THE BIG THINK (TBT) – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Below are some typical questions about The Big Think and answers that we hope you find helpful but do get in touch with us (contact@the-big-think.org) if you have other questions or require further information – we are here to help you.

The Big Think is a practical, empowering, whole-school, whole-child personal development and wellbeing programme for ages 4 to 11 that promotes social, emotional, moral and spiritual growth – elements found to be present where intellectual advancement and academic achievement are being maximised.

The programme addresses the rising numbers of young citizens with mental health issues, as well as the increasing levels of childhood anxiety and unhappiness.

TBT comprises 88 values-themed school assembly and lesson kits (44 for ages 4 to 7 and 44 for ages 7 to11) that progressively foster children’s character strengths so that they can better manage all aspects of their day-to-day lives and shape their futures.

It gives teachers a structured, systematic yet flexible approach to providing a coherent, holistic education so that that from a young age children are developing their thinking capacity and through experiential learning, mastering social and emotional life skills enabling them to flourish and succeed, whatever their innate abilities and starting points in life.
A value is something that we ‘value’ and consider important to our lives, whether as individuals or collectively. Values are motivators, driving forces, what we are passionate about - factors underpinning our actions, responses and successes.

Values are deeply held principles and beliefs that help us establish standards and guide our thinking, choices and behaviour. Our values are central to who we are - and those we most cherish need to be present in our lives for us to feel happy and fulfilled.

Our chosen values determine our priorities and attitudes. They give us insights, helping us better understand ourselves and others, establish and maintain meaningful relationships, participate purposefully in our communities and society, and care for the environment.

Based around 5 universal values of Truth, Love, Peace, Responsibility and

Community, TBT uses an integrated system of connected values so that children can explore their own thoughts and feelings, and ultimately find their own voice. 

Values are not simply caught; we are constantly imbibing them from our daily experiences of life and particularly from the influences of our family members, schools, friends, communities, media and society. However, when values are explicitly taught and therefore children are consciously choosing ones that enhance their day-to-day activities, they feel stronger, happier and better able to manage their emotions and the challenges of life.

In safe, supportive school environments and using real-life stories, discussion, debate, shared experiences and self-reflection, over time TBT empowers children with positive, life-enriching values, improved oracy and a vocabulary that promotes good communication.
Values Literacy can be considered as understanding a wide spectrum of values and being able to choose and apply appropriate values within different contexts in real-life situations.  

When we understand our own values, other people’s values, the values influencing society and the values affecting our environment, in all kinds of different situations, we are better able to choose and skilfully and consistently apply suitable values so as to create positive impacts.

Values-literate children are more self-aware and learn to develop agency to perform well at school and better navigate the ever-changing world around them.
In our increasingly complex and fast-paced world, there is a growing sense that schools have been focusing too much on knowledge and not enough on equipping young citizens with essential life skills that enable them to develop positive character traits, including the confidence to progressively take more responsibility for shaping their own lives.

When Values Education is an integral part of a school curriculum, children are given the space and time to learn to use well-considered values to think, make choices and behave in ways that help them to live authentically and so enrich their own lives and contribute to the happiness and wellbeing of all living things and the long-term health and beauty of our planet.

Authoritative, global research shows that good, explicit, systematic Values Education:

• is essential to effective schooling
• positively impacts all the important educational measures
• is a worldwide, contemporary phenomenon
• fits well with updated brain and pedagogical research, and
• is a means to holistic student and teacher wellbeing.

A Values Dialogue is an opportunity to have an open, inclusive discussion about and explore the concept of values so as to allow fresh thinking and creative ideas to emerge and be acted upon.  For many this is a new experience and so for the dialogue to be most effective, it’s good to start with talking about how to create a safe, respectful environment that enables all the participants to join in, trust each other, listen carefully, speak openly and respect all the opinions expressed.

In this safe space, everyone tries to suspend their judgement and understand how their past thinking and experiences are informing their current judgement of themselves and others.  For children, this means trying to be curious, open and aware of their own inside or internal voices.

A Values Dialogue is a stimulating and bonding practice.  In TBT we use this technique to promote learning, growth, understanding and change.  The process is particularly helpful for those unfamiliar with or new to considering values, including teachers, children, non-teaching staff in schools and children’s parents and carers.

TBT is structured in such a way that over time the children explore and try out a wide range of values relating to the five core values of Truth, Love, Peace, Responsibility and Community, and consider how they might be applied in all the different aspects of their lives – in school, at home and in wider contexts.  By sharing their experiences, thoughts, feelings and ideas during a values dialogue, new, exciting thinking emerges that can then be followed through so that all the participants feel they can make progress and raise achievement levels.

Silent Sitting is a calming, relaxation technique that is the first component in each of the TBT lessons because it promotes concentration and enhances the ability to learn.  For a few minutes children sit or even lie down in a comfortable position and listen to soft music while a soothing scene is described.

This short period of time allows children to clear their minds and so create a space for new thoughts.

It can also be introduced as a daily activity, perhaps after break or lunchtime to refocus children towards their learning.

Broadly, wellbeing is about how well we are.  It is about the quality of our lives and how well we feel considering our physical and mental health, our day-to-day emotional experiences and our relationships, what we do, the environment in which we live and the natural environment, and factors such as our personal finances, education and skill set along with the economy and governance.

