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Five foundations of character education

Damian Hinds has demonstrated his vision for five foundations to build character at the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership conference and how he plans to take this forward.

Character Education has been gaining traction over the last few years, historically gaining support from David Cameron and Nicky Morgan.

Character education is an umbrella term loosely used to describe the teaching of children in a manner that will help them develop variously as moral, civic, good, mannered, behaved, non-bullying, healthy, critical, successful, traditional, compliant or socially acceptable beings.  

Concepts that now and in the past have fallen under this term include social and emotional learning, moral reasoning and cognitive development, life skills education, health education, violence prevention, critical thinking, ethical reasoning, and conflict resolution and mediation.

What exactly is meant by "Character"?

The Department for Education defines it as the ‘character traits, attributes and behaviours that underpin success in education and work’ as:

  • perseverance, resilience and grit
  • confidence and optimism
  • motivation, drive and ambition
  • neighbourliness and community spirit
  • tolerance and respect
  • honesty, integrity and dignity
  • conscientiousness, curiosity and focus.

Hinds’ vision for Character Education and his five foundations are aligned to 5 key areas. These areas, which precede the formal assembly of an advisory group which Hinds has announced his intention to develop, are broad enough for interpretation at this stage. Many schools will be able to find parallels amongst these key areas in their own curriculum, extracurricular activities and enrichment programmes, if only in part or for a portion of learners.

Hinds’ five foundations of character education

  1. Sport – which includes competitive sport and 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 for practical action in the service of others or groups, such as volunteering, 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.

As Hinds’ also stated that this would become part of a new inspection measure for schools, schools are likely to expect to have to formalise this offer and ensure it is accessible to all learners. Hinds said: “I am delighted that the new Ofsted Framework is going to place clear importance on personal development and positive attitudes.

Inspectors will evaluate the extent to which schools support pupils to develop their character – including their resilience, confidence and independence – and help them know how to keep physically and mentally healthy.”

The advisory group will be led by Ian Bauckham whose name is recognisable as he led the work to update the Relationships, Sex and Health Education guidance for schools. He has been tasked to develop a new framework to help teachers and school leaders identify the types of opportunities that will help support their pupils to build character. This will include a self-assessment tool for schools to check how well they are doing.

At NCFE, we’re encouraged by this new commitment to character building and the importance of learner development which steps outside the realms of traditional academics. Young people are facing a barrage of new and heightened pressures. Their prospects after school are changing rapidly with a developing world and as such, must approach this with agility and innovation.

We’d hope to see schools embrace the forthcoming recommendations, with the understanding that many will already be meeting many of the 5 foundations through their own endeavours. We hope that the formalisation will encourage all schools to have a structured approach to Character Education however, ideally the recommendations will allow for interpretation, creativity and common sense adaptations.

We’ll be following the developments closely and assisting schools in meeting the recommendations when they are developed. As a starting point, we’d encourage schools to take a look at our enhanced PSHE offer. There are a number of qualifications, units, resources and CPD which align with many of the Character Education qualities outlined by Hinds.

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