Character Education in the UK
Character education has received considerable attention within British educational debate over the last decade, most recently becoming a key objective in Ofsted’s new framework for schools. This recent inclusion in the Ofsted framework, under the personal development heading, requires schools to profile the activities and opportunities they are offering for students to develop their character during the school day, inside and outside the curriculum.
The Character Curriculum – Flourishing For Life
In order to assist schools in their delivery of character education, the Jubilee Centre has developed a new character education curriculum for primary and secondary schools (aimed at key stage 2 and 3) called The Character Curriculum – Flourishing For Life. All of the curriculum materials are now ready for teachers to download from our website.
The Character Curriculum includes lesson plans and teacher and student resources for school years 3 – 9 on topics ranging from healthy lifestyles to online safety. Each key stage starts with an introductory module on the philosophy of virtue ethics, which gives students the vocabulary of virtue and an understanding of the process of virtue development. This module explains the philosophical underpinning of the curriculum’s approach to character education. The curriculum is split into four broad areas flourishing individuals, flourishing relationships, digital flourishing and flourishing societies and has been designed to integrate with current curriculum workloads and existing timetabled subjects such as PSHE and Citizenship. The topics covered have been picked to adhere to statutory and non-statutory guidance for PSHE, Citizenship and the new Health and Relationships education. The materials have been designed in consultation with primary and secondary school teachers from across the UK.
The Jubilee Centre has previously published complete primary and secondary programmes of study, in addition to primary and secondary guides to teaching character through the curriculum. We have also developed and trialled an intervention based on teaching character to KS2 pupils through classic stories. These resources predominantly focus on teaching individual virtues, e.g. kindness, in one-off or a short series of lessons. The uniqueness of The Character Curriculum, is its focus on common issues that arise in schools, e.g. developing positive friendships and how a character based approach can help cultivate these relationships. It seeks to give students the opportunity to explore these important topics ‘through the lens’ of character, focusing on different character virtues in different contexts and allowing students to reflect on how they might ‘live’ the virtues in the different spheres of their own lives. Within each topic students have the opportunity to use a range of tools to reflect on their own character development. These include: moral dilemmas, the biographies of role models, reflection opportunities and ideas to serve the local community.
How might schools use The Character Curriculum?
Both KS2 and KS3 curriculums come with a teacher guide with detailed lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations and photocopiable resources for each year group. Within each year group, there are 4 topic areas and each topic area contains 2-3 lessons. The Character Curriculum has been designed to be a flexible tool for teachers and schools to use and adapt for their individual context. There is no blueprint for how the lessons should be incorporated into the school curriculum, or used by schools. The lessons could be used to supplement existing PSHE resources or be used wholesale as a curriculum, or schools can choose elements and lessons that meet their particular needs.
Ben Miller, Research Fellow, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues