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Nicky Morgan fights back against claims that she thinks children lack grit

The education secretary responds to an accusation that her focus on character education shows that she does not believe today's children have resilience

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The best part of my job is having the privilege of meeting hundreds of young people – many just like Chelsea, a resilient student described in a TES article earlier this week – across the country and I never cease to be amazed at their resilience and determination to succeed.

These traits are key to succeeding in life and I want to ensure we are creating the conditions for everyone to proactively gain them – rather than people being forced into learning them through terrible circumstances.

That is at the heart of our drive to ensure England is a global leader in character education – helping every school and pupil to be the best they can be.

I’d hate for any child like Chelsea to think that our drive to promote character education is a way of saying they lack character – far from it. Instead, we want schools to focus on this area because we know that character, resilience and grit are traits that everyone, adults and children alike, can improve and build on and that doing so will help them in later life.

This government is the first to recognise the importance of character education – and the first to embark on a programme to look at how children learn character traits, such as resilience and responsibility, in school and how we can keep on improving this. We are doing this while developing the evidence base about what works and the impact it has on young people.

Awards for schools

We are investing £5 million in that work and are launching awards to promote the schools best at promoting character, and grants to expand the character-promoting work of leading schools and organisations.

This includes schools like King Solomon Academy in London, which fosters commitment, endeavour and resilience, as well as scholarship, in its inner-city pupils. Inspired by the US Knowledge is Power Programme, the headteacher has introduced character-based rewards for pupils, while unabridged Shakespeare plays are produced from Year 7 onwards.

These schools represent the pinnacle of the excellent character education work seen in classrooms across the country. But I don’t want it to be the pinnacle for an elite few; I want it to be the standard, the minimum young people and parents can expect.

We have a generation of resilient children determined to succeed – just like Chelsea – and this is in no small part thanks to the hard work of teachers and social workers. But we are building on this to ensure that every child is as equipped as they can be to deal with the challenges life throws at them and to bounce back from disappointment.

All young people deserve the opportunity to develop the confidence, motivation and resilience that will not only complement their academic studies, but will also prepare them for success in their adult lives. It is our responsibility as adults to ensure that we are doing everything we can to make sure that happens.

Nicky Morgan is secretary of state for education and MP for Loughborough

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