On Monday 22nd September Centre Director Professor James Arthur attended a roundtable event held by the Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan at the Department for Education. The key focus of the roundtable was to explore activities within educational settings that can help develop a child’s character. One of the fundamental questions discussed was ‘how do ‘great’ providers build character and resilience?’. The Knightly Virtues project was provided as a case study of where building character is actively encouraged and embedded as part of education provision. At the meeting, Ms Morgan read out the Centre’s definition of character, which the Department for Education has adopted:
‘Character is a set of personal traits that produce specific moral emotions, inform motivation and guide conduct. Character education is an umbrella term for all explicit and implicit educational activities that help young people develop positive personal strengths called virtues.’
Following the roundtable discussion, the Secretary of State announced a £5million fund to help state schools equip pupils with the values and character traits needed to succeed in life in modern Britain. The core purpose of the fund will be to provide extra-curricular activities that will develop character and resilience including debating, sport and drama. In her speech at the Conservative Party Conference on 30th September Ms Morgan emphasised her commitment to ensuring that character education is taught in schools:
"Teaching them not only how to read, write and add up, but teaching them to be good and valuable citizens too.
For too long there has been a false choice between academic standards and activities that build character and resilience. But the two should go hand in hand.
So last week I announced a new £5 million fund to support, innovative ideas to help schools and young people develop character, resilience and grit…
because as much as I want the next generation to be able to solve a quadratic equation, I also want them to be able to make a compelling pitch for a job, and to be able to bounce back if things don’t work out.
That’s why we’ve invested in areas like music, sport and debating that help to shape and teach important values like hard work, discipline, teamwork."
The full transcript of her speech can be found here.
In addition, Ms Morgan has revealed that the development of well-rounded young people has been added as a fifth priority for the department; read the news article here.
The announcement from Ms Morgan comes after the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Tristram Hunt MP, promoted character and the moral purpose of education in a speech at the Labour Party Conference this week. A transcript of the speech can be found here.
Ms Morgan’s remarks have received support from the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Brian Lightman:
“Headteachers agree that character building is hugely important. It is refreshing to hear the Secretary of State emphasise that developing the whole child is just as important as academic lessons.”
To read more about the launch of the fund to support character building, and comments from the ASCL please see the below links:
The Daily Mail: 'Schools to be given £5million fund to offer character-building activities such as debating and sports coaching'
Association of School and College Leaders: 'ASCL comment on Nicky Morgan’s remarks on building character'
EdExec: 'Schools to be given £5m fund to offer character-building activities'