DfE plans new Gatsby-style 'benchmarks' for character education

The government will develop new “benchmarks” for character education against which schools will be required to assess themselves, Damian Hinds has said.

The education secretary announced today that he is assembling an “advisory group” to draw up recommendations for developing “character and resilience” in pupils and new character benchmarks to measure performance of schools.

He wants the new benchmarks to be “similar” and to “do the same job” as the Gatsby benchmarks for careers guidance. The Gatsby benchmarks are statutory – meaning schools have to use them to rate their own work on careers – but the government doesn’t currently take action against those that don’t comply.

However, Hinds insisted he was “not piling on extra chores to a school’s to-do list”.

Addressing the Church of England’s Foundation for Educational Leadership conference, the education secretary said he expected the advisory group to report its recommendations in September, “with a view to implementing next year”.

“I’m going to be setting up an advisory group on how best we can support schools in their efforts to build character, and that group will be made up of leaders and experts in the field, people from the arts, from sport, from the voluntary sector, and of course from schools themselves.

“One key area that I want that group to focus on will be developing a set of benchmarks for schools to use so they can deliver their own approach to developing character and assess themselves on how they’re doing.

“We already have something similar for careers guidance called the Gatsby benchmarks, and I would like this advisory group to work out something similar to do the same job on character.”

Hinds also expressed his desire to reintroduce the government’s national character awards, which were introduced by Nicky Morgan but shelved in 2017 by Justine Greening. It follows calls from Morgan for the return of the awards last year.

The education secretary also set out his “five foundations” for character education, and pledged to improve access to extra-curricular activities for poorer pupils.