Character Educator in Focus: Ben Miller

Ben is Head of Theology and Philosophy at Reading School and a former Research Fellow at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. He completed the Jubilee Centre’s MA Character Education and is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham with a focus on theology and character formation.

Reading School

Reading School has been educating boys since 1125 and has a vision to be a world leading institution developing academic excellence and building good men. Reading School believes that character education belongs at the heart of the school culture and curriculum and is known as ‘The Reading Way’. This is a holistic approach to education with a broad curriculum that encourages intellectual curiosity, whilst enriching and developing the sporting and artistic lives and cultural capital of our students. The aims of academic excellence and building good men are complementary: we want our students to flourish through sustained high performance and the development of their character.

Character Education at Reading School

At Reading School, character education is an integral part of the curricu­lum and wider school culture. Character education is embedded into the curriculum through our ‘Floreat’ character education curriculum as well as being taught through Personal, Social, Health, and Economic education. The Floreat curriculum is a bespoke curriculum enabling students to engage with character education in an intentional and explicit way. The curriculum covers four broad areas: ‘flourishing individuals’, ‘flourishing relationships’, ‘digital flourishing’ and ‘flourishing societies’, with students in Key Stage 3 (KS3) and Key Stage 4 (KS4) exploring topics such as study skills and the virtue of learning, using technology wisely, cultivating a positive online reputation and a focus on empathy and compassion. Students also explore the vocabulary of character and study the process of character and virtue development. It has been a joy this academic year to observe students across the school engage in activities designed to deepen and enrich their character, both in classroom discussion, debate and in implementing their knowledge through practical service-based projects.

This curriculum time gives our students the opportunity to explore these important topics through the lens of character traits and the virtue development. Looking at the character traits in this context also allows greater exploration of how different virtues or traits might interact or collide in real life. This allows students to reason, reflect and apply the virtues to situations that they might encounter.

At Reading School, virtues are caught, taught and sought and we believe that character education is the responsibility of all staff who have contact with our students. Virtues are caught through the culture, ethos, and positive example of school staff. They are taught explicitly through educational experiences that equip pupils with the language, knowledge, understanding, skills, and attributes that enable character development. Finally, virtues are sought – we provide opportunities that support students to seek, desire, and freely pursue their own character development.

Our approach has been devel­oped by our staff and draws on the work and research of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. We have created an introductory module aimed at KS3 on the philosophy of virtue ethics. This module gives students the vocabulary of virtue and an understanding of the process of character and virtue development. This module explains the philosophical underpinning of Reading School’s approach to character education. Many of the topics, including ‘heathy relationships and online safety’, are introduced in KS3 and re-visited in KS4. Within each topic, students use a range of tools to reflect on their character. These include moral dilemmas, the biographies of role models and reflection opportunities linked to serving the local community.

Staff at Reading School enjoy this unique approach to character education and through our work we help to ensure that students have the time and space to reflect on the kind of person they are and the kind of person they would like to become.   

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