Media Centre

Faiths call on Government for a change in the law to enable FE colleges to take young people’s spiritual development seriously

Churches and other faith communities have called on the Government to extend responsibility for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development to Further Education colleges as well as schools as part of coming Education and Skills legislation. They also recommend that the core entitlement to spiritual and moral development should be a minimum guaranteed two-hour slot for all young people, in vocational diplomas and across all 14-19 education provision.

Picking up on recent Government concerns about ‘yob culture’ and the even more serious gun culture in some areas, the paper argues that refusal by successive governments to include ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural development’ as an entitlement for young people in ) FE colleges (where 43% of them study) has contributed to  the lack of a sense of meaning and purpose in life and work for some.

The calls are made by Anglican, Methodist and Free Church education bodies, working with the inter-faith Faiths in FE Forum and its parent body NEAFE (National Ecumenical Agency in FE), in a paper entitled ‘Taking Young People Seriously: SMD (Spiritual and Moral Development) at 14-19 especially Post-16 FE level’. The executive summary is reprinted below.

Executive Summary

Government commitment to a new deal for young people in the Education and Skills sector, exemplified in the Secretary of State’s speech to the 2005 LSDA conference, has created excitement in the sector and its supporters, including the faith communities. Disappointment over Tomlinson has been overtaken by the commitment of all stakeholders to higher quality vocational provision for all, based on meeting learner need and improving learner outcomes, as well as meeting economic and skills targets.

Core Learning For All. A remarkably broad new consensus is emerging that meeting learner need includes taking spiritual and moral development (SMD) seriously in FE colleges.But as the new structures become clear and new frameworks fall into place, there remains a void on SMD at the heart of the 14-19 education/skills proposals. The functionalist language and agenda appear to exclude any attention to SMD or to a core of broad learning which enables young people to develop as whole people and mature adults. This is especially damaging because of the suspicions that the differential treatment of FE students (disproportionately from working class and ethnic minority backgrounds in comparison with those in schools) is based on residual class divisions.


A Void of the Spirit. This void in the curriculum is paralleled by a void at the centre of many young people’s lives – especially those caught up in the ‘yob culture’ in some areas and the even more serious gun culture in others. The refusal by successive governments to extend the entitlement to care for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development to cover all 16-19 year olds in FE institutions as well as in schools contributes to many young people’s lack of direction and purpose.  In today’s complex and plural multi-faith society, young people deserve better. 

Improved Outcomes for Learners and Government. LSC Research and OFSTED findings give two clear messages: that SMD provision is popular with young people; and that they learn better in a college environment which is culturally rich, offers multi-faith chaplaincy and other provision for their spiritual and emotional needs, and opportunities for social and cultural action in the community.  Government appears to accept these findings, but neither the White Papers, nor the follow up implementation guidance (QCA) are clear on how provision along these lines is to become a guaranteed core component of all young people’s learning, with consequent benefits for young people, society and the economy.

 

We Therefore Recommend:

That government extends responsibility for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development to FE colleges as well as schools as part of coming Education and Skills legislation.

That DfES devotes policy development time to exploring specifically what spiritual and moral development (SMD) should mean for todays young people in a multi-faith society and commissions the necessary research to define it for practice.

That DfES requests QCA to develop guidance on provision for SMD (including links with Post-16 RE) as part of a broad educational core of learning, and also on the difficult area of assessment, and requests QIA to explore the implications of this work for definitions of quality.

That the core entitlement to SMD should be a minimum guaranteed two-hour slot for all young people, in vocational diplomas and across all 14-19 provision.

 

Pledge of Support

The churches and faith communities which have contributed to this document pledge their support to working with Government on this agenda, including any practical contributions needed at national and local (college and LSC) level.