Spiritual Development…but where is the compassion and connection with that which is beyond words?
The Ofsted Inspection Framework places high importance on the effectiveness and impact of the school’s provision for spiritual development.
This sounds really hopeful to someone who strongly believes that ‘education’ is about far more than numeracy, literacy and information gathering, and that the precious years in school are also a time for children and young people to explore the many facets of who they are and what it means to be human amongst other humans.
If we believe that spirituality is innate to all human beings, and as I believe, a strong motivating force for good when allowed to surface, be recognised and valued, then thank goodness our education system is placing importance on this.
But what is spirituality? How do we define it, and how do we define it enough to measure the effectiveness of a school’s provision for it?
The Ofsted grade descriptors suggest spiritual development is shown by children’s:
- ability to be reflective about their own beliefs and experiences (religious or otherwise) and how these inform their perspective on life etc
- use of imagination and creativity
- sense of enjoyment and fascination in learning about themselves, others and the world around them
Yes, but do these not miss the very essence of the spiritual dimension of human beings; that connection to something ‘greater than’, that some call ‘God’, others refer to as ‘the universe’, ‘spirit’, ‘life-force’ or the ‘numinous’, and some understand and ‘know’ but don’t try to find words to describe. Admittedly each of these labels will conjure a different definition and personal experience in the user, and all are trying to define with words that personal connection which is beyond words.
Children, I believe, understand this connection, have insight and personal experience of it in a very real and meaningful way, and can, if given the appropriate environment and opportunities, connect with their spiritual dimension quite naturally and readily.
Schools can do this and many do a wonderful job of it. But maybe it is best that Ofsted does not try to measure this very special and personal facet of our humanity.