By | May 30, 2019

Five-minute briefing on Hinds’ character consultation

Damien Hinds (Secretary of State for Education) launches a consultation on character education

In the consultation character is defined as:

  • believing that you can achieve
  • being able to stick with the task in hand
  • seeing a link between effort today and payback in the future, and
  • being able to bounce back from the knocks that life inevitably brings to all of us.

And resilience is defined as: being able to bounce back from the knocks that life inevitably brings to all of us.

Here are 10 quick observations on character.

  1. There is considerable evidence that the 5 dimensions of ‘character’ that Hinds outlined are ‘good things’. That they impact on meta-cognition, resilience, well-being etc. There’s an equal pile of evidence that says that those who possibly could benefit most access them the least. So ‘yey’ to anything that shines a light on that disparity and attempts to come up with routes to high quality access.

Five Dimensions of Character

  • First, there’s SPORT – traditional, competitive team sports and a wide range of other physical activities.
  • Next CREATIVITY – which features all kinds of thoughtful and inventive activities, as well as traditional creative ones such as: art, design, creative writing and composing music;
  • Third is PERFORMING – which emphasises more expressive activities for individuals or in a group including: drama, theatre, dance, playing in an orchestra or singing in a choir, public speaking and debating;
  • The fourth category is VOLUNTEERING & MEMBERSHIP - through voluntary youth groups, campaigns of particular interest to the young, or school-based initiatives, as well as structured programmes like Duke of Edinburgh, or uniformed groups like the Cadets, Scouts and Guides. It also includes voluntary work, which dovetails to our final category….
  • Which is WORLD OF WORK – from learning about careers and entrepreneurialism, to actual work experience or a Saturday job.
  1. But part of the reason there isn’t universal access is because of curriculum squeeze. These 5 dimensions are all as academic as – say - physics. You can study them all at post graduate level. And yet they have been throttled out of curriculum time because. EBAcc. Class bias. False expectations of what gets you to a Russell Group.
    Given that they are both academic and have the evidenced impact on a range of other positive outcomes isn’t this even more reason to ensure they are part of what ‘counts’ for schools? It’s disingenuous to count them on one hand while the other hand strangles them.

 

  1. And they were all things offered in spades in youth work and other community funded projects. Now all written off. So, a programme that lauds these activities while ignoring the role of ‘austerity’ in their system wide demise feels a little bit rude to be honest.

 

  1. While we are there – leaving aside the need to broaden the curriculum - why is the focus only on schools? Schools cannot do it all. Even if they were fully-funded they shouldn’t do it all. They haven’t all the skills and both the voluntary and extra-curricular nature adds to the impact of these activities.

 

  1. But if they are to be extra-curricular or delivered through youth work or community provision then ensuring access to all is vital. It’s why we support #culturalinclusion. And why it is vital that the outdoors and residentials are an entitlement for everyone.
  1. The advisory panel has some great people and it always good to see some serving teachers and Heads on there as well as College of Teaching and Unions. But the focus on behaviour is telling (does Tom Bennett have any days left in a week where he isn’t on a panel!). And the absence of special school representation wrong.Would have been good to have young people – too many panels about young people and not with them. And while Pearson and KPMG are, I am sure, fabulous it would have good to have maybe artists or sportspeople. Or an entrepreneur. Or an actor. Or – if there are any left – a careers advisor.
  1. But the underpinning message is well – at best a car crash at worse part of a wider ‘poor’ blaming narrative. A presentation that a failure to have ‘character’ is part of the reason for a lack of social mobility. Not an inequity of pay. Austerity. The poverty premium. Disability. Class bias. Nope – you are not ‘upwardly mobile’ because you lack ‘character’.
  1. And that ‘character’ is somehow the preserve of private schools is really insulting. Laura McInerney nails that here.

 

  1. But. You know. The debate is the right one. Ignore the detail of the consultation and crassness of messaging and seize the opportunity. We know what works. We who’ve spent our lives in youth work. In schools. In those 5 Dimensions. What would it really take to ensure these were an entitlement for every child and young person? Make that the consultation response.

 

  1. And finally. There truly is nothing new under the sun. Although I am fear I am failing in purity and Princely Manhood.

- William Briggs Toronto 1899.

For help in considering how to develop these 5 Dimensions these organisations all have useful resources and programmes.

For all things art, drama and culture the Arts Council Bridges

 

For more updates on ‘character’, extra-curricular activities and enrichment sign up to the Every Child Should newsletter.


Consultation open: 27th May 2019 to 5th July 2019

Link: Department for Education


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