What is an ideal childhood? Presented with the opportunity to design a brand new primary school, at Cornwall Education Learning Trust (CELT) we have done a lot of thinking about this question. What really matters to us as educationalists – and as parents? How can we make sure we give every child the chance to shine and be the best they can be? How can we make the most of our unique Cornish environment and heritage to fill children with wonder and a grounding sense of place?
Feeling safe and valued
What we agree on is that a child needs to feel from the very start that she or he is wanted, loved and valued for exactly who they are. There is no replacement for that; it is the most important thing. If that is not right from the very beginning, everything that follows is playing catch up and trying to make better that which is not good.
After that, it is about nurturing the individual genius of each child. Every child is unique and has their own strengths, weaknesses, and passions. It doesn’t really matter what these might be. What matters is focusing on what it is they love and giving them the space and time to explore that.
A sense of place
We also believe that nature is a gift we should try to give to each child. Forming a relationship with nature early on is a very powerful thing. Newquay Primary Academy is situated in a unique location. We want children to grow up remember their childhood as a happy, safe place where they connected with Cornwall’s beautiful natural environment.
Knowledge and skills for life
We cannot forget that the core business of schools is ensuring that children and young people are able to read, write and be numerate. Obtaining an acceptable level of literacy and numeracy can greatly improve many factors in your life, including your social life, career prospects and social mobility. We are living in a rapidly changing world. Technological advances are making the need for numeracy skills more critical within the workplace. Our understanding of what it means to be literate has altered and current definitions take into account the literacy demands of the society we live in.
These are exciting times for our children and young people. Opportunities we cannot yet imagine are opening for them. Although we cannot be certain what the world of tomorrow will look like, we can be certain that there will always be a need to instil in our children universal human values. Values help us to grow and develop. They help us to create the future we want to experience.
This is why a Newquay Primary Academy education is a values-based education.
Custodians of our future
Values-based education is an approach that does not just teach children and young people about values. It provides a teaching environment in which pupils experience positive universal values first-hand throughout their schooling. It empowers schools to underpin their curriculum with universal positive human values such as respect, justice, equality, integrity, harmony, trust and honesty. It emphasises the centrality of all people in society and focuses on valuing self, others and the environment. Learning about values creates the culture of altruism, compassion, equality and justice which underpin the foundations of an ethically based society.
We know that you cannot give a young person a voice – they already have one. The skill is learning how to hear that voice and offering the space and opportunity for it to grow.
What a values-based education does give each child is a moral compass and self-leadership. It enables children and young people to internalise and act on a code of personal ethics. They become the Captain of their own ship, which ultimately enables them to navigate their wonderful, individual journeys as custodians of our future.