The Department of Education released a framework guidance discussing character education late last year. It aimed to help teachers and school leaders consider the best ways to provide and deliver student development. In this blog, we have summarised what we believe are the most important points for schools.
What is Character Education?
Character education is a term that refers to building children’s character through teaching. This includes helping them become good-mannered, caring, responsible, and healthy people. Schools play an important role in the development of children and fostering their well-being. This is crucial to them fulfilling their potential at school and beyond. It is important to note that schools who set clear expectations early on are often more successful in promoting character and personal development.
Why is Character Education Important?
Children spend a great majority of their time in school. From a young age, they are open to influence from their teachers, peers, and environment. Making character education a priority in schools is especially important for this reason. School leaders and teachers have the opportunity to shape their learners into responsible and caring individuals.
Research by the Education Endowment Foundation suggests that students who develop good self-control as a result of character education are more likely to achieve higher academically. The same research shows that students who are taught how to get back on their feet and cultivate positive coping skills often have greater well-being.
Evidence has found that schools that focus on developing character through the co-curriculum often see positive outcomes in student grades. Participation in organised sports and other types of physical activity have also been found to have positive associations with social, emotional, and behavioural outcomes.
According to the UK Department for Education, there are six benchmarks that outline the most important features that schools should consider for character education. These should be used to guide schools so that they can evaluate their current status and set goals for their future development. They are as follows:
- What kind of school are we?
Schools must decide on the kind of education they want to provide. It is up to them to decide what is taught to students and what type of character education this promotes. Also, having a strong foundation can determine how much pride students feel towards the school and the strength of their sense of belonging within the classroom.
- What are our expectations of behaviour towards each other?
Recognising and expressing the importance of discipline in school life is essential for schools. Teaching students how to treat others will help them create strong relationships and experience a community-like feeling within their classrooms. This can help promote respect towards others, as well as good manners; both essential for building good character.
- How well do our curriculum and teaching develop resilience and confidence?
There are many ways to build character through what is taught to students. Ensure that the curriculum is challenging enough for students, but also opens their minds up to different walks of life. Also, having a strong team of teachers to support students can enhance their confidence and play a hand in their success.
- How good is our co-curriculum?
The activities and programs that schools offer outside of academic courses are just as important to student development. Having a wide range of opportunities from creative activities, to sports can push students to discover and develop new talents.
- How well do we promote the value of volunteering and service to others?
Enhancing students’ awareness of the community around them is an important part of their character education. Providing students with meaningful opportunities to help others, both inside and outside of the school environment, can be especially effective in making them civic-minded and caring.
- How do we ensure that all our pupils benefit equally from what we offer?
Understanding the differences between students’ backgrounds is key to reducing the barriers some may face. Schools should make all of their students feel valued and as though they belong. This can be done by managing both the curriculum and co-curriculum to tailor to student needs.
Character education should be at the forefront of decision-making in schools. Teachers and school leaders adopt the responsibility of helping students in their academic and personal development. This can be achieved by following the framework guidance and ensuring that the benchmarks are being met.