At Monday’s assembly I introduced the theme of Tolerance. In this assembly I work with all of the children and so I use photographs or pictures or tell short stories which will illustrate the theme to all age groups. I then ask questions of different classes so that the children can participate and share their thoughts.
I started the assembly by showing this illustration and then this one on the left.
I asked the children how we are different and they talked about skin, hair and eye colour, age, personality, religion and interests. They also talked about how different people might react to things that happen in different ways. I think they were trying to get at the understanding that people think differently-a difficult concept for very young children. As ever, I was impressed with how deeply our children think about our world and their place in it. When I showed the picture of the hands above, one child said the ‘different colour hands represent the people of the world and the circle they have made represents our Earth.’
So why are we looking at difficult concepts such as tolerance with our children? One of the questions I asked the children in assembly was ‘Who is the most important person in school?’ Some children responded with ‘You’ or ‘the teachers’ but after I replied with no each time they began to realise that no one person is the most important. In the end they decided we are all important and special and we are a community together.
In asking such questions we are developing the children’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development. Maintained schools have obligations under section 78 of the Education Act (2002) which requires them, as part of a broad and balanced curriculum, to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school. In November 2014, maintained schools also received guidance from the Department for Education which said that through ensuring pupils’ SMSC development, schools can also demonstrate they are actively promoting fundamental ‘British values.’
The document lists values such as democracy, the law, making a positive contribution to society, tolerance and respect for others. All of these have to be done in an age-appropriate way and school has to be a place where the children have a ‘voice’ that can be heard. Assemblies, class councils, the School Council and PATHS lessons are some of the ways in which we do this. If you would like to read the November 2014 guidance, ‘Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools’, you can find it here.