Ofsted should inspect character development, report says

Kaye Wiggins

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Ofsted should place the same importance on the way schools teach “character development” as it does on attainment measures when assessing schools, the think tank Demos has said.

The call comes in a report published today by the think tank and the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham.

The report, Character Nation, said character education should be embedded in the UK’s educational curriculum. Ofsted inspectors should look at the way in which students participate in “civic activities” within their communities, it said, and initial teacher training (ITT) courses should cover the delivery of character education.

It called for a greater emphasis to be placed on monitoring and evaluating character education so that the “real-world impact” of schools can be highlighted in league tables.

The report said “strong character attributes” such as “moral, intellectual, performance and civic virtues” were linked to higher educational attainment, employment outcomes, and positive mental and physical health.

These attributes, it said, could be “developed and taught with the right guidance”.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has spoken of her commitment to helping schools develop students’ “character, resilience and grit”. In December she announced a £3.5m fund for character education programmes, citing as good practice a scheme run in Stratford, east London, in which students are given time in the school day to “master” personal goals such as an instrument or a language.

In an article for TES, Ralph Scott, a senior researcher at Demos, described character education as “as schooling that develops not just academic ability but also skills like resilience and communication and moral values like honesty and compassion”.

He wrote: “The evidence base for the importance of these skills is strong, they are popular with teachers and schools alike, and it is clear also that schools play an important role in developing them.” 

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Developing character and resilience is part of our core mission to deliver real social justice by giving all children, regardless of background, the chance to fulfil their potential and achieve their high aspirations. Investing in the character of young people will not only help them succeed academically, but also improve their job prospects and help them bounce back from setbacks.

“We know that teachers across the country are already doing excellent work to develop character and resilience, and we are committed to helping them continue that work. Character education is a central part of our plan for education. Just this week we announced £3.5 million in funding has been awarded to 14 projects to help create a generation of confident, resilient young people. This is part of the £5 million we have already invested in character education.”

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Kaye Wiggins

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