The UK Government has decided to invest in building character for pupils in UK Schools. It would appear the US Inspired programme of using former military instructors in troubled city centre schools has arrived here in the UK. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has announced a package of measures to help schools instil character in pupils – including extra funding for projects run by former armed service personnel which help turn around the lives of disadvantaged children.
Almost £5 million pounds will be invested in projects in 8 UK schools. The project seeks to use the values and expertise of the armed forces to help pupils develop character traits such as self-confidence, respect and leadership.
As part of the initiative, the government will launch the new character awards to recognise schools developing ‘resilience and grit’ in the pupils, an attempt to develop more rounded adults in the future.
Applicants will be judged on their approaches and practices to develop character by a panel of education experts, with awards including:
£15,000 each for up to 27 schools in all 9 regions of the country, to be announced in February
A further national prize of £20,000 to 1 winner, to be announced at an awards ceremony in March
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:
Delivering the best schools and skills is a key part of our long-term economic plan that is turning Britain around.
As well as high academic standards, this means providing opportunities for all young people to develop the character and resilience they need to succeed in modern Britain.
For pupils who may have faced challenges or difficulties in their personal life, these initiatives run by former armed services personnel can offer a sense of greater aspiration and can help build the skills and confidence they need to go on to good jobs and successful futures.
Coupled with the new character awards schools will now have the tools and support they need to ensure they develop well rounded pupils ready to go onto an apprenticeship, university or the world of work.
The new funding for military ethos projects comes as a review into evidence and feedback published alongside the announcement shows how these projects can have a positive impact in improving behaviour, attendance and resilience for the young people taking part allowing them to get the most out of school.
All delivery providers recorded examples of impact in the classroom and beyond. Teachers, parents and pupils described how these projects have had a positive impact on the confidence, self-esteem, self-respect and inter-personal skills of those involved, the type of skills which will help pupils thrive in higher or further education and in the world of work. Teachers also described how pupils who had previously been disengaged were now actively participating in school life.
Pupils themselves reflected on how the schemes had increased their confidence, made them less self-critical and more self-aware.
Last year, more than 52,000 pupils participated in these schemes across 460 primary schools, secondary schools, sixth-form and further education colleges, and other institutions. This included more than 16,000 pupils who were identified as being disengaged with their school life and 1,333 pupils in alternative provision or excluded from schools.
Character can be developed in pupils in a wide variety of ways, through teaching values in personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) or citizenship lessons, through the full curriculum, or by competing on the playing field or taking part in extra-curricular activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, the National Citizen Service or after school debating clubs.
Applicants to the character awards, who can enter from January, will be judged on the extent to which they have been successful in promoting character education in children and young people, on the level of innovation demonstrated, on the extent to which success is shared with others to spread practice and on their future plans to spend any prize money attracted.
In September Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced the £5 million Character Innovation Fund, which made available £5 million over the next 2 years to support the development of character in schools.
The military ethos model
1) Military ethos providers deliver a range of activities aimed at helping pupils do well in school and beyond, based around an ‘A, B, C, D building blocks of character’ model:
A: altruism – including helping others through volunteering, understanding how their behaviour affects others, helping out and home and in the classroom
B: bounce back – learning from your mistakes, developing grit and determination, overcoming failure and trying again
C: comfort zone busting – trying out new activities in unfamiliar environments, collaborating with pupils from other schools, working with new people
D: destination – establishing high aspirations and doing well at school, setting goals and understanding how to get there, developing links with employers, achieving qualifications and skills beyond the classroom
2) A total of £4.8 million has been awarded in 8 grants to use military ethos in schools to improve education attainment of the most disengaged pupils:
Commando Joe’s, which provides trained instructors and challenging school-focused activities for schools in some of the most deprived and hard-to-reach areas of the UK, has been awarded £1 million
Mike Hamilton, Director of Commando Joe’s said:
This extra funding is vital for our mission to bring Commando Joe’s to more and more schools across the UK, helping thousands of children to have greater self-confidence and resilience. We’re focusing on fostering altruism, bounce back, comfort zone busting and determination in school children, all of which ultimately boost attendance and attainment.