Values can improve wellbeing because of how we can consciously use them to raise the quality of all the dimensions of our lives, particularly through our attitudes and our desire to develop our skills and knowledge.  A compelling body of academic research shows that affirming their values decreases students’ stress levels, and the strong relationship between putting values into action and individual wellbeing.

TBT provides a systematic means of considering many of the attributes that affect our wellbeing, talking about them and taking action so that the children can thrive, flourish, manage their emotions, feel happy and achieve.

Our values influence our thinking, decision-making and actions and there are consequences for all our choices.  Our values underpin everything we do and are played out in how we behave.  For example, if we consider love to be important, we are likely to reflect that in our thinking, choices and the ways we look after ourselves, interact with and treat one another and all living things, and how we care for objects and the environment.

It is imperative that children understand that some values can have negative influences, such as intimidation.  This might be played out by bullying or other forms of promoting fear, including various acts of violence.

Positive values tend to promote good behaviour because of the feel-good factors they generate.

In TBT the stories form very instructive windows through which children are able to observe the possible outcomes from chosen values and develop character strengths.  They are able to see clearly the effects of values in action and the ensuing classroom discussions allow them to further consider and explore what they might do in similar or other real-life contexts and what it might feel like to behave in certain consciously and deliberately chosen ways.

The TBT programme is designed to enable children to gradually gain attributes, master life skills and acquire the knowledge needed to keep themselves healthy and safe and prepare them well for life and work in our ever-changing, increasingly complex world.

Many of TBT’s assemblies and lesson kits provide time-saving content for the new PSHE programme of study objectives, from Health and Wellbeing, Relationships, Living in the Wider World to Internet Safety and Harms.  TBT provides a practical means of bringing much of the PSHE curriculum to life, with the added bonus that good, systematic values education is shown to positively impact both academic and non-academic outcomes for participants.

There is an expectation that SMSC is embedded in all aspects of school life so that young people feel well prepared for the real world as educated citizens.

The TBT programme helps to achieve this by promoting curiosity, imagination and creativity through its 88 assembly and lesson kits for ages 4 to 11.  The whole-school, whole-child approach to teaching, learning and personal development and wellbeing establishes a cohesive, supportive culture and provides a comprehensive, integrated means of exploring people’s beliefs and values, individuals’ own and others’ experiences and feelings and in so doing, the children enjoy progressively learning more about themselves, others and the surrounding world.

The course provides plenty of opportunities for reflection and collaborative investigation into moral and ethical issues, with the children gaining the skills and confidence to offer reasoned views as they consider what is right and wrong.  They also learn about the importance of respecting authority and the law, and better understand that there are consequences for choices.

Over time the children will develop a range of social and emotional life skills that allow them to embrace diverse viewpoints, collaboratively find solutions and resolve conflicts, and give them the confidence to participate fully in their schools, at home, in their local communities and beyond.

Through storytelling and a structured approach to thinking for themselves, the children explore and gain a greater appreciation of cultural influences and deepen their understanding of one another and humanity, all the while accepting, respecting and celebrating diversity.

Teachers who have been using the TBT programme are delighted with its transformative effects on the school’s leadership and values-led management, the quality of the school’s curriculum and education system, the positive behaviour and attitudes it engenders but above all, the stimulating ways in which it engages all the children and enhances their personal development.

Children enjoy the programme and find the assemblies and lessons exciting.  They derive great pleasure as they recognise how the experiential learning and the skills they are gaining can be applied and so improve and enrich many aspects of their day-to-day lives.

Parents and carers have valued the cohesive and inclusive nature of the programme and how they too feel that they can discuss the topics covered with their children, thereby reinforcing what is being learnt at school.

From September 2019 there are likely to be four categories of inspection:

  1. Quality of education
  2. Behaviour and attitudes
  3. Personal development
  4. Leadership and management.

The Big Think is designed to make systemic differences in schools so as to help them bring about improvements in all these areas.

  • In respect of the quality of education, central to The Big Think curriculum is the nurturing of thinking capacities and activities that help deliver ‘cultural capital’ (defined for Ofsted as ‘the essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens, introducing them to the best that has been thought and said and helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement’). The programme also fosters a love of learning and progressively teaches skills that will prove helpful when the children reach the stage of making career choices and taking up employment.
  • In terms of what inspectors will be looking for under the behaviour and attitude category, the whole ethos of The Big Think is about behaving well and developing an inclusive, considerate attitude.
  • The Big Think is a carefully structured personal development and wellbeing programme designed to systematically build character and provide plenty of opportunities to assist children in becoming resilient, confident and independent global citizens. The discussions and activities open up pathways to participants learning about themselves, following their interests, applying their talents and broadening their perspectives so they are well prepared for the rich tapestry of experiences they may encounter as the future unfolds.
  • Recognising that few teachers have opportunities during their initial teacher training and as part of their continuing professional development to learn about how to embed values education throughout their schools, we offer bespoke training that enhances school leadership and management. The informative, practical sessions promote a supportive, visionary culture with a focus on everyone’s wellbeing and deepening the awareness of the empowering effects of values on the lives and competencies of school leaders, governors, teaching and non-teaching staff, parents, carers and children.