Losing the Whole Child? A National Survey of Primary Education Training Provision for Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development

May 2015

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 38, No. 2, 199–216, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study explores trainers’ approaches to organisation and delivery; levels of confidence in delivery; and wider views on the place of spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) in primary schools and in initial teacher training (ITT).

Data were collected through an online survey. Emails were sent to the potential audience from universities and School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT), which directed them to the website where the survey could be accessed.

The findings reveal that given the current political desire to increase the school-based routes, this may potentially open up opportunities for more time for SMSC in schools. However, it was found that some respondents feared that many schools do not value SMSC and this raises concerns about the degree to which trainees will be exposed to good practice.

Furthermore, schools in England are being held accountable for their performance through the publication of pupils’ exam results. In addition, teacher training providers are under government pressure to achieve and maintain very high standards of provision. The government also implemented a new framework for ITT inspection recently.

The findings reveal that under the new regime, the stakes for universities are particularly high because only providers achieving the top grade of ‘outstanding’ are guaranteed to keep their core allocation of student numbers for 2013–2014 and 2014–2015. However, only13% of higher education providers have been classified as outstanding while small employment-based routes including SCITTs have been achieving a higher percentage of top grades.

The authors also argue that recent changes in government funding have shifted focus onto income gained from students’ fees. For the universities, any loss of student places due to poor ratings equates to loss of income and the potential loss of jobs. Therefore ITT providers work within a bureaucratic framework. The authors argue that institutions require an advocate who can promote SMSC to be firmly situated in the ITT curriculum, because managers seek to reduce the time allocation given to it.

Furthermore, the respondents mentioned the value attributed to children being and becoming connected to others and the wider social world when they explained the importance of SMSC.

The authors conclude that this survey has provided new evidence about the practices and challenges facing those who are training primary teachers in universities and in SCITTs. 

The authors argue that the promotion of strands relating to children’s personal, social and emotional well-being is essential if children are to fully flourish as human beings. They mention that in England and Wales, the SMSC agenda is one way of contributing to children’s holistic development. They also argue that this national survey suggests that time devoted to SMSC in training is relatively limited and enmeshed in issues of power and powerlessness, the ways forward are not straightforward. 

Updated: Feb. 11, 2018