New vision for character and resilience – Friday 8 February 2019

This week I report on the Education Secretary’s five foundations for character education, a series of trials testing different approaches to supporting young people’s mental health and an EEF trial of an English mastery programme at Key Stage 3.

Vision for character and resilience
This week the Education Secretary, Damian 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. The foundations are:

  • 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.
  • Creativity – this involves all creative activities from coding, arts and crafts, writing, graphic design, film making and music composition.
  • Performing – activities could include dance, theatre and drama, musical performance, choir, debating or public speaking.
  • 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.
  • 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.

To help 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.
  • 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.
  • A new advisory group will 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.

Mental Health trials launched in 370 schools
To mark Children’s Mental Health Week (4-10 February), the Education Secretary Damian Hinds has announced that up to 370 schools in England will take part in a series of trials testing different approaches to supporting young people’s mental health.

Children will benefit from mindfulness exercises, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises to help them regulate their emotions, alongside pupil sessions with mental health experts. The study will run until 2021 and aims to give schools new, robust evidence about what works best for their students’ mental health and wellbeing.

Mr Hinds also confirmed the nine areas across the country that will trial new high-quality mental health assessments for young people entering care, helping them get the support they need to meet their individual needs at a time when they are more vulnerable.

English mastery programme trial by the EEF
A Key Stage 3 English mastery programme has been selected for a trial by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). The EEF will test the approach, which is supported by Ark Ventures, an arm of Ark Schools, in 110 schools over two years to find out if it will boost pupil progress. Around 700 teachers and 40,000 pupils are expected to be involved.
Ark recently announced that it is developing a school curriculum programme covering “all the major subjects” that it plans to sell to other schools. It comes as Ofsted’s new framework shifts its focus from exam results to how schools deliver curriculum.

The new trial is one of five unveiled today by the EEF, which exists to test approaches that “break the link between family income and educational achievement”. Other successful projects include a scheme to improve access to glasses, and programmes for struggling readers.