Values-Centred Schools

School heart
School structure
School life
Teacher professional development
Curriculum and co-curriculum
In practice
What works

Implement: Curriculum and co-curriculum: In practice

How can schools move towards a values-centred, values-integrated curriculum?  

Our focus was to develop a clear vision for where the school was headed, articulate our values and then work out how to structure the school around a values approach. We started with a pilot project. It was too big to move the whole school in one hit. We looked at teaching and learning and our rationale was to explore values through core curriculum and the application of core values such as the way teachers set up their classroom, behave with the students, and students behave with each other. We took a more holistic look at how programs could be incorporated; for example, in maths class, incorporating values into a probability curriculum, or in personal development looking at drug and alcohol use. We also looked at cooperative learning activities with very much a student-centred focus and explicit learning strategies using core values. You can see that to do all of this across the whole school simultaneously would be too traumatic in our environment. We believed that if the pilot was successful it would serve two purposes. It would be a demonstration that this works and it would also provide the template or model for making it happen across the whole school system in a way that would not confuse staff or parents and would not terrify them because of the unknowns.

Deputy principal, government secondary school with large refugee population (NSW)


Any school can pick up resources and do it on the surface level and call that values education. Just to pick up a package from the shelf will not make values education embedded. You have to deal with your reality, with your situation, work with your staff to embrace and internalise that this is about the WHOLE child, and the professional development has to be focused on staff as the foundation for the rest of the process to have any chance of working.

Curriculum leader, large government primary school (Vic)


Integrating values into curriculum was a focus of our strategic plan. We asked what is the meaning of a value and how does it manifest itself in what we do in the specific curriculum, for example, gifted education and respect, maths or science and sustainable outcomes, caring for others in the community. So the pedagogical discussions were infused with the values we explicitly wanted to teach. Values are not just about what we demonstrate on a daily basis. They had to be written into the learning areas.

Principal, small government primary school (SA)


What does the Values Education Good Practice School Project tell us about the place of values education in the curriculum? 

The cluster case studies from Stage 2 reinforced the inference from Stage 1 that values education is a curriculum concept that is best applied or infused across the curriculum. The Stage 2 projects reaffirmed that good practice in values education is to conceive of and develop approaches in values education that treat it as the core bond or heart for the whole schooling community life. It is more effective practice to embed values education as an integral component of all curriculum activity rather than see it as a separate curriculum or as a part of a particular curriculum domain, such as pastoral care, religious education or the humanities [see the Quinary of values teaching and learning]. If embedded in the whole curriculum it ceases to be regarded as an 'add-on' extracurricular program. In the same vein, an embedded values education approach requires more than a one-off 'program' or a series of public events or school show days. The Stage 2 projects show that while some of these approaches – such as special events or particular curriculum 'homes' for values education – might have a part to play, it is dubious that they yield the positive longer-term effects required for the whole-school development. The most effective clusters suggest that values education is a central curriculum concept rather than a peripheral curriculum concern. It is the 'glue' for the whole of schooling.

VEGPSP Report – Stage 2


For many, if not most, of the 25 cluster projects their values education 'program' was invariably attached to a pre-existing curriculum or policy priority. For some, such as the Students for the Biosphere Cluster (Vic), it was their environment education program, or, as in the case of the Edmund Rice Ministries Cluster (SA), their service-learning activities. For clusters where the driver behind the project was a need to resolve a common challenge in the cluster schools (such as improving student engagement, developing more responsible student behaviour or promoting stronger school harmony) the project needed to find the appropriate content hook on which to hang the values of teaching and learning.

VEGPSP Report – Stage 2

(For samples of two different approaches to values education in the middle years curriculum and co-curriculum see the Brighton cluster and Canterbury cluster stories from the VEGPSP Report – Stage 1.) 

Schools using values-centred approaches in teaching and learning demonstrate that there are generic characteristics in what might be called values-focused pedagogies. What are the characteristics of these pedagogies? 

These pedagogies, which are described in the cluster case studies, the UAN reports and the case writing, invariably share the following characteristics. They: 

  • are student-centred rather than teacher- or content-centred
  • explicitly teach knowledge and understanding the values
  • are inclusive, respectful and reflective
  • provide open-ended rather than closed learning experiences
  • engage students in real-life worlds and lived experiences
  • require student action, empowerment and responsibility
  • provide avenues for moving beyond understanding to taking action
  • involve students in making meaning.

VEGPSP Report – Stage 2