Six ways to develop pupils’ character, according to DfE

New guidance on how to support character education has been issued – in a bid to boost social mobility and motivation

New DfE guidance for schools on developing pupils' character includes providing extracurricular activities

The Department for Education has released new guidance on how to develop pupils’ character, based on feedback from an advisory group of headteachers.

The guidance includes evaluating how well schools teach “cultural capital” to enable their pupils to progress.

In May, former education secretary Damian Hinds asked teachers to make suggestions about the best ways to develop pupils’ resilience and character.


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The advisory group was chaired by Ian Bauckham, the chief executive of the eight-school Tenax Schools Trust, and included headteachers and heads’ union leaders among its members.

How to build pupils' character

Today the government released new guidance on how to best support character education in schools.

The group has established six “benchmarks” for teaching character, including:

  • Deciding “what kind of school are we?”, asking “how effectively do we create a sense of pride, belonging and identity in our school?”
  • Considering how respect and consideration towards others – both staff and pupils – are promoted.
  • Evaluating how ambitious the curriculum is for pupils and whether it teaches “cultural capital” to progress within wider society.
  • Assessing whether pupils have opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, such as the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and the National Citizen Service. This benchmark includes consideration of whether pupils are given opportunities to compete or perform, and whether their successes are celebrated.
  • The fifth benchmark questions “how well do we promote the value of volunteering and service to others?” It asks school leaders to consider whether volunteering opportunities help to break down social barriers so that pupils are “civic-minded” and ready to make a social contribution.
  • The sixth benchmark considers equality of provision, and includes questions as to whether the school enables “young people from all backgrounds to feel as if they belong and are valued”.

The report follows the introduction of character education as a recognised element of education in Ofsted inspections from September 2019.

It draws on research suggesting that schools that develop pupils’ character help to “drive equity and social mobility ”, as well as studies looking at the positive impact of character education on pupils’ motivation and attainment.

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