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Character in Marginalised Young People

Project Overview

The Character and Values Amongst Marginalised Young People project is designed to deepen understanding of why some young people appear disengaged from education, employment and society, often referred to as ‘NEETs’, and how paying attention to character may help to address some of the underlying causes of that disengagement.

This work will contribute to understandings of character amongst young people and how interventions may address some of the difficulties some young people face.

Read former colleague Dr. Sandra Cooke's Virtue Insight blog post on 'Polarised debate that pits moral responsibility against social conditions is creating a “damaging impasse”




The research will involve mixed methods and will be in three parts:

  • A questionnaire completed by young people in different contexts (n=2000) to establish what the differences are, if any, in the perceptions, attitudes and motivations of young people in society;
  • The development of a structured intervention which will be the subject of pre- and post- testing to assess impact (n= 300);
  • A qualitative study of 8 young people and 8 tutors, who will be interviewed and asked to describe how they have come to be where they are and how they envisage their futures.

Literature Review & Findings

Hundreds of thousands of young people in the UK are disengaged from education and employment, with costs to the individual and to wider society.

Marginalisation can be seen on a continuum from the extremes of people who are involved in illegal, hidden and antisocial behaviour, through those who have seemingly ‘lost their way’, to those who are deemed to be at risk of marginalisation but remain in mainstream settings.

The context of society has changed; there are more choices, the transition from child to adult is more fractured and complex. It seems those who have support – from schools, family, community – and have a sense of purpose may find this easier to manage, but those without these things can be left behind and marginalised.

Healthy and nurturing relationships with adults – teachers, family, mentors – seem to be a central part of young people’s engagement with society.

Project Milestones

During this project, 300 young people not in education, employment or training, will take part in newly developed character and values educational programmes. The project is working with many schools and youth organisations across the UK.  Read more about the development of character education resources for marginalised young people in this blog post by former Research Fellow, Jenny Higgins.


Young people aged 14-16 will be equipped with capacities, in addition to academic or vocational qualifications, to support them in the future.

Participants will better understand themselves, and be exposed to a language of character that will help them realise their goals. They will have a clearer path and know what steps to take to move forward successfully.

Find out more about each stage of the project below:

Stage 1 - A survey of young people in different contexts

Thousands of young people aged 11-18 years, from a range of different educational contexts, will be invited to complete a survey exploring what they think it means to ‘flourish’, to reach their full potential, and to live a 'good' life. 

The survey consists of four parts:

  • the first part will ask the young people for some demographic information;
  • the second section will ask some questions about what kind of person they are;
  • the third section will explore what it means to the young people to flourish or to live a ‘good’ life and who influences this; e.g. parents, schools, their peers, media;
  • the fourth section will ask about their moral identity, and how important various virtues and character traits are to them.

The survey has been piloted, before being completed by young people across the UK.

Stage 2 - Resources and Intervention

Nine different UK youth organisations have worked with the Centre, building upon the Jubilee Centre's Programme of Study to develop a ‘bank’ of character based resources suitable for use in a variety of contexts, roughly grouped into three broad areas:

  • Formal Education / PRU   Delivering formal yet adapted education to those not in mainstream education
  • Individualised    Tailored, intensive one-to-one or very small group working. Often working with those who are not in education and who may be involved in the criminal justice system.
  • Extra-Curricula    Interventions delivered as add-ons to the main education young people receive.  This could include one-off sessions or sessions delivered in school, or involve sport being used as a delivery context.

The resources will be piloted with young people, before being professionally designed and trialled.

The resources will be used as part of a research trial with partner organisation using them as part of their provision.  Research will be carried out with the learners experiencing the teaching of the resources to evaluate impact. This will be done through pre- and post-intervention surveys, lesson observations, and small focus groups after the trial has concluded.

Once the research has been completed, the resources will be made available to access via the Jubilee Centre website.

Stage 3 - Educational Narratives

A qualitative study of 8 young people and 8 tutors, who will be interviewed and asked to describe how they have come to be where they are and how they envisage their futures.