Education secretary Justine Greening has scrapped a flagship nationwide scheme set up by her predecessor to promote character education in schools.
Former education secretary Nicky Morgan described the £3.5 million Character Grant scheme as “a landmark step for our education system” when she announced it in December 2014.
At the time, she said: “It will cement our position as a global leader in teaching character and resilience, and will send a clear signal that our young people are being better prepared than ever before to lead tomorrow’s Britain.”
The scheme was open to schools across England and was designed to help them ensure pupils develop character traits such as perseverance, resilience, grit, confidence, optimism honesty, integrity and dignity.
Character education closed
Earlier this month, Ms Morgan, who published a book promoting character education in September, tabled a parliamentary question asking when the DfE “plans to make further announcements on funding awards for character education under the character grants programme”.
In a response published this week, schools minister Nick Gibb revealed the programme “has closed”, and been replaced with a £22 million Essential Life Skills programme restricted to 12 Opportunity Areas – parts of the country which have been identified as social mobility “cold spots”.
Ms Morgan told Tes: “The term ‘life skills’ is a bit utilitarian and does not say much about flourishing.”
She said she could understand her England-wide programme being replaced with a more geographically restricted scheme at a time when funding was tight, and added: “The proof is in the pudding – let’s see which organisations get the funding.
“If it goes to develop the same character traits, I understand if that means a change in its focus to these areas.”
In his response to the parliamentary question, Mr Gibb said: “By directing funding specifically towards disadvantaged children in some of the most deprived parts of the country, we are able to help children who face the greatest difficulties building these life skills.”
An announcement published on the DfE website earlier this month announced the creation of the Essential Life Skills programme, but not the scrapping of the Character Grant programme.
The announcement said the new programme would provide “extra-curricular activities, such as sports, volunteering and social action projects, which give pupils the opportunity to develop leadership skills”.