Ethical Curriculum: A curriculum that ensures all pupils develop holistically; allows them to deeply understand, celebrate and empathise with others, and empowers them to become global citizens, changing their attitudes and actions to make the world a kinder, more sustainable place to live.

I feel so passionately about all of the above. I want to share a short blog about the importance in schools delivering an #ethicalcurriculum, what this is (and why it’s so relevant now,) and also how it’s linked closely to VbE philosophy which is based on valuing self, others and the environment through a dedication to teaching particular themes within the curriculum.

So firstly, an ethical curriculum is a holistic curriculum, It’s an incredibly altruistic, often charitable curriculum, with exposure to real, authentic and often quite emotionally provocative themes which in turn help to promote the development of collective and core personal values in children, and in staff too.

Why we need to teach an #ethicalcurriculum?

Well, want to ensure that we are teaching a diverse and colourful curriculum that promotes equity and inclusion for all, and by all I’m referring specifically to those within the Protected Characteristics Groups

We want to be educating our young people on issues around sustainable living, and the importance of becoming globally minded citizens in order to make the world sustainable; a kinder and more equitable place.

We want our young people to know and live their core values, to know their purpose in the world, so deeply, that they develop an authentic self esteem with the potential to become future change makers.

As a values based practitioner teaching a curriculum in this way is naturally intrinsic to us, but the challenges lie in implementing it within the constraints of the educational climate and the pressures of the current educational system. Now is such a critical time for reform: we need to rethink our curriculums and ask ourselves;

How well is my curriculum serving my pupils and my community? How will what I teach in my school make the world a better place?

There are certain subjects in the curriculum that are naturally easier to use as a platform for teaching more ethical topics, such as teaching about climate change through geography, or LGBT relationships through RSE or PSHCE, however, we need think carefully about how we interweave relevant themes into the subjects we already teach, to help with usualising these ethical issues

When I refer to themes, I am referring to teaching ethical issues that are relevant, contextual and necessary to teach in schools. Themes which have a moral backbone and help pupils to develop themselves, others and their environment. I’m talking about teaching anti racism, I’m talking about teaching about equity, I’m talking about teaching about poverty, about social justice, about climate change, about sustainable living, about conflict management, about love, about sustainable living…. about all the topics that if we choose to ignore to teach, then we potentially allow our children to grow up with misconceptions, with narrow minds, with ignorant viewpoints by default. We have the responsibility to ensure that that doesn’t happen, that we empower children to want to make the world a better place.

Teaching through values and teaching the inner curriculum is beautifully aligned with an #ethicalcurriculum.

A first step in thinking about an ethical curriculum is to consider how meaningful your content is to your young people. It’s important for children to see the relevance of what they are being taught. So we need to be aware of what’s going on Globally, Nationally and Locally to inspire us to incorporate moral themes into our teaching.

As a quick example, just think specifically about teaching Equity. There are so many themes here to be addressed; gender pay gap, global inequality in education, stereotyping, rights for LGBTQI+, racism, social mobility, the justice system, poverty, ableism, the protected characteristics… There are so many imperative topics to be interwoven in the curriculum in just one area. Learning to focus on themes like this helps develop the values of self respect, involvement, empathy and advocacy to name a few.

Using your values within the curriculum authentically and deeply is the key. Whilst values are completely universal, the values you choose to focus on can still be specifically relevant to your school context too. So take a look at your holistic strengths and areas for developments. You may work in a school with a large refugee community, therefore, you need to nourish the values of empathy and humanity. Perhaps you’re in a school which is lacking in diversity, and consequently, your values need to promote respect and equality. On the contrary, if you are a school which is doing great work on climate change, or celebrating diversity, then you might want to strengthen your #ethicalcurriculum through a focus on the values of Leadership or Service.

Finally, Renaming and reframing the titles and outcomes of your topics or schemes of work can be incredibly powerful in helping you shift your mindset and focus onto the ethical and moral aspects of a topic. As an example, if you’re looking at teaching a unit of work on design in DT in KS2, then why not reframe the focus onto the Effect of Fast Fashion and the impact on child labour, therefore developing the value of empathy and agency. If you are teaching history in KS3 then how are you ensuring you’re teaching black history, and not omitting it from the curriculum, so that you are explicitly focusing on racial and ethnic diversity and promoting values of humanity and collective responsibility.

Curriculum development is a long haul task, but a beautiful one, and an ethically focused curriculum, carefully crafted, will mean the children, and the staff and families and the planet, will reap the benefits for years to come.

The 5 year-olds we teach now are going to be our future activists, our future humanitarians, our future engineers, our future environmentalists, our future policy makers. The curriculum we teach today is about ensuring that our children and young people thrive in five years, in ten years, in 30 years time. That’s why we have to teach children about mental health, about looking after the environment, and we support them in developing values so that they have desire for social change NOW. In doing so, we will all play our part in creating a kinder, more sustainable world.