Pupils given a positive spin
Children in an area blighted by job losses are being taught how to raise their hopes and realise others are worse off than them under a "spiritually guided" curriculum.
Burry Port Junior School, near Llanelli, aims to teach its 158 pupils everyday values, such as hope, respect and freedom, to help them beat apathy and low aspiration resulting from poverty.
David Davies, the headteacher, introduced the lessons after being inspired by Trimsaran School, a bilingual primary in a former mining village. He believed they could prove invaluable in lifting the spirits of young people as the world plunged further into recession and families faced increasing hardship.
The Living Values programme was introduced in Trimsaran last year, following a visit by Dr Neil Hawkes, a teacher, who created it. At Burry Port, 38 per cent of the pupils have special educational needs, but Mr Davies said many of the pupils also had problems at home. "It's an area of deprivation and low incomes - there have been a lot of job losses. Many of the pupils come to school with values but not necessarily the right ones."
He said phasing in the curriculum had been easier because of a growing bent in Welsh education towards skills and reflection.
Edward Horan, the headteacher at Trimsaran, said it was the way forward for his pupils. Some also come from poor backgrounds.
"Values education is integral here now. The main impact here seems to have been that the children are more aware of themselves, the values they possess and are able to develop."
Mr Davies was convinced values education had made pupils more orderly, but there was no proof it raises academic standards.
"Respect is one of the big values we have tried to push," he said. "It has an impact on all aspects of school life, including discipline."
Mr Davies grew up in nearby Ammanford where he learnt respect in the community and from neighbours. "More and more these days the school is the provider of values," he said. Each month a new one is taught. This month is freedom. "We're looking at freedom the pupils have in Burry Port and what freedom they have, or don't have, in other countries," he said.
Dr Neil Hawkes has worked as a teacher, headteacher and senior and chief education adviser.
He now works as an international education consultant to governments and ministries around the world.
In England, he is an adviser to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority working on values education.
He is a director of Alive (Association of Living Values International), a charity that works with organisations, such as Unesco, to create safe, caring school climates that are conducive to quality learning.