BY MURRAY WHITE A PRESCRIPTION OF MORAL values for schools which encourages children to tell the truth, act considerately towards others, be self-disciplined and respect others, has been proposed by the national schools' inspection body, Ofsted.
At the same time, teachers must ensure negative values such as bullying, cheating, cruelty and dishonesty have no place in the classroom.
"Value-free" education is a non-starter, declared Prof Stewart Sutherland, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, launching the Ofsted discussion paper, "Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development" last week.
All schools should prepare an "ethos" of common values to which staff and pupils should adhere, and which should be insti tuted across the whole curriculum.
Spiritual development which the paper defines as closely linked to, but not the same as, religious education should lead all pupils towards an "open-ended enquiry" into the deeper meanings of life. It admits the difficulties of offering common inspection guidelines both to those of religious belief and those with none.
The paper, launched in response to the 1992 Schools Act and sent to all schools and colleges, asks teachers and educationalists to respond to the question of how they can present moral and spiritual issues "without moral abdication but also without indoctrination".
Schools cannot be expected to "fill a moral vacuum" in society if children are not also being taught moral and spiritual values at home, says the paper. Catholic education advisors welcomed the emphasis on a "whole school" approach to moral and spiritual principles.
Fr Andrew Falev. Chairman of the National Board of Religious Inspectors and Advisors, said that Catholic schools would have to look carefully to ensure the new proposals ensured the consistency of Church teaching.
"RE is indeed there to help our pupils to grasp the deeper questions of life, and not be be forced into a pre-packaged code , of morals," he said.
Despite admitting the difficulties of "grading" values and moral development, Prof Sutherland said that attempts should be made to assess general moral and spiritual development, although he questioned whether inspectors' should concentrate on "provision" by teachers or "actual development" of pupils.