Whether provided at home, in privately-funded schools or, as for the majority of children, within the state–funded sector, The Children's Society aspires for every child to receive the highest possible quality of education, involving an engaging, well-rounded and creative curriculum for learning, founded on an understanding of children’s capacities for learning and the flexibility to respond to their individual needs.
We recognise the importance of qualifications as one of the most significant outcomes of learning for children as they grow older, but we believe that exam grades and qualifications must not be seen as the primary objective of children’s education, rather one of the markers of children's growth, learning and achievements among many others.
Childhood is the time of our most rapid learning, of absorbing extraordinary amounts of new information and acquiring new skills and interests. The pleasure, sense of self and personal growth that children find in learning and discovery is something that is essential for each and every child’s emotional well-being. Schools should be able to promote and support a holistic approach to learning through their ethos and teaching.
We believe that the development of children’s personal, social and emotional capabilities should be given the same priority as the development of cognitive capabilities in schooling.
For most children, for most of their childhood, their school is the most significant social community to which they will belong and in which their childhood is profoundly shaped.
In recognising the social significance of school for children, The Children's Society therefore aspires for school to be a community that mirrors our organisation's aspirations for wider society – namely to be one in which children feel valued themselves as individuals, mix with and learn about a wide diversity of different children and their families, and do not face barriers or less favourable treatment on the basis of their family circumstances, wealth, class, or any other judgements or assumptions about them at such an early and formative stage.
With many schools under pressure to achieve government targets in the areas that are measured it is not surprising that many teachers feel unable to focus on pupils' social and emotional learning. Many teaching unions are demanding the freedom to teach a more rounded curriculum and for reform to academic testing and targets. They say tests constrain their ability to focus on a child's all round needs and talents.
The Children's Society and the report does in no way suggest teachers are neglecting or failing to understand the social and emotional needs of the children they are working with.