Lyndsey Bolton (School Improvement Leader), Rachael Sharpe (Executive Headteacher) and Neil Moir (CEO) form the Character Education Team at Alumnis Multi Academy Trust (MAT). In this blog, the team describe the approach to character education that they have taken across the Alumnis MAT.
An Inspiring Approach to Character Education
In a society where education is constantly changing, expectations are continually evolving and teachers are regularly reassessing the ‘what’ of their practice. Our Character Education Team decided to take time to consider the ‘why.’
As educators, many of us will have entered the profession with a passion to develop the whole child, to not only equip children with the academic skills to succeed in adult life but to ensure that they are grounded in positive values, and can grow to become active and positive citizens. The well-being of society is often a shared destination by all educationalists but clouded by expectations and attainment forced upon the profession.
In the last twelve months, in a time where Covid-19 has made us all feel like we have lost so much, the schools across our Multi Academy Trust have been determined to reshape and refresh the learning for all children. Reflecting now, it is overwhelming how much more our children and school communities have gained since re-placing the focus of success on the importance of growth in character and seeing character development as the foundation to all success.
What We Do and How We Do It
A year ago, we developed and embedded in our curriculum a layered character education approach which was written and developed based on the Trust’s vision of ‘Inspiring Changemakers’. As a Trust, we acknowledge that each child is unique – growing and learning in a multitude of ways. The approach we have rolled out across nine primary schools, from ages 2-11, aims to develop an explicit awareness of the importance and impact of growth in virtues and character on children as unique flourishing individuals. We do not believe that character flourishes if taught solely in isolation or left to chance. Truly strong character develops when it is caught, taught and sought, and when virtues are discovered, explored and discussed, made sense of and then ultimately applied in the right way.
Our approach has seen all our schools, through the work of our Character Leads, develop character education that is taught explicitly, and which provides children with opportunities to put virtues into action. This approach is designed as part of our C360 holistic curriculum, with character as a firm cornerstone connecting all other elements of learning together. Our Trust currently consists of a range of primary schools all sharing a vision to innovate school improvement with character at its core.
Children across our Trust live and learn in schools where displays, conversations, relationships and attitudes all breathe character and virtue language. We use character language in shaping behaviour and attitudes as well as using it to enhance and expand curriculum-based learning opportunities. We developed planning for children in Early Years, Key Stage One and Key Stage Two classes, and we are about to embark on developing our approach further by working closely with secondary schools. Children are taught core character virtues each half term through whole school assemblies/worships and through class group times, and they explore core virtues through stories, texts and linked opportunities in other curriculum areas.
The children at our schools are motivated and enthused to achieve our six Inspiring Changemaker Challenge Awards as we seek to encourage and recognise virtuous action. Each term, our children take part in a range of co-curricular activities that give them the opportunity to put virtues into action. These opportunities range from fundraising events, delivering presentations, visits, volunteering, taking on leadership roles, and skill building to name a few. Through these opportunities, we have seen the greatest growth in character from our learners. We have seen children grow in confidence, co-operation, scholarship, courage and compassion; this has had a direct impact on them having ownership of their learning, character and wellbeing.
We also see our parents playing a vital role in developing the whole child. Therefore, we involve and engage our parents in the language and importance of character in a range of workshops, through newsletters, events, digital communication and social media platforms, and for our older KS2 children, their own Chromebooks.
Our Trust inspires a vision for our children to be the best version of themselves, and we believe that now, more than ever, we have a responsibility and role to play as adults to model and encourage strong character, influencing a new generation of Inspiring Changemakers!