The Resilience Curriculum

How would you design a future curriculum? Here are our thoughts which were recently included in the Eton Journal for Innovation and Research in Education – by no means definitive but intended as a framework to start with – if you would like to talk further about our work in schools please contact us at


When thinking about what education should look like post-COVID, it seems likely there will be a wide variety of vital interventions that need to be developed to help children catch up on academic gaps or missing skills following a long period of lockdown.

There are also many schools, local authorities and private organisations excellently promoting a ‘Recovery Curriculum’ designed to support children’s return to school, focused on their emotional and mental well-being following the wide range of losses they may have experienced during the lockdown (Carpenter, 2020). There are also, however, wide- ranging, fundamental discussions emerging about the role and shape of traditional education models in a post-COVID, climate-emergency society. These are important
discussions that certainly need to be addressed and this article proposes some possible curriculum solutions which could help to build a greater resilience for the future – for individuals, communities and society in general.

Before ‘normal’ teaching and learning can take place again, schools will definitely need to consider children’s immediate emotional and mental well-being. In addition to the different types of loss outlined by Carpenter (2020), in the recovery curriculum, experienced by children during the lockdown, early data shows that it also created a complicated situation where the measures taken to protect physical health have caused the symptoms for people suffering from poor mental health, including children, to worsen during lockdown (Veer et al., 2020).

Some children will have experienced a very stable home life during lockdown, but for others life will have become less stable or chaotic. It is acknowledged by the EEF in its Guide to supporting school planning: A tiered approach to 2020-21 that identifying where children may have dropped behind is important but so is a recognition that children may have acquired new useful knowledge, skills and experiences as part of the lockdown which needs to be heard (EEF, 2020). All children’s experiences and views on the lockdown period will be unique. During the pandemic we have all been part of the same storm, but each of us is in an individual boat, with our own story of survival, adaptation, transformation, loss or inertia.

Therefore, we believe that there also needs to be a recognition that the current focus on acquisition and reproduction of knowledge and the narrow ‘teaching to the test’ curricula is no longer enough for our society to be resilient. We believe that long term resilience for individuals and society should incorporate the integration of philosophical and ethical thinking throughout core curricula, and in particular the four types of thinking – Critical, Caring, Creative and Collaborative – central to the Philosophy for Children (Lipman, 2003) and Communities of Philosophical Inquiry (‘CoPI’) pedagogical approaches (McCall, 2009).

Philosophical enquiry and facilitation strengthen teaching, learning and assessment and have been proven to increase children’s cognitive levels, particularly in maths and reading, as well as many other wider abilities – primarily, children’s ability to solve problems, collaborate with each other, think critically and care about the quality of their interactions and relationships with others. For example, The 2015 EEF Efficacy trial (EEF, 2015) of Philosophy for Children, carried out by Durham University, showed that pupils made between two and four additional months of progress in reading, maths and writing as well as improvements in their confidence to speak, listening skills and self-esteem following their regular involvement with philosophical enquiry.

Philosophical teaching and learning is a pedagogical approach and not an ‘added extra’, as developing a critical and enquiring mind should be central across subjects. It can also usefully support the work of the education sector to meet the Ofsted (2019) requirements for schools to enable children to become ‘responsible, respectful and active citizens’ who have more skills to shape their lives in a sustainable and fulfilling way, as well as ‘developing pupils’ confidence, resilience and knowledge so that they can keep themselves mentally healthy’.

Philosophical thinking puts pupils’ personal development at its heart and has the potential to take children to a level of understanding where knowledge and facts are combined with the ability to reflect and reason, which can help enable children to ‘make a significant difference to the kind of society in which we are able to live’ (Cam, 2006).

When school leaders actively integrate communities of philosophical enquiry into their teaching, learning and assessment strategies they enable young people to develop the skills, knowledge and character necessary to achieve academically in the short term, and in the longer term to lead happy, resilient and fulfilling lives, taking greater care of themselves, society, communities and the planet.

Building on this, we would like to suggest that long-term individual resilience is only really possible if measures are taken to ensure that our communities are also more resilient. The recent call for volunteers by the government during lockdown followed by the overwhelming oversubscription of volunteers showed that there is huge potential within communities to take greater care of their own people. Schools could build on this potential by creating opportunities within the curriculum for children to know how to build positive, resilient relationships and help others in times of need.

The next step on from creating stronger local communities, and could be argued as the most significant issue of our time for which we need creative, critical, caring and collaborative thinkers, is the need to re-examine the relationship humans have with the planet and its resources.

The climate emergency will only be tackled through whole systems thinking instead of solely relying on one-off initiatives. We believe that the principles and ethics of permaculture would allow schools to weave creative, critical, caring and collaborative thinking into real actions that will tangibly improve the futures of our pupils, their communities and the planet.

The twelve principles and three ethics of permaculture, developed by Bill Mollison (1988) and David Holmgren (2011), are below and although their roots are in sustainable agriculture, they can be applied to all aspects of human life and can be applied by school leaders to have a lasting positive impact on well-being and resilience for individuals and the whole school ethos.

The Principles of Permaculture

  1. Observe & Interact
  2. Catch & Store Energy
  3. Obtain A Yield
  4. Apply Self-regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use & Value Renewable Resources & Services
  6. Produce No Waste
  7. Design From Patterns To Details
  8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate
  9. Use Small & Slow Solutions
  10. Use & Value Diversity
  11. Use Edges & Value The Marginal
  12. Creatively Use & Respond to Change

The Three Ethics of Permaculture

  1. Care for the Earth
  2. Care for Others
  3. Only take a Fair Share

By adopting and applying the principles and ethics rooted within philosophy for children and permaculture we can make the transition from being dependent consumers, vulnerable to change, to becoming responsible producers and resilient, active citizens with high-level thinking skills.

There is a virtuous cycle to be achieved here, where this approach, based around a greater sense of community and sustainability, has the potential to transform pupils’ well-being, building the resilience necessary for them to move forwards, promoting as they do their deeper understanding of sustainability and its relevance to all of our futures.

Instead of tinkering around the edges with curricula in a post-COVID age, we support Berry and Orr (2001, p 9). Berry speaks of ‘The Great Work’, where humans remake their presence on earth – including how they provide themselves with food, energy, materials, water, livelihood, health and shelter. Orr adds that ‘we must build authentic and vibrant communities that sustain us ecologically and spiritually and for this challenge we need a generation equipped to respond with energy, moral stamina, enthusiasm and ecological competence’.

In conclusion, we believe that this is the moment for educators to assert their experience and understanding of young people to create the curricula and ethos which they believe will genuinely allow their pupils and teachers to develop as resilient and active citizens where academic performance and emotional well-being are in balance. We urge and strongly support school leaders who take this opportunity to re-invigorate education’s potent and positive role in building societal and individual resilience, instead of simply returning to a system that is disproportionately focused on testing and the symbolic capital of results. A new resilience curriculum developed and delivered within strong communities of enquiry is now necessary. This is one that focuses on developing individual well-being and agency through dialogue and critical thinking, as well as strengthening the sustainability of communities through collaboration and care for each other and the planet.

Paula Moses and Rebecca Gough, Permanent Education or


Calling all thinking teachers! Get ahead and have fun by joining our online A-Z Thinking Moves training on 6th July. *Discounts available for student teachers*

There are a few places available on our July online A-Z Thinking Moves (Metacognition) training course, accredited by Dialogueworks. This course is excellent for teachers, school leaders and youth group leaders – plus we are offering significant discounts for student teachers who attend the July training.

Why Thinking Moves?

 Our thinking ability is what makes us distinctively human.  Yet we have no generally accepted approach to teaching thinking – and no common vocabulary to describe different ways of thinking.  This, when you think about it, is extraordinary.  Imagine trying to teach or learn maths if we did not have commonly accepted terms such as add, subtract, multiply and divide.

Thinking Moves A – Z  provides a vocabulary for thinking.  The moves themselves are not new – we all use them in our learning and our life every day.  But now we have a way of talking about how we think, and that gives us a means to work on improving the effectiveness of our thinking. 

The details:

Each place costs only £125 per person and includes:

  • 6 hrs online training plus webinars and a PDF copy of the A-Z Thinking Moves book.
  • Access to the premium resources from Dialogueworks – a comprehensive bank of lesson plans, assembly plans,
  • Online support from Paula and Rebecca at Permanent Education once you go back to school.

The next course is:

3.30-5.30 pm – 6th, 8th and 13th July – To secure your place contact us at or call 07914 853919

Metacognition made simple

Research by the Education Endowment Foundation has shown that effective strategies for metacognition and self-regulation have consistently high levels of impact and can be particularly effective for low achieving and disadvantaged pupils. This Thinking Moves A – Z course supports every step of the EEF’s recommended framework for metacognition and self-regulated learning.

Can we programme a robot to have good taste?

During an online Philosophy Club for 7-11 year olds – where we were discussing if robot teachers are a good idea – one young participant asked Can we programme a robot to have good taste?

This question really struck me as it is a subject that I am currently grappling with for my research…what is success in life and who decides?

The young philosopher was using her question to highlight the problems that a robot teacher might face when giving feedback on a piece of work and deciding if it was ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Others in the group then pursued many of the avenues that you may imagine – asking – What is a good picture? What if it was scribbly but the child was really young or had tried really hard? What about if it was a really abstract picture, how could the robot think that was good? Is this fair?

One way round this, suggested by the initial questioner, is that the robot learns the rules of the curriculum – it is either right or wrong….

When reflecting on the session I found myself asking – what is a teacher doing that a robot can’t? when we exercise our judgement on a piece of work can we ever be completely fair. Schubert (2014) explains this quandary through his writing about Bourdieu’s definition of symbolic violence ‘ Taste would seem to be a personal quality but it is actually social…Each time a member of society expresses a preferencethey are expressing , however unwittingly, the predispositions of the structured structure that is habitus.‘ We express a preference through the filter of everything that we have experienced so far in life.

Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier, social subjects, classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classification is expressed or betrayed.

Bourdieu, 1979

This leads me to ask what teaching and learning is really about? is it about recognising when children are able to reproduce established and ‘proven to be correct’ types of art, maths answers, stories and facts about the world or is it something else? What about social interactions – can we only recognise one way or are their many? What does this say about diversity in education and in society?

Perhaps most importantly for me, how then can we enable children to say or contribute something new to society? Do we need to remember the perennial line…if we always do what we’ve always done, then we will always have what we’ve already got. Personally, I think that we really do need some new thinking if we are to move on as a society, build greater resilience so that we can thrive and not just survive in our increasingly uncertain future.

The final thought has to come from a child ‘I think that if we allow robots to do too much for us then we will forget our skills and eventually we will forget how to be human.’

Is the purpose of education to help us to be human?

What do you think?