St Margaret’s C of E Junior School
What is Character Education?
“Character education is more than a subject:
it’s learning to be a good person and a positive contributor to society.”
(Aidan Thompson, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham)
Character education is the active development of character strengths, values and virtues in young people. It enables educators to work with parents and carers to introduce to, model and help children to acquire positive personal strengths, values and virtues, and in so doing, develop the whole child to become a well-rounded and active citizen. Character education enables pupils and adults to understand, care about and act on core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic duty and citizenship, and develop responsibility for themselves and others. The development of these values, virtues and character strengths prepares children for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of further study and later life.
The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, based at the University of Birmingham, defines good character as the ability to make good decisions and good choices. The acquisition and development of positive values, virtues and good character traits leads to a well-balanced, honourable life and has a positive impact towards a thriving community and society.
Character education equips children to appreciate the importance of commitment, to relationships, roles and their developing worldview and/or faith. They develop the ability to persevere and remain motivated by long-term goals, along with the strength to learn and bounce back from any setbacks they may encounter. Children learn about and take on board positive moral values such as courage, integrity, compassion, honesty and a sense of justice. They develop confidence to interact socially with others, to express their ideas and viewpoints articulately, and to listen and behave courteously when listening to those of others, including when that might mean disagreeing well. Through character education, children develop a sense of what is ethically important in situations and how to act for the right reasons.
The Association for Character Education expands on character and the purpose of character education as:
“The choices an individual makes determines their future, and the purpose of developing good character is the ability to make good choices. Character allows us to flourish as individuals, and as a wider society. This is why the development of character, as well as achieving academic attainment, should be the purpose of education.”
(“Character becomes your destiny” Lao Tzu, Philosopher)
Why do we value Character Education at St Margaret’s?
Flourish as a family, love to learn, make memories, shine!
Our Federation vision embraces the essence of character education, as the development of good character enables all members of the Federation and wider community to flourish. Character education contributes to forming well-educated, confident, compassionate and courageous young people, who leave St Margaret’s ready for the exciting challenges, responsibilities and opportunities ahead for them at secondary school and in their future lives.
At St Margaret’s CE Junior School, we acknowledge that parents and carers are the primary educators of their child’s character; understanding that the school also plays an important role in this process. Developing character goes hand in hand with high educational aspirations and achievement and the wide range of experiences that the children encounter at primary school has a major impact on their future wellbeing and success. It is for this reason, we have made a commitment across the BHSM Federation to the teaching and development of character traits, attributes, values and behaviours that are the foundation to positive relationships, wellbeing, achievement and success.
“Good character is the foundation for improved attainment, better behaviour and increased employability, but most importantly, flourishing societies.” (Jubilee Centre)
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live in unity! (Psalm 133)
St Margaret’s CE Junior School is a strong Christian community where all unite and flourish. Our family is guided by God’s teachings of love, courage, hope and service, enabling everyone to thrive as happy and fulfilled individuals.
Ignited by God’s Spirit, our children shine as a light in the world.
The Christian ethos and identity of our school plays a great part in character education for the pupils and adults at St Margaret’s. Our Christian vision of living well together in unity and our core values of love, courage, hope and service were selected in response to our school’s context. As a Church of England school, we want our St Margaret’s children to thrive on challenge, love learning, respect each other and develop attributes that will ensure that they will always be valued members of our society, whilst respecting, valuing and celebrating everyone’s uniqueness in the eyes of God. Our Christian vision and values, RE curriculum and collective worship ensure that a biblical approach to character development is taught, learned and lived out in the daily life of members of the school community. As they learn about Christian values and the life and stories of Jesus, children and adults reflect on the message of the Bible in the context of their own character and actions.
School leaders make reference to the Church of England report: ‘Fruits of the Spirit: A Church of England Discussion Paper on Character Education’ which states:
“We see the ultimate purpose of education as the promotion of “life in all its fullness”. Education … is about developing people who can flourish in all areas of their lives. Character education is essential to this.”
How is Character Education ‘taught, caught and sought’ at St Margaret’s?
Character strengths are not all acquired and developed by chance; they require a level of teaching, practice and nurture. Character Education cannot be ‘taught and caught’ as a discrete curriculum subject. At St Margaret’s it permeates all subjects, wider school activities, and our school’s Christian identity and family ethos. Our Amazing Federation Curriculum enables all learners to know more and remember more as they: acquire academic knowledge and skills, grow physically, socially and emotionally; develop their spirituality and sense of place in the world; and develop in understanding, confidence and strength of character. Development of these facets of the whole child award them with the firm foundations needed to live life in all its fullness.
The fact that our rich, ambitious and inclusive curriculum, is underpinned by our Big Ideas of: Wellbeing; Character, Courage and Resilience; Identity and Diversity; Growth and Aspirations; Restorative Relationships & Reconciliation; Communities and Culture, ensures that character education is a golden thread throughout the whole curriculum. Aspirational teaching encourages and challenges children to be their best selves, to take pride in their work, and to be positive members of the school and wider communities. Children are part of target setting, challenges and mistakes are taken on board as a valuable part of the learning process, and achievements are acknowledged and celebrated.
Children learn directly about character strengths, values and virtues in PSHE, RE lessons and collective worship and are given opportunities to explore, discuss and practise them. As part of PSHE, Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) also actively promotes positive behaviour and relationships. Children are also exposed to the concepts and language of character throughout their wider experience of school in other lessons, learning experiences and activities, including learning about British values. Opportunities for character building are encountered through experiential learning, discussion, debate, critical thinking, problem solving, asking and exploring big questions, meeting and overcoming challenges independently and with support. These opportunities help young people to explore and express their character and build the skills they need for resilience, empathy and the motivation to achieve their aspirations for the future