How new guidance will support schools to develop character

Ella Cohen reflects on new guidance launched by the Department for Education, shaped by the input of #iwill partners. The guidance includes a focus on “volunteering and service to others”.

As Senior Education Officer it has been a real pleasure to work with partners from across the #iwill campaign on the Character Education policy agenda this year. Character Education focuses on developing ‘rounded’ young people who are encouraged to be active, resilient citizens and celebrates the importance of nurturing skills outside of academia for success in life.

We have been debating, reflecting and developing ideas which have fed into the Department for Education (DfE) guidance on Character Education, launched in November. This new guidance will support schools to deliver Character Education and recognise the work they already do. We can clearly see how the guidance has been shaped by the evidence submitted to the DfE by a number of #iwill partners, #iwill Ambassadors and the presence of Dame Julia Cleverdon – co-founder of the campaign – on the Character Advisory Group who have been supporting DfE’s character team.

The guidance, aimed at teachers and school leaders, offers clear definitions of Character Education and six benchmarks for its delivery in schools. Benchmark E highlights the value of volunteering and service to others, with particular emphasis on the quality of these opportunities. Other benchmarks also pull out the value of a “whole school” approach to character, as well as spotlights on equality of opportunity, and on breaking down social barriers.

I have been pleased to see that the guidance reflects #iwill values of fairness, of the need to challenge barriers, and of providing genuinely high quality opportunities for social action. I hope that the practical nature of the resource will support schools to meet the new Ofsted framework, which contains explicit requirements around Character Education.

The guidance and inspection framework will also allow those schools who are already leading the way in nurturing character in their pupils to be recognised for their achievements – which may have been missed in previous inspection frameworks.

Please do join the conversation on Twitter, using the hashtag  #CharacterEducation. The experience of our varied #iwill partners has the potential to provide a rich source of insight for teachers and school leaders looking to make the most of this new guidance.

Graham Frost, Headteacher of Robert Ferguson Primary School in Cumbria shares his reflections below.