Education Secretary sets out vision for character and resilience

Damian Hinds sets out in a speech that character and resilience are as important as academic achievement

Character and resilience are as crucial to young people’s future success as academic qualifications, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said today.

Addressing the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership conference today (7 February), Mr Hinds laid out the 5 Foundations for Building Character and pledged to work with schools and external organisations, including membership bodies and charities, to help every child access activities within each of those foundations.

To make this happen the Education Secretary announced:

• Plans for an audit of the availability of out of school activities across the country, to help understand where more focus is needed to increase access and choice. The Government will also work with organisations to look at how it can support greater provision in areas where it is limited.

• A call on businesses and charities to offer more work experience and volunteer placements to young people.

• Relaunching the Department for Education’s Character Awards, which highlight innovative or outstanding programmes that develop a wide variety of character traits including conscientiousness, drive and perseverance, as well as virtues, for other schools to learn from.

• A new advisory group, led by Ian Bauckham - who led the work to update the Relationships, Sex and Health Education guidance for schools - will now develop a new framework to help teachers and school leaders identify the types of opportunities that will help support their pupils to build character. The framework will also provide a self-assessment tool for schools to check how well they are doing.

Alongside this work Mr Hinds also underlined the significance of pupils learning about the importance of positive personal attributes – such as self-respect and self-worth, honesty, courage, kindness, generosity, trustworthiness and a sense of justice - as part of the new Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum.

These wide ranging proposals are aimed at building on the great work already being done by many schools to ensure young people build strong and positive relationships and embrace the character and resilience needed to deal with life’s inevitable challenges.

In his speech the Education Secretary said:

"Character and resilience are the qualities, the inner resources that we call on to get us through the frustrations and setbacks that are part and parcel of life. How do we instil this in young people, how do we make sure they are ready to make their way in the world as robust and confident individuals?

"I have heard repeatedly from teachers, parents and young people themselves about the areas of activity that will help develop character and resilience. They combine elements that will stretch and challenge and will help young people think, develop and grow and which will enhance their self-esteem and their confidence.

"This is not about a DfE plan for building character. It has to be about schools learning from other schools, it’s about business pitching in when it can, it’s about community groups speaking up and inviting schools in. It’s about individual adults volunteering. All of us need to work together using the wide range of resources and experts that there are out there."

Today’s announcements follow a series of activities to help schools focus on more than just academic achievement. These include:

• Ofsted’s plans to introduce a new inspection framework that will specifically look at how schools will ensure a child’s education is about more than just exams.

• A £2.5million programme with the British Council to ensure more children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are able to go on school exchanges and benefit from the opportunity of experiencing other cultures first hand.

• New research by the Social Mobility Commission looking at the impact of extra-curricular activities on social mobility. This will help ensure the most effective practices are scaled up and targeted at the areas that need them most.

The 5 Foundations for Building Character cover a number of key areas - sport, creativity, performing, volunteering and membership, and the world of work. In his speech Mr Hinds said that these activities are a crucial part of a child’s development and will teach them the qualities that cannot solely be learned in the classroom.

These key areas cover an extensive list of activities. The foundations are:

1. Sport – which includes competitive sport and activities such as running, martial arts, swimming and purposeful recreational activities, such as rock climbing, hiking, orienteering, gym programmes, yoga or learning to ride a bike.

2. Creativity – this involves all creative activities from coding, arts and crafts, writing, graphic design, film making and music composition.

3. Performing – activities could include dance, theatre and drama, musical performance, choir, debating or public speaking.

4. Volunteering & Membership – brings together teams for practical action in the service of others or groups, such as volunteering, litter-picking, fundraising, any structured youth programmes or uniformed groups like Beavers, Brownies, Cubs, Guides, Scouts, Cadets and Duke of Edinburgh.

5. World of work – practical experience of the world of work, work experience or entrepreneurship. For primary age children, this may involve opportunities to meet role models from different jobs.

Dame Julia Cleverdon, Co-Founder, Step Up To Serve & the #iwill campaign, said:

"As co-founder of the #iwill campaign, which brings together over 900 organisations to increase opportunities for young people to help others and the environment through youth social action, I am delighted with the Secretary of State’s aspiration to increase the quality and spread of activity within his 5 foundations for character, which will strengthen the role our education system plays in supporting the character development of our young people.

"The #iwill campaign recognises that taking part in sport, creativity, performing, volunteering & membership and the world of work can have a double benefit when the experiences are delivered through social action. By experiencing activities within the 5 foundations for character whilst helping others and the environment, young people not only develop their own character and resilience but also make a positive difference to others, and the communities around them. We look forward to supporting the Department for Education with this important priority."

HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said:

"Fundamentally education is about making sure the next generation have everything they need to realise their potential. That means offering them a broad and rich curriculum which gives them the knowledge and skills that will set them up for success in further study and the world and work.

"But it shouldn’t stop there; a young person’s time in education should help to build their confidence and resilience, helping them to deal with life’s ups and downs. That is why the new framework we are currently consulting on will have a specific personal development judgement, to recognise the work that schools do to prepare children and young people to take their place as adults and active citizens in modern Britain."

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

"It’s good that the Secretary of State is recognising the important part played by extra-curricular activities, which have a proud tradition across schools and colleges of all types. Such activities don’t lend themselves to school performance tables, but they should be an essential part of every child’s experience."

The evidence shows that the vast majority (81 per cent) of 11-18 year olds take part in at least one regular activity either in or outside of school. Bringing together these activities in the 5 Foundations for Building Character is intended to help teachers and parents identify character building activities and signpost young people to the wide range of opportunities available.

Department for Education
The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP