Pupils in alternative provision have 'greater sense of purpose' than those in mainstream schools

And it is their teachers who play a large role in fostering this sense of purpose, a new report reveals

Adi Bloom

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Marginalised pupils show a greater sense of purpose in their lives than those in mainstream schooling, a new report reveals.

And it is their teachers who play a large role in fostering this sense of purpose, and in encouraging their pupils to lead a good life.

The report, produced by the University of Birmingham’s Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, throws into question the idea of what it means to live a good and purposeful life.

The academics worked with 3,250 pupils, in mainstream and non-mainstream educational settings. The latter included pupil-referral units and youth-offending institutions.

They found that 27.4 per cent of non-mainstream pupils responded positively to statements about their life’s purpose, compared with 24.2 per cent of pupils in mainstream schools.

The researchers believe that this shows that being marginalised from mainstream education does not necessarily have a negative effect on how pupils perceive their lives.

The good life

Instead, other factors came into play. In particular, pupils were influenced by those close to them. In particular, teachers were able to have a positive effect on their self-esteem and perceptions of themselves.

In a film, produced to accompany the report, pupils in non-mainstream education highlight the ways in which their teachers support and encourage them. The pupils also talk about the value of teachers who “speak to you on the same level”.

Aidan Thompson, director of strategy and integration at the Jubilee Centre, said: “Young people from marginalised backgrounds don’t see their circumstances as being disadvantageous to their sense of purpose.

“A focus on character-led teaching can help aid this development of purpose, and encourage young people to lead a good life.”

The report, Flourishing from the Margins, therefore recommends that teachers in non-mainstream settings make a point of allowing time and space in the curriculum for character education.

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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