Central to the proposals of the Cambridge Primary Review is a set of twelve aims for primary education. Their adoption and pursuit was one of the eight priorities of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust. The aims are grounded in extensive evidence from parents, teachers, children, community leaders, international research and a wide range of official, professional and voluntary stakeholders. The aims are intended to shape curriculum, pedagogy and school life as a whole, and they counter the tendency in policy circles to treat educational aims as cosmetic. They have now been adopted in many schools, and are frequently referred to elsewhere. However, because the headings make limited sense without their attached explanations, we have decided to post them here in full (slightly edited).
The aims are in three groups that echo the title of the CPR final report – Children, their World, their Education. The first group identifies those individual qualities and capacities which schools should foster and build upon in every child, in whatever they do, and the personal needs to which schools should attend. The second group includes four critically important orientations to people and the wider world, reflecting discussion of the opportunities and challenges of life in the 21st century. The third group focuses on the content, processes and outcomes of learning itself.
- Well-being. To attend to children’s capabilities, needs, hopes and anxieties here and now, and promote their mental, emotional and physical well-being and welfare. Happiness, a strong sense of self and a positive outlook on life are not only desirable in themselves: they are also conducive to engagement and learning. But well-being goes much further than this, and ‘happiness’ on its own looks merely self-indulgent. Caring for children’s well-being is about attending to their physical and emotional welfare. It is about inducting them into a life where they will be wholeheartedly engaged in all kinds of worthwhile activities and relationships, defined generously rather than narrowly. It is about maximising children’s learning potential through good teaching and the proper application of evidence about how children develop and learn and how teachers most effectively teach. Fostering children’s well-being requires us to attend to their future fulfilment as well as their present needs and capabilities. Well-being thus defined is both a precondition and an outcome of successful primary education.
- Engagement. To secure children’s active, willing and enthusiastic engagement in their learning. This too is a precondition for learning. It is also a manifestation of successful teaching.
- Empowerment. To excite, promote and sustain children’s agency, empowering them through knowledge, understanding, skill and personal qualities to profit from their present and later learning, to discover and lead rewarding lives, and to manage life and find new meaning in a changing world.
- Autonomy. To foster children’s autonomy and sense of self through a growing understanding of the world present and past, and through productive relationships with others. Autonomy enables individuals to establish who they are and to what they might aspire; it enables the child to translate knowledge into meaning; it encourages that critical independence of thought which is essential both to the growth of knowledge and to citizenship; it enables children to discriminate in their choice of activities and relationships; and it helps them to see beyond the surface appeal of appearance, fashion and celebrity to what is of abiding value.
Self, others and the wider world
- Encouraging respect and reciprocity. To promote respect for self, for peers and adults, for other generations, for diversity and difference, for language, culture and custom, for ideas and values, and for those habits of willing courtesy between persons on which civilised relations depend. To ensure that respect is mutual: between adult and child as well as between child and adult. To understand the essential reciprocity of learning and human relations.
- Promoting interdependence and sustainability. To develop children’s understanding of humanity’s dependence for well-being and survival on equitable relationships between individuals, groups, communities and nations, and on a sustainable relationship with the natural world, and help children to move from understanding to positive action in order that they can make a difference and know that they have the power to do so.
- Empowering local, national and global citizenship. To help children to become active citizens by encouraging their full participation in decision-making within the classroom and school, especially where their own learning is concerned, and to advance their understanding of human rights, democratic engagement, diversity, conflict resolution and social justice. To develop a sense that human interdependence and the fragility of the world order require a concept of citizenship which is global is well as local and national.
- Celebrating culture and community. To establish the school as a cultural site, a focal point of community life and thought. To enact within the school the behaviours and relationships on which community most directly depends, and in so doing to counter the loss of community outside the school. To appreciate that ‘education is an embodiment of a culture’s way of life, not just as a preparation for it.’ … Establishing itself as a thriving cultural and communal site should be a principal aim of every school.
Learning, knowing and doing
- Exploring, knowing, understanding and making sense. To enable children to encounter and begin to explore the wealth of human experience through induction into, and active engagement in, the different ways through which humans make sense of their world and act upon it: intellectual, moral, spiritual, aesthetic, social, emotional and physical; through language, mathematics, science, the humanities, the arts, religion and other ways of knowing and understanding. Induction acknowledges and respects our membership of a culture with its own deeply-embedded ways of thinking and acting which can make sense of complexity and through which human understanding constantly changes and advances. Education is necessarily a process of acculturation. Exploration is grounded in that distinctive mixture of amazement, perplexity and curiosity which constitutes childhood wonder; a commitment to discovery, invention, experiment, speculation, fantasy, play and growing linguistic agility which are the essence of childhood.
- Fostering skill. To foster children’s skills in those domains on which learning, employment and a rewarding life most critically depend: in oracy and literacy, in mathematics, science, information technology, the creative and performing arts, the humanities and financial management; but also and no less in practical activities, communication, creativity, invention, problem-solving, critical practice and human relations. To ally skills to knowledge and a sense of purpose in order that they do not become empty formulae devoid of significance.
- Exciting the imagination. To excite children’s imagination in order that they can advance beyond present understanding, extend the boundaries of their lives, contemplate worlds possible as well as actual, understand cause and consequence, develop the capacity for empathy, and reflect on and regulate their behaviour; to explore and test language, ideas and arguments in every activity and form of thought … We assert the need to emphasise the intrinsic value of exciting children’s imagination. To experience the delights – and pains – of imagining, and of entering into the imaginative worlds of others, is to become a more rounded and capable person.
- Enacting dialogue. To help children grasp that learning is an interactive process and that understanding builds through joint activity between teacher and pupil and among pupils in collaboration, and thereby to develop pupils’ increasing sense of responsibility for what and how they learn. To help children recognise that knowledge is not only transmitted but also negotiated and re-created; and that each of us in the end makes our own sense out of the meeting of knowledge both personal and collective. To advance a pedagogy in which dialogue is central: between self and others, between personal and collective knowledge, between present and past, between different ways of making sense.
Alexander, R.J. (ed) (2010) Children, their World, their Education: final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review, Routledge, pp 197-9