For some time, an individualistic and consumerist conception of success and the good life has been common, and has fostered a utilitarian approach to education, geared towards maximum economic output. But this has not been healthy. As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argue in their book, The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone,...'further improvements in the quality of life no longer depend on further economic growth: the issue is now community and how we relate to each other’.
Growing up in Africa, I saw first-hand the blessing of the proverb, ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’. I know that any further improvements in education cannot rest solely on the academic and the mind, but must take into account the impact of community upon those individuals who are part of it. Conversely, it is quite possible for the education of our children and young people to have an impact on community and even upon the nation’s soul and character. Either way, the challenge remains: how can schools help young people engage with their communities, in a meaningful way?
Grace Lee Boggs suggests that instead of getting young people to; ‘...remain in the classrooms isolated from their communities...we need to develop strategies to help children transform themselves into positive change agents and begin creating a new model which empowers young people to make a difference.’ Classroom learning will never be enough if we want to educate and nurture young people’s hearts, souls and minds for the benefit of the community. How can we provide them with meaningful opportunities to engage with society and experience the positive effects of serving others?
I have seen the evidence of how this can work in my Archbishop of York Youth Trust’s Young Leaders Award. Through this work, many young people have been nurtured and educated in their hearts, souls and minds, and as a result have been empowered to become active citizens in their communities.
The YLA embodies the principles of educere*, and provides genuine opportunities for young people to grow in faith, leadership, character, and service. Within each award every young person takes part in a social action project for the benefit of the community. I continue to be amazed by the things I see and hear when young people are empowered to love, care and serve their communities with passion and dedication.
In his chapter in my book, On Rock or Sand Andrew Adonis said, ‘Education is the key enabler of social integration and individual moral purpose’. I believe that education can be the vehicle to bring back out of social and economic exclusion those who suffer disadvantage and have become detached.
Take Luke, a year 7 student who opted to help his local foodbank as part of his personal challenge. Over a period of weeks and months, Luke built up five food parcels with enough food and toiletries for three days each and three meals per day. In all, Luke managed to get together 50 kilos of supplies. It’s not only amazing what Luke did for others, but in ten years’ time what will this mean to him as an individual? What will this training mean to him when he becomes a man, a husband, a father?
Another example is George who, having failed at primary school to meet any of his early learning goals, was struggling with behaviour issues and was totally disengaged. Through the award he was given the opportunity to learn about a charity and tell his class about it. George had barely spoken in class before, yet something about this project connected with his heart, mind and soul, and before he knew it he was giving a wonderful presentation on the work of Dementia UK, sharing how his grandfather was suffering from the condition and had recently been moved into a home. His peers were so moved by his story that they unanimously voted that this charity should be the one to support. Spurred on by this experience of educere, George co-ordinated fundraising events in the community, and in turn became increasingly engaged in his schooling. It was the head’s view that because he engaged with the award, George’s attitude to learning had changed so much that it bore fruit not only in the way he had learned to serve his community, but also in remarkably high achieving SATs results. George’s story was a wonderful achievement, and one which models the principles of heart, soul and mind education in the context of community.
educere* meaning ‘to lead and draw out that which lies within’.
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- Professor John West-Burnham, writer, teacher and consultant and author of Rethinking Educational Leadership and Leadership Dialogues
- Libby Nicholas, Chief Executive of Reach 4 Academy Trust
- Amira Chilvers, Strategy Officer, Education Office of the Church of EnglandJohn Goodey, St John the Baptist, C of E Primary School, London
- Dame Julia Cleverdon, Co-Founder of Step Up to Serve
- Patsy Kane, Executive Headteacher, The Education and Learning Trust,
- Elizabeth Hole, Academy Headteacher, Whalley Grange 11-18 High School
- Valentina Mindoljevic and Andrew Watson, United World College, Mostar
- Revd Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis UK
- Sir Iain Hall, Headteacher, Kings Academy Warrington
- Catherine May, Head Teacher, St Saviour’s and St Olave’s School, London
- Revd Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer for The Church of England
- Revd Dr John Caperon, Chaplain
- Professor Gerald Pillay, Vice-Chancellor, Liverpool Hope University
- Kat Pugh, Head teacher, St Marylebone CE School, London
- Stephen Tierney, Executive Director of St Cuthbert’s & St Mary’s Catholic Academies
- The Most Rev Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
- Peter Green, Headmaster, Rugby School