Teachers to Stop Teaching Children Right From Wrong

Schools will no longer have to teach teenagers the difference between right and wrong under government plans. The move, greeted yesterday with a mixture of disbelief and fury, is outlined in proposed changes to the national curriculum, requested by ministers in an attempt to simplify the system. Instead of a requirement to teach right from wrong, schools will only have to ensure that children between 11 and 14 have “secure values and beliefs” and are “committed to human rights”.

Draft reforms to the curriculum have also deleted a requirement to teach children about Britain’s cultural heritage and the need for them to “work for the common good”.

Nick Gibb, the shadow minister for schools, said yesterday that he was aghast at the proposals put forward by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

He said: “The education establishment is constantly engaged in these type of reforms with the result that everyone is horrified. Ministers must engage with the public so that this type of nonsense is not allowed to prevail.”

The changes form part of government plans to reform education for children aged 11 to 14. Ministers have asked for changes to the national curriculum to give schools greater flexibility in the way they teach this age group.

Ken Boston, chief executive of the QCA, set out the proposed changes in a letter to the then education secretary, Ruth Kelly, earlier this year.

“The school curriculum should pass on enduring values. It should develop principles for distinguishing between right and wrong,” he wrote.

But he added that, instead of a requirement to teach the difference between right and wrong, the aim should be to instil secure values, whatever these might be.

The statutory requirement states: “The school curriculum should pass on enduring values. It should develop principles for distinguishing between right and wrong.”

It also says a school’s aims should be to develop pupils’ “ability to relate to others and work for the common good”. Under the proposed changes, reference to “the common good” is deleted.

And it is a requirement that “the school curriculum should contribute to the development of pupils’ sense of identity through knowledge and understanding of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural heritages of Britain’s diverse society”.

Under the planned changes, this will be replaced with an aim to help individuals “understand different cultures and traditions and have a strong sense of their own place in the world”.

Prof 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.”

But the National Union of Teachers remained sanguine over the changes. “Teachers always resented being told that one of the aims of the school was to teach the difference between right and wrong. That is inherent in the way teachers operate,” said a spokesman.

A spokesman for the QCA said: “The new wording states clearly that young people should become ‘responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society’.”