‘Ofsted should inspect character development as well as results if we are to stop radicalisation’

TES Opinion

Charlie Rigby, chair of the Challenger Multi-Academy Trust, an approved sponsor for primary and secondary academies in England, writes:

Ofsted received criticism from two committees of MPs yesterday morning, both slamming its failure to highlight the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal and the "Trojan Horse" plot in Birmingham schools.

Ofsted was warned by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee that its “credibility is now on the line”, with the Education Select Committee also urging that the body must “act to restore confidence”.

One would hope that this criticism serves as a sharp wake-up call for Ofsted, and that it will quickly act on the lessons it has learned in order to regain some of its credibility and restore public trust.

The most effective way it can do this is to take rapid measures to arm our young people with the character development and social skills they need to effectively combat these threats and protect themselves from indoctrination by the likes of religious extremists and paedophiles.

For many years the focus in schools for children has been on maths and English, preparing the next generation so that they are able to sit exams, rather than instilling a character that will make them adept individuals or valuable contributors to society.

On Monday the education secretary Nicky Morgan spoke of a burning need to build grit and resilience in our young people. This is a message I applaud, and one Ofsted must fully adopt and promote in order to safeguard students in the future.

Yes, there should be a focus on classroom learning, but if we are to really develop the next generation in a way that is of maximum benefit to society, then we have to think bigger. They must become well-rounded people, using the drive, grit and determination that Ms Morgan mentions to implement what they learn in the classroom effectively.

Social trends in the UK indicate that many young people are not engaging with the education system and thus embark on destructive paths through life, turning to truancy, crime and radicalisation. We need a programme that helps these disaffected young people to re-engage with the education system through innovative projects that offer them alternative paths to success, benefiting the school community, wider communities and society at large.

This is done by helping young people to reach their potential outside the classroom environment, using positive role models and a change of environment and experiences to broaden horizons, break down barriers to integration and give them the confidence and motivation to make positive choices in their lives.

Learning outside the classroom is far more effective than teaching because teaching is top-down instruction, which children often fail to respond to. Gaining real-life experience through experiential learning and adventure is substantially more beneficial.

Now Ofsted must demand an equal focus on books and bravery, developing skills in the classroom and confidence outside of it, so that young people throughout Britain are given the chance to not only keep themselves safe but also develop in a way that can’t be measured simply by exams.

Related stories

England to become 'global leader' in teaching character and grit – 16 December 2014

Character and grit more important to success than grades, says Hunt – 8 December 2014

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