Challenger Troop, which provides leadership and engagement programmes for vulnerable or disengaged pupils aged 8 to 16 across the UK, particularly in the toughest areas of London and the South East, has been awarded £1 million
Simon Dean, Founder and Chief Executive of Challenger Troop CIC said:
We are delighted to have received this recognition. We see first-hand the often life-changing impact our programmes have on a young person, as they learn how to take responsibility for their actions, communicate better with their peers and engage more effectively with their education. This grant funding will enable us to reach even more young people and improve their learning outcomes and life chances.
KSA Education and Training which provides young people with a programme of physical activities, team-building and work-related learning and prepare them for post-16 education, training or employment has been awarded £412,000
SkillForce which provides a programme of challenges in the outdoor environment, integrated to support literacy and numeracy has been awarded £400,000
CVQO which works with pupils from all backgrounds and abilities, delivering education to help them improve their lives has been awarded £757,000
Guy Horridge, Chief Executive, CVQO said:
We are absolutely delighted to be able to continue having a positive impact on the lives of pre-GCSE learners through our Schools Partnership Project. Education is not a one-size fits all solution, which is precisely why programmes like ours exist.
All young people have the potential to be incredibly prodigious and achieve great things; it is simply a case of unlocking that potential in a way that resonates with them.
We’ve seen such dramatic improvements in students’ behaviour, attendance and self-confidence over the course of the first year, with many now engaging in community and voluntary work in their own time.
CVQO looks forward to another year of progression and making a real difference to students nationwide.
The Prince’s Trust, which works with disadvantaged young people to help them into work, education and training, has been awarded £700,000. The funds will be used to get more former military personnel working on the youth charity’s programmes, including 35 Prince’s Trust XL clubs run in schools across the UK for pupils at risk of truanting and exclusion
Martina Milburn, Chief Executive of The Prince’s Trust said:
There are many young people who, often through no fault of their own, have struggled with their education and have completely lost their confidence. This can have a knock on effect making them feel hopeless for the future and in need of support to get their lives back on track.
The Prince’s Trust runs programmes which work with young people to help them re-engage with education and get the qualifications they need to move on with their lives.
By working in partnership with the military ethos programme we will be able to build on the work we are already doing in schools and colleges, supporting the young people who need it the most and helping them to create a positive future for themselves.
Outreach, a youth-diversion programme run by the Army Cadet Force has been awarded £270,000. Outreach is designed to help socially and educationally disadvantaged young people who are in danger of being drawn into crime. The programme gives them a short burst of challenging team-based activity to help them to gain confidence, develop self-esteem and realise their potential.
Training 2000, a registered charity which provides work-based learning programmes for young people and adults in construction; engineering; business administration; health and social care and foundation programmes has been awarded £270,000. It is rated ‘good’ by Ofsted (2011) who describe the quality of provision and leadership/management as outstanding.
3) Examples of high-performing schools where character education approaches feature include:
Outwood Academy Portland in Worksop, Nottinghamshire – ranked among the worst in the country just over 2 years ago, since becoming a sponsored academy Outwood Academy Portland has undergone one of the quickest turnarounds ever achieved and was earlier this year rated Outstanding by Ofsted. Principal Dr Phillip Smith says that a renewed focus on attainment in core subjects combined with the introduction of numerous extra-curricular activities has been crucial to the school’s improvement. The school offers more than 100 after-school classes – with everything from extra English and maths, to an orchestra, a choir and a debating club, Minecraft club and circus skills.
School 21, a free school in Stratford, east London – which follows a holistic approach to education, identifying 21 qualities as attributes of a successful student. The school provide leadership and debating classes to enhance pupils’ self-confidence, assertiveness and public speaking skills.
King Solomon Academy in north west London – headteacher Max Haimendorf has introduced much of the thinking of the American charter school movement and specifically that of its Knowledge is Power program (KIPP), where schools have longer days and a structured approach to developing and talking about character.