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Developing a Framework of Values


Inclusion is most importantly seen as putting inclusive values into action. It is a commitment to particular values which accounts for a wish to overcome exclusion and promote participation. Values are fundamental guides and prompts to action. They spur us forward, give us a sense of direction and define a destination. We know that we are doing, or have done, the right thing through understanding the relationship between our actions and our values. For all actions affecting others are underpinned by values. Every such action becomes a moral argument whether or not we are aware of it. It is a way of saying ‘this is the right thing to do’.

 

Being clear about the relationship between values and actions is the most practical step we can take in education. We are guided to know what we should do next and how to understand the actions of others. In schools this means linking values to the detail of curricula, teaching and learning activities, interactions in staffrooms and playgrounds and relationships between and amongst children and adults. The Index provides a model for the way educational development in settings can arise from deeply held values rather than on a series of programmes or initiatives designed by others underpinned by values that have been unexamined and which may be rejected when they are. Each of its indicators and questions can be linked back to the framework of values and so reinforce a values led approach to improvement.

 

A careful piecing together of a framework of values has resulted in a list of headings concerned with equality, rights, participation, community, respect for diversity, sustainability, non-violence, trust, compassion, honesty, courage, joy, love, hope/optimism, and beauty. This has been a shared process involving countless dialogues with people in many countries. Since the Index was published a sixteenth value heading, wisdom has been added following engagement with a number of other values frameworks. The word wisdom occurs within the Church of England list of educational values though it is given a non-theological meaning here to indicate how action may require the careful weighing up of competing possibilities.

 

In the text of the Index priority was given to some values over others in shaping educational development but we now see this as mistaken. The significance of any particular heading can be tested by imagining what education would be like without it. What does education become without courage, joy, love or beauty? And we have also found that different people draw their motivation from different sets of beliefs and different individuals and groups use different values to start to transform their setting.

 

A values framework can be considered as a web or universe of interconnected meanings in four dimensions. Over time the aspects of a value that seem most important may shift. The illustration shows values headings attached to points of a dodecahedron.

 

 

Going beyond headings to explore the extent of shared understandings of equality, participation and community, for example, can reveal considerable differences in value positions. But education systems also reflect entirely different sets of values that involve treating children as commodities in an education market. Educators may be expected to add value to them as if they are canning sardines.

 

Possible headings for excluding values lying behind and always on the point of replacing inclusive values, are shown below. While several, such as family or efficiency, might seem attractive as words they may appear less so when set against the inclusive value they replace. So a notion of family involving concern for a single generation nuclear family appears excluding when compared with the idea of community in which family sentiments are extended into ideas of wider solidarity involving local, national and global citizenship. 

 

 

 

An excluding framework of values might be seen to dominate many of our societies in the 21st century. It may have become the default setting for our values and so for determining our actions. We may not notice the extent to which this has happened and may have to work hard to reconnect our actions to inclusive values.

 

 

Our shared values – an example for a school
  • We want everyone to be treated fairly and to feel part of a community.
  • We enjoy finding out about each other, what we have in common and how we differ.
  • We learn from each other and share what we know.
  • We connect what we learn at home and at school.
  • We sort out problems by listening to each other and finding solutions together.
  • We speak up when we see that something is wrong.
  • We celebrate the different plants and animals in the world.
  • We look after our environment, try to save energy and avoid waste.
  • We want to reduce the numbers of people who suffer hunger, disease and poverty.