From education to employment

Character and resilience are key to social mobility: New panel of experts to improve character education in schools

Having a go at new activities and learning from failure will boost children’s character and resilience, the Education Secretary has said today.

A new advisory group of experts in character education has been set up to look at how best to support schools to run more activities, which will help build character and resilience.

Alongside this Mr Hinds has called on young people, parents, teachers and community groups to give their views on what they think are the best non-academic activities to offer young people and how to make the most of them, as well as the traits and skills they need to get on in life.

Finding the right balance between academic study and other activities is crucial to helping young people achieve their goals, overcome challenges and develop their readiness for adulthood, aiming to help the most disadvantaged to compete more equally with their advantaged peers in the labour market.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

“It’s a good time of year to remind pupils that in in 10 years’ time their exam results might be a distant memory – but the life skills they acquire will stay with them forever.

“Of course, I want every child to excel at school and do well in their exams – but this is just one part of how education prepares them for the future. Through school and college, young people gain the skills and qualifications they need to get a well-paid job, but to truly prepare for adult life we also need to make sure our young people build character and resilience.

“Life lessons are learned by having a go. With all of us – but particularly young people – spending more and more time online, we should all put our phones down, look up and get involved in activities that stretch and challenge us.

“The reason character and resilience matter so much to me is that they are key to social mobility. Social mobility starts with giving young people the unstoppable confidence that they can achieve amazing things, teaching them to cope with the challenges life brings and recognise their achievements – because they each have their own, unique potential to fulfil.”

Research published by the Department for Education suggests that activities pupils are most interested in include sports, fitness and outdoor pursuits. In a survey of more than 2,500 pupils aged 11 to 16 and their parents or carers, sports and fitness was the most popular kind of activity, chosen by 50 per cent of school pupils and 43 per cent of college students. This was followed by ‘outdoor pursuits in both age groups (27 per cent), with creative activities coming in third (22 per cent and 23 per cent).

It comes as families mark the May Bank Holiday, and follows the launch of the Department for Education’s activity ‘passport’, a list of encouraged activities for different age groups to try new life experiences endorsed by the National trust, Scouts and Girlguiding UK. 

The call for evidence will help shape the recommendations the group makes later this year on character education, to reflect the voices and experiences of teachers, young people, educational professionals and the organisations that offer the kind of activities the Education Secretary has identified in his 5 foundations for building character.

The 5 foundations for building character encompass an extensive list of activities, which help young people build character. They are:

  1. Sport – which includes competitive sport and other activities, such as running, martial arts, swimming and purposeful recreational activities, such as rock climbing, hiking, orienteering, gym programmes, yoga or learning to ride a bike.
  2. Creativity – this involves all creative activities from coding, arts and crafts, writing, graphic design, film making and music composition. 
  3. Performing – activities could include dance, theatre and drama, musical performance, choir, debating or public speaking.
  4. Volunteering & Membership – brings together teams, practical action in the service of others or groups, such as volunteering, getting involved in the #iwill campaign, litter-picking, fundraising, any structured youth programmes or uniformed groups like Beavers, Brownies, Cubs, Guides, Scouts, Cadets and Duke of Edinburgh.
  5. World of work – practical experience of the world of work, work experience or entrepreneurship. For primary age children, this may involve opportunities to meet role models from different jobs.

The advisory group is chaired by Ian Bauckham CBE of the Tenax School Trust and includes James Arthur OBE, Director of Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, and Dame Julia Cleverdon, Co-founder of Step up to Serve.

This builds on the approach schools already take on character education. It seeks to provide a framework to help schools consider how delivering these 5 foundations can best build character, alongside the ethos set by the school, its curriculum and wider offer it makes to its pupils.

The Character Advisory Group

  • Ian Bauckham, CBE (Chair) – Chief Executive of the Tenax School Trust, Ian serves on the Headteacher Board and is recognised as a National Leader of Education; 
  • James Arthur, OBE – Director of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, James is the leading academic in the UK on character education;
  • Jonathan Baggaley – Chief Executive at the PSHE Association, Jonathan was formerly the Head of Education at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre;
  • Geoff Barton – General Secretary of the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL), Geoff is a former headteacher and a longstanding member of ASCL Council;
  • Tom Bennett – Founder of ResearchED, Tom is the Department for Education’s independent behaviour advisor;
  • Oli de Botton – Headteacher at School 21, Oli is a former English teacher who was a member of the first cohort of Teach First teachers in 2003. He also worked as a government education advisor from 2008 to 2012;
  • Dame Julia Cleverdon – Co-founder and Advisory Board Member of Step up to Serve, Dame Julia is also Vice President of Business in the Community, Vice Patron of Teach First and is Chair of the National Literacy Trust; 
  • Steve Cowgill – Deputy Headteacher at Archibald Primary School, Steve is also a governor and the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) at the school, a former winner of the DfE Character Awards;
  • Allana Gay – Deputy Headteacher at Lea Valley Primary School, Allana co-founded BAMEed Network and is a London regional leader for the established WomenEd network;
  • Steve Gough – Schools Lead at Public Sector Finance, Steve leads the schools and academies team at KPMG and is a qualified accountant. He is the chairman of the Challenger Trust;
  • Geethika Jayatilaka – Chief Executive of Chance UK, Geethika has been chair of governors at a London primary school and Cabinet Member for Children in the London Borough of Camden;
  • Gary Lewis – Chair of the Association of Character Education and Executive Headteacher of Kings Langley Secondary School;
  • Tony Little – Chair of the Laurus Trust, Tony is the author of An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Education, published in July 2015;
  • Dame Martina Milburn, DCVO CBE – Chair of the Social Mobility Commission and Chief Executive of the Prince’s Trust;
  • Ndidi Okezie – Digital & Customer Voice Strategy at Pearson, Cat is the former assistant head at Ark Burlington Danes and the former Executive Director at Teach First;
  • Cat Scutt – Director of Education and Research at the Chartered College of Teaching, Cat is a former English teacher and a PhD student at the UCL Institute of Education, investigating the use of simulation in education leadership development;
  • Paul Whiteman – General Secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, Paul joined NAHT in 2012 as director of representation and advice; and
  • Daniel Wright – Headteacher at the London Oratory School, Daniel is a Board Member of the Association of Character Education.

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