What is character education?
A person’s character is a set of virtues they possess that guides their behaviour. Character education is an educational approach that involves teaching positive virtues so that students can make good decisions and flourish in their lives. Examples of these virtues are integrity, compassion, curiosity, resilience and fairness.
The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham puts it like this: “Human flourishing is the widely accepted goal of life. To flourish is not only to be happy, but to fulfil one’s potential. Flourishing is the aim of character education, which is critical to its achievement.” Students should become “confident [and] compassionate [people], who are effective contributors to society, successful learners and responsible citizens”.
Why character education?
Education is about more than preparing people for study and work. We want to help our students become women who are comfortable and confident in themselves, who support those around them and contribute to society. There’s good evidence to suggest character education helps make this happen.
A recent review from the Early Intervention Foundation found that good character attributes at the age of 10 were more important than ‘cognitive skills’ (using measures of literacy and numeracy) at that age when it came to predicting mental health and life satisfaction in later life. The authors of the study found that factors such as self-control and school engagement are correlated with academic outcomes, financial stability in adulthood and reduced crime.
Research shows that strong character results in better behaviour, improved academic success and overall human flourishing. Character education is increasingly being incorporated into schools all over the UK and a 2013 poll showed that a majority of parents support the establishment of character education in the education system.
What does this mean for Baytree?
Our character education programme is based around our ethos. The core values at the centre of our ethos are:
- Each person is precious
- Professional work
- Service and solidarity
- Care for our environment
The key virtues we focus on are below. They are underpinned by the principle that we want to be and to support women and girls with purpose: who are free, responsible, and use their gifts well.
For the Youth Service this means regular ‘Heroines’ workshops focussing on a virtue for girls, mothers and mentors, and projects designed to put them into action; and guidance for mentors and club leaders on how to bring personal development into weekly sessions. The Adult Service introduce character themes into their ESOL classes, and the PEACH Plus programme run by the Family Service has personal development at its core, underpinning all the interventions (in the areas of family stability, health and wellbeing, career and employment, education; and financial management).