responsible and takes control of its own development. Self-reflection is central to the establishment of a school that embodies values. It encourages pupils to work on themselves and their own attitudes and behaviour before criticising others. Think how your school contributes to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of your pupils. Identify subjects that make specific contributions and consider any particular methods that you currently use that promote the values of the school.

  • In order to create a positive school ethos there must be a commitment by the whole staff to the effect that values-based education is central to the school's mission. Throughout the process of introducing core values there must be staff, pupil, family and community involvement. Remember too the induction process for new staff. It is important that everyone is involved.

3. Key Teachers

  • Identify key teachers who will be advocates for the value work. These teachers, through their enthusiasm, commitment and "walking their talk" create the impetus which ensures that values lie at the core of the curriculum. They will act as role models who will encourage the whole school community. Ideally one teacher should act as curriculum leader/coordinator for values work so that the elements of values education can be carefully coordinated.

  • Give time for key teachers working with staff to analyse the current ethos of the school by determining the elements of good practices that already exist. Celebrating current good practices is key to encouraging teachers to develop values-based education. One school found in its audit that it currently gave emphasis to respecting pupils and ensuring that they were never criticised as people, only, when necessary, their inappropriate behaviour.

  • When good practice areas are identified, they can be built on and extended. E.g. School's Council, peer mediation, aspects of classroom management and organisation that promote positive behaviour.

4. Teaching and learning

  • Values cannot be taught in isolation but the school can provide experiences and situations in which the school community can consider and reflect about values and translate this reflection into action in the lives of its members. In order to do this the school needs to provide, in a conscious deliberate way, for the implicit and explicit consideration of values. This is done:

  1. by introducing values in a programme of assemblies. One value is highlighted each month. An assembly is then devoted to explaining the value in a way appropriate to the age and stage of the pupil. Staff also gain a deepening of their own understanding by taking part in such assemblies. If the school has a list of twenty-two core values then one value can be the focus each month during a two year cycle - August excepted! Staff can follow up the assembly with their classes. Some schools promote pupil assemblies for which pupils take significant responsibility. These are excellent vehicles for pupils to relate the value to their own experience and make an appropriate presentation to other classes. Values are imbibed when children can relate them to real life situations. Time is given during assemblies for silent reflection. This encourages pupils to go within themselves and they learn to become calm and focussed. Reflection can be used as an aid to learning in any lesson. Story telling is an excellent medium for framing the meaning of a value. (For more information please see the document about the role of reflection that was sent to schools in January 2001.)

  2. Each class teacher will prepare one value lesson each month that will build on the assembly. A variety of inclusive teaching and learning styles should be used to ensure that all pupils are engaged in the thinking process. These lessons are often described as philosophy for children, an apt description, as pupils have to consider real life situations, reflect on their own behaviour and responses, listen to those of others and learn to reflect on the reasons for their own reactions to events. This process develops emotional literacy, which is the ability of a pupil to think and talk about their emotional responses. This is the central process that enables children to gain responsibility for their actions (self-discipline). A by-product of this process is that the self-esteem and confidence of the pupils improves as do their oral skills. It is interesting to note that boys seem to benefit greatly from the process of reflection. Generally speaking this is something girls do more readily. The Socratic method of differentiated questioning extends children's thinking and is another excellent method that deepens understanding.

  3. By implicitly weaving values, like a seamless robe through the fabric of the curriculum, all teaching and non-teaching staff are encouraged to use the value of the month in their work with pupils. The value of the month should be the subject of a prominent display in the school and similar displays could be in each classroom. One school has a value for the month poster in each classroom.

  4. Through newsletters to parents, explaining what the value of the month is and how they can develop them at home. (Parents respond very positively to this involvement.) Workshops for parents are also a very useful way of engaging the community. Governors taking part in these sessions demonstrate to the parents the importance that is being placed on the work. At induction sessions for new parents to the school the headteacher can explain the school's values education policy and enlist their support.

5. Skills, knowledge, attitudes and understanding

  • Decide the range of skills, knowledge, attitudes and understanding that you wish to develop in the pupils. Remember that you are encouraging the holistic development of the pupil. This includes the spiritual world of the pupil - the inner world of thoughts and feelings. By encouraging spiritual development the pupil is given the opportunity to learn how to observe their thoughts and thereby encourage positive thinking. Learning how to focus attention and to actively listen whilst sitting still are other skills that promote reflective learning and good interpersonal skills. Lasting learning is associated with positive emotions and feelings. Long-term learning is promoted through frequent opportunities to reflect and to recall. In our society people suffer from overload and fragmentation - forms of chaos! A values approach to teaching and learning creates stability and empowers the individual to be in control of his/her reactions to situations that otherwise could create a negative reaction. The development of a proactive school's council has the potential for giving pupils opportunities to feel involved in decision making that affects the life of the school.

6. Benefits for the pupils

  • Identify the benefits that pupils will experience as values-based education is introduced. These should include: improved concentration, better pupil behaviour, improved social and academic standards. Issues concerning achievement, quality of learning, the raising of self-esteem, the development of reflective practices should all be considered.

7. Conclusion

  • It is vitally important that all staff members feel involved in the process of values education, so consideration must be given to in-service education. Throughout the process, share the development with parents and the wider school community.

  • Finally, ensure that the process is well-planned, monitored, evaluated and celebrated in order to keep the process alive and constantly under review.


Values Education Policy


To raise standards by promoting a school ethos which is underpinned by core values that support the development of the whole child as a reflective learner.


At our school we are giving a great deal of thought to the values that we are trying to promote in school. We regularly consider our core values and how the school sustains an ethos, which supports the pupil as a reflective learner and promotes quality teaching and learning. We are so very aware that society is faced with enormously complicated problems, which makes growing up a very difficult process. Children are constantly bombarded with negative messages, which aversely affect their mental, emotional and spiritual development. Also, they are repeatedly being given the impression that happiness is totally obtainable from a material world. They are conditioned to believe that 'things' will provide happiness. For example, advertisements encourage children to believe that the only source of entertainment is derived from the television or video! They are generally encouraged to experience life in a world totally external to their inner-selves: a world, which is full of noise and constant activity. Impressions of society being violent and selfish leave their mark as the child develops into adolescence. Symptoms of pupil stress are seen as children finding it difficult to listen attentively and to give school work their full concentration. Social relationships suffer as the child often fails to appreciate that building meaningful relationships is their responsibility.

As a school community, we believe the ethos of the school should be built on a foundation of core values such as honesty, respect, happiness, responsibility, tolerance and peace. These will at times be addressed directly through lessons and the acts of worship programme, whilst at others they will permeate the whole curriculum. Either way, they are the basis for the social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and moral development of the whole child. We encourage pupils to consider these values, thereby developing knowledge, skills and attitudes that enable them to develop as reflective learners and grow to be stable, educated and civil adults.

Elements of Teaching and Learning

The elements of values education are:

  • ensuring that the school's institutional values are consistent with the values that pupils are encouraged to develop;

  • actively promoting a whole school policy that wins the support of both teaching and non-teaching staff and is led and monitored by the headteacher;

  • introducing monthly values through a programme of school assemblies. (Consider having a two yearly cycle of twenty two values.) Pupils are encouraged to be involved in exploring their understanding of values in pupil led assemblies;

  • directly teaching about values in values lessons. These lessons provide opportunities for personal reflection, moral discourse, and an appropriate activity to promote understanding. Teaching and learning about values takes places in the following steps:

  1. By teachers explaining the meaning of a value;
  2. Pupils reflecting on the value and relating to their own behaviour;
  3. By pupils using the value to guide their own actions;

  • ensuring that staff model the values through their own behaviour;

  • ensuring that values are taught implicitly through every aspect of the curriculum.


Values Education - sample lessons

Helpful thoughts

These are sample lessons developed and taught at West Kidlington Primary School as staff began to develop values education across the whole school. Hopefully they will serve to be a bank of ideas to be dipped into, added to and developed as each new teacher or school feels appropriate.

A few thoughts about using these lessons may be helpful:

Classroom ethos

Maintaining an ethos in the classroom that is positive and all inclusive, with a feeling of equality, will help children gain most from values lessons. It is important that any approach to class management is in line with the values being taught. Children soon feel secure and able to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences when they know that these are always welcomed and valued. Children also will respond quickly when the teacher is aware that he or she is an important role model as values are very much 'caught'.

Reflection (Stilling/silent sitting)

Most of the enclosed lessons would have begun with a period of 'reflection'. This is a time when the children are expected to sit still and silent for anything from one to four minutes, usually with some soft music and perhaps facilitating words from the teacher. This has proved to help children in a variety of ways. It regulates breath and heartbeat and so calms and relaxes the body. It quietens the mind, focuses attention and increases concentration. It helps to develop awareness and intuition, and the children are more able to get in touch with their own feelings. (For more information see the AIS document 'Being a School of Excellence - the role of reflection' published January 2001.)

Story Telling

Using a story where possible as a stimulus for the lesson has many advantages. It can put across the value in a way that all levels of awareness can access. It generates feelings, captures attention and often inspires. The listener is able to find parallels in their own experiences which can help in future difficult situations.


After the lesson stimulus, whole class discussion allows the value to be explored more deeply. The children gain insight from each other, especially if the teacher becomes practiced in facilitating Socratic discussion, summarising ideas and leading the children into considering further possibilities.

Lesson format

  • Each lesson has a helpful section on teacher understanding. (A list of definitions of 12 values is enclosed that may further aid understanding.) It is important that the teacher is able to translate this understanding into the living experience of the child.

  • Use a stimulus for the lesson that may be based on a story, discussion, experience or artefact, etc. The learning objective should be made clear. Eg to understand why the value of honesty is an important guide to our behaviour.

  • Next is the teacher-led discussion that lies at the core of the lesson. Careful questioning leads the pupils to a deeper appreciation of meaning and helps them to translate the value into areas of their own experience. Lessons are not theoretical but should aim to help the pupils to modify and expand their own thoughts and actions.

  • The next section of the lesson will be an activity that will encourage pupils to engage with the value.

  • Finally, a plenary session of review to evaluate understanding and to draw out key points that aid further development.


Enjoyment should be a key characteristic of values lessons and is vitally important. Children soon begin to look forward to their values lessons. They know what to expect and participate in all its elements with enthusiasm. As you use the lessons you will soon find and substitute your own stimulus and develop your own activities. Teaching values across the curriculum then becomes automatic. Aim to make enjoyment a key element and you will see positive effects in many other areas of school life.

Values Education

Twelve values and their definitions


Co-operation is helping one another 

Co-operation is working together with patience

Co-operation is collective effort to reach a goal


Happiness is knowing I am loved 

Happiness is giving everyone good wishes

Happiness is love and peace inside


Responsibility is being fair

Responsibility is doing my share of the work

Responsibility is taking care of myself and others


Simplicity is natural and beautiful

Simplicity is putting others first

Simplicity is appreciating the small things in life


Freedom is choice

Freedom is living with dignity

Freedom is when rights are balanced with responsibilities


Unity is togetherness

Unity is collective strength and harmony

Unity is personal commitment


Peace is when we get along

Peace is having positive thoughts for myself and others 

Peace begins within each one of us


Respect is knowing I am unique and valuable

Respect is liking who I am

Respect is listening to others


Love is caring and sharing

Love is feeling safe

Love is wanting good for others


Tolerance is accepting myself and others

Tolerance is knowing we are all different

Tolerance is being understanding and open-minded


Honesty is telling the truth

Honesty is trust

Honesty is being true to yourself and to others


Humility is accepting everyone

Humility is self-respect and self-esteem

Humility is courage and confidence


Year 1


Year 2




Year 3 Teacher Understanding

(Peace is the goal, tolerance is the method.)
Tolerance is accepting myself, even when I make mistakes.
Tolerance is accepting others, even when they make mistakes.
We are all unique and have something valuable to offer and share.
Tolerance is accepting others and appreciating differences.


Teacher leads discussion by telling of a time when tolerance needs to be shown.


When have you had to be tolerant?


Circle time with children sharing personal experiences about being tolerant. How did they feel ? was it easy or difficult? What was the outcome? What might have happened if they had not been tolerant?

Year 3



Year 4

Year 5


Year 6


Year 1



Year 2


Year 3


Year 4



Year 5


Year 5

Teacher Understanding

Stepping outside of the self.
Being mindful of others ? their needs and feelings and putting these before your own.
Thoughtfulness is giving out of a love for others.


Poem "I am" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.


  • What is pleasure and woe?
  • What can we do to add to the joy or pain in the world?
  • How can we brighten the world?
  • How can we make life sweeter for others?
  • What little things do people say or do that make you feel good?
  • How can you be thoughtful this Christmas?


Write you own acrostic poem using


Year 5



Year 6



  1. Meditation is where you let your body relax and your mind float into a dimension where there are no other life forms.

    You have got to imagine that you are trapped in a block of concrete and cut off from any other people.

    I have tried meditation and it is indeed very hard. There are people around you that might laugh and think you are silly. You have got to cut yourself off from that and just think that no-one else is around you. If you let other people let themselves distract you then your mind floats towards them.

    It takes a while to be able to accustom to all other specialities that you need to be able to concentrate on what you are supposed to be doing.

    You have to concentrate on pictures or candles. The pictures can be things like your relatives or your friends.

    When I tried meditating I concentrated on the patterns on the tiles that line the ceiling.

    Buddhists meditate to cut themselves off from the outside world and escape from all the worries that you or I may face in our lives.

    The sit cross-legged because it is the most comfortable position that you can sit in for long periods. Many Yogis don't like people to watch them when they are meditating so they go into places where nobody can see them. Many great Yogis say that they can levitate but as no-one has seen them do this they can only believe what they hear.

    There is a story called Henry Sugar and there is a Yogi who does not like to be seen and when he is seen he starts getting really cross. I doubt that this is true but there is a possibility that it is true.

  2. Buddhist people mediate all the time throughout their lives. They focus on one thing for hours. Meditating is just like praying and speaking to god. Sometimes people think they are something else. They have to relax their bodies, they have to think and concentrate until they can see a picture in their minds of what they are concentrating on or until they have cleared their minds and they can see what happiness really is. The main reason why they meditate is so they can clear their minds.

    At school we had a go at meditating and I found it really hard. I tried concentrating on my dog. I started to get an outline of my dog getting a picture like this is called visualisation. We did this for about five minutes. You have to try and relax, when I relaxed my body went all numb. I felt as if I was going to sleep.



The following books and materials are very useful:

  • Living Values Education Activities Series of Books
  • A Quiet Revolution by Frances Farrer. Rider
    ISBN 0712605770
  • Education in Human Values: manual and lesson plans,
    contact June Auton, Lower Walbridge Farmhouse, Dowlish Wake, Ilminster Somerset TA19 ONZ
  • Turn Your School Around - Jenny Mosley L.D.A.
    ISBN 1/85503/174/4
  • Don't just do something sit there - Mary K.Stone RMEP
    ISBN 1/85175/105/X
  • Values and Visions - Sally Burns and George & Anne Lamont- Hodder & Stoughton
    ISBN 0340/64412/5
  • Skills for the Primary Child - TACADE



The work of the Values in Education Task Team is gratefully acknowledged as is the work of Anne Marks who designed the pack. The Task Team members are:

Alison Williams
John Heppenstall
Marilyn Trigg
Bridget Knight
Linda Heppenstall
Karen Errington
Lindsey Weimers
Neil Hawkes

Other resources in the schools of excellence series:

For further advice on developing values-based education contact Neil Hawkes, Senior Adviser on 01865 428117.