Deputy Head's Blog: The Importance of Character Education

On Thursday morning of last week, I delivered a Senior School Assembly referencing Cransley School’s commitment to the Anti Bullying Quality Mark (ABQM). This is a nationally recognised quality mark that reflects a School’s desire to create a community that makes it almost impossible for bullying to exist.  

There are Gold, Silver and Bronze levels of quality. We at Cransley School are preparing to be assessed for the Bronze level and are ultimately striving for the Gold standard.

During the point of the Assembly where I advised the pupils why it is ‘not cool’ to act in an unkind way towards others and how the ‘coolest’ pupils are those who look after the weaker members of the School community by supporting, encouraging and motivating them, I was reminded of a piece of educational research that I recently found interesting. That of ‘Character Education’.

Character Education is a model which focuses around “key” character traits which all pupils are introduced to and taught about. These include:

Resilience
Optimism
Grit
Perseverance
Social Intelligence

The particular School referenced with regard to the development of Character Education designed a new timetabled lesson for Year 7, (our Senior 1 equivalent), centred less around academic success, but interpersonal character skills which would allow pupils to succeed in the future. Embedding happiness into their school life through the acquisition of traits.

A relatively new concept, the approach taken by the School is that throughout the course of one academic year, pupils would take part in lessons which would teach them how to show optimism or resilience (or both) in a certain situation.

The School would reinforce the importance of social intelligence in a manner of different situations, identifying bullying as a weakness of character, and leadership and morality as strength, not the other way around!

Pupils would be taught about the role of peer pressure and coercion.

Pupils would also gain an insight into the importance of optimism, by being taught about the challenges that life has to offer, and how best to view them in a perspective whereby they could succeed.

In terms of measuring the success of this newly founded unit, the School were unsure how to. But it became apparent that by merely by watching these year 7’s that they were beginning to identify with the traits and embed them into their pupil culture. Murmurs of “come on, be resilient” or “how can we show more zest here?” were a common occurrence in the classroom.

By the end of the academic year, and the evening of the Year 7 parents evening, parents commented on how they felt their child had become more rounded since the beginning of this course of character education. They commented on how their child was viewing the world differently, and how they felt their child was now set up for the challenges of Year 8 and the rest of their life at school.

The pupils really thrived under this non-academic setting and viewed it as a time to really understand themselves. Perhaps, for the first time in their lives.

The delivery and development of character education is an appealing one to me. In an age where Schools are regularly targeted for the criticism of ‘wrapping pupils in cotton wool’, surely paying attention to the development of character would offset this (unfair) criticism?

As we engage in a review of our pastoral framework, support and guidance, perhaps this is an aspect of a Cransley School education that could be considered for potential implementation? After all, as Nelson Mandela once said:

‘"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall’!