Time to ‘go big’ on the curriculum

A letter from Emma Haddleton; with a follow up from Lucy Cooper.

It does seem extraordinary that all young humans don’t currently learn (or are educated) about themselves, their brains, their feelings, their thoughts and behaviours. There are of course are some superb packages and programs within schools which tend to focus on feelings (anxiety for example). Is it time for Psychology to make the switch from being a fringe science, which you can only learn from GCSE onwards, or come across if you need support and help whilst still a child, to being available to all?

Imagine a society where each person had the tools to understand something more about what and how their (and other people’s) mind, emotions and behaviours operate. If this knowledge was developed from a very early age, challenges could be managed and understood more readily as they occurred. It wouldn’t solve everything, but it would certainly be a strong stepping stone in the right direction.

Could we be brave and embed Psychology into the school curriculum from Reception right through the school system? In the same way Chemistry and Biology went from Natural History and Life Sciences into discrete subjects taught to very young children onwards, Psychology is now grown up enough to be a core subject. The beauty of Psychology of course, being that developmentally we know which concepts to share and explain at each age and stage.

I can of course see the reams of arguments saying there isn’t room on the curriculum - and that understanding oneself is already squeezed into PSHE lessons (Growth Mindset is a regular item). But this is about moving from pockets of great work into a comprehensive curriculum approach (with a pilot study of course to inform and amend before full roll out).

A psychologically informed and literate society could be a game changer for how we all interact with each other and how we structure our institutions of governance and service. Post Covid we’re all looking to make some changes and improvements. Shall we collectively, as Psychologists go big?

Emma Haddleton
CEO haddletonknight.com

 

As discussed in Emma's letter, there are certain key curriculum subjects which are considered essential for young humans: why then, one asks, is the subject of Psychology, with its various foci firmly upon human development, education and existence, kept in the shadows?

Is it time for Psychology, to bound out from the fringe-science shadows, in which it has been irrationally forced to hide and boldly present itself within the mainstream education of our young humans? I suggest that the singular answer to this question, is an emphatic ‘yes’.

Imagine removing Biology and Chemistry from primary schools, so that our future Biologists and Chemists cannot develop the essential vocabulary nor their understanding of the subject before starting their academic career at GCSE. It would be a disservice of epic proportions to expect our youth to be compensated for those years of lost education at GCSE with a few taster sessions. Our chemistry and Biology students would be starting their academic careers at a disadvantage, with years of knowledge to catch up on before they could even attempt to understand their chosen subject at GCSE: this would be implausible and incredibly unfair. So why then, does the curriculum currently expect our future Psychologist students to simply ‘catch up’ at GCSE and/or A-level?

It is essential that we embed Psychology into the current school curriculum from reception to GCSE, as not only will this give our future Psychology students the most advantageous start in our increasingly complex field, it will also equip our youth with the essential psychological-vocabulary, that they require to make sense of their emotions and the world around them: to deprive our youth of an education within the field of psychology is to provide them with a potentially devastating disservice.  

The education system has made an attempt to support our youth’s psychological well-being and awareness, by implementing creative and sometimes beneficial emotional awareness programs, however they do not, an understanding of the complexities of psychology, make; nor do they prepare a student for the GCSE and A-Level subject matter. 

Often students cautiously enter their first GCSE Psychology class at 14 years of age, unequivocally not equipped with the necessary verbiage, of which they desperately require in order to navigate the subject at GCSE Level. Consequently, precious learning time is taken from their allocated classroom time, and dedicated to the process of ‘catching the student up’. The ‘catching up’, of basic psychological knowledge, process sets in motion a devastating domino effect which clatters into course-specific module time: all of which could have been prevented if a short amount of time for Psychology had been allocated on the curriculum from early childhood. It certainly begs the question “does a stitch in time, save nine?”

Haddleton observes that development within education is essential; development was key in making Chemistry and Biology the core subjects that they are recognised as today: this same level of progressiveness must be applied to Psychology. Psychology is no longer a young and naive subject: it is equipped, due to its very nature, with the ability to assess which subjects are relevant and appropriate for specific stages of education. 

Timing is of the utmost importance in introducing our fascinating and valuable subject into early human education. Due to Covid-19, and its changes to the entire education system, now is arguably our finest opportunity to take the leap of faith, and roll out a pilot scheme-of-work.

Haddleton shrewdly asks: “Shall we collectively as Psychologists ‘go big’?' I suggest we collectively respond in the affirmative. We must equip the next generation of young humans with the psychological knowledge, that we as Psychologists know will benefit them in any life-route they choose. Therefore, let us ‘go big’ and implement Psychology into the core curriculum, let us equip the next generation with, at the very least, a measurable Psychology-based vocabulary. 

In an ever-changing contemporary world it is our humanitarian responsibility to provide the next generation with the tools they need, so that they may be better prepared to build the lives of which they deserve: a healthy and thorough understanding of Psychology from a young age is arguably the most useful tool we can offer to the next generation. 

Lucy Cooper

PGDE, QTLS, MSET, CPsychol.

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