Hinds sets out ‘five foundations’ for character education

Damian Hinds will today set out his “five foundations” for character education, and pledge to improve access to extra-curricular activities for poorer pupils.

The education secretary is concerned that too few disadvantaged children have access to activities that build the “character and resilience” they need to succeed in education.

However, the only material pledge expected in Hinds’s speech will be promise to improve communication between schools and organisations providing such activities.

A renewed focus on character education comes after character awards and grants for schools developed by former education secretary Nicky Morgan were shelved by her successor Justine Greening in 2017.

Hinds, described by Morgan in an interview with Schools Week as “interested” in character education, has already launched an activity passport which encourages pupils to do things like climb trees and learn to sew buttons onto clothes.

But in an address to the Church of England’s Foundation for Educational Leadership conference, Hinds will go further, setting out his ambition for pupils to have access to activities from “five foundations for building character” – sport, creativity, performing, volunteering & membership and the world of work.

Hinds will say that, despite these activities being offered by “thousands” of providers, a lack of information of what is available must not be a barrier to young people taking up the opportunities.

To address the issue, he will pledge to “improve the sharing of information between organisations and schools, so pupils, parents and teachers can be signposted to character building activities near them”.

“I want to make sure every child gets to build up their character and resilience by testing themselves from a range of enjoyable and activities. These activities don’t have to be a result of a physical exertion. They can just as easily be something you do at school or at home or in an office or that isn’t a hobby.

“We need greater co-ordination to increase awareness of all the opportunities available. I want to make clear that I’m not piling on the extra chores to a school’s to-do list. What I’m asking for is a joined up effort from the entire community. We all have a vested interest in making sure that young people are resilient, resourceful and confident in their abilities. It’s not something that we can subcontract to schools.”

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  1. Tom Burkard

    Appalling nonsense–yet another distraction from the heroic efforts made by so many schools and teachers to ensure that disadvantaged children leave primary school with decent literacy and numeracy skills. The so-called ‘soft skills’ are not something that can be taught–children develop character from example, not by being entertained. The official evaluation of the last major effort to build ‘resilience’–New Labour’s SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) programme found that it
    “… failed to impact significantly upon pupils’ social and emotional skills, general mental health difficulties, pro-social behaviour or behaviour problems … Analysis of school climate scores indicated significant reductions in pupils’ trust and respect for teachers, liking for school, and feelings of classroom and school supportiveness during SEAL implementation.”
    Similarly, our charity once ran an intervention in an extremely disadvantaged Norwich primary school to teach basic phonological skills to Yr 1 pupils who had not made a start in learning to read. On several occasions, our tutor was told to go home because they had scheduled ‘enrichment activities’ for the day. The children’s parents, needless to say, were furious–these were parents whose own lives had been blighted by illiteracy, largely because they had been to schools where SLT were in thrall to fashionable ideas.

  2. The national evaluation of SEAL (Oct 2010) was based on longitudinal studies at nine schools. Despite the negative finding quoted above, the report didn’t recommend abandoning SEAL type activities or suggest it was ‘appalling nonsense’ or ‘entertainment’. Rather its recommendations suggested ways in which school-based social and emotional learning could be improved.

    • Hinds’s ‘character building’ ‘is not school-based social and emotional learning which over-rides teaching children to read as suggested above. Rather, Hinds highlights the importance of extra-curricula activities provided not just by schools but by other organisations (eg Scouts, cadets, sports clubs, dance/drama groups).
      These are valuable for their own sake and not just because they allegedly build character and resilience.

    • Tom Burkard

      You’re ignoring a central fact about bodies that evaluate government educational initiatives–if they are too negative, they’re jeopardising their chances of future contracts. When you get the kind of statements quoted above, you know the whole thing has been a total fiasco.

      • Oh, I see! It’s OK to accept a negative finding if it confirms a prejudice but if the researchers say something positive, then it’s a ‘total fiasco’.
        Are you accusing the authors Neil Humphrey, Ann Lendrum and Michael Wigelsworth of saying things just to please the department who commissioned the research in order to get further contracts? That’s a serious allegation which challenges their academic integrity.
        In any case, the commissioning department (DCSF) had been replaced by the DfE by the time the evaluation was published. Are you saying the authors inserted negative comments to please Michael Gove?

  3. Alison Richards

    There are many schools who have large numbers of disadvantaged children, who already have activities within and outside school which encourage resilience, and broader experiences for children. I have been a governor at a number of inner city schools where the majority of children have english as an additional language. These schools have achieved in the curriculum, but also have set up forest school experiences, they have school councils at primary level, where the pupils participate in supporting the running of the school,( I have had the process of doing a risk assessment in an adventure area of the school explained to me by 2 self possessed 10yr old Asian girls,) The school encourages music and singing, drama, takes trips to the coast with children who will never get there with their family, and all manner of other experiences. Damian Hinds is in danger of preaching to the converted who only really want the time and money to be able to do everything he is suggesting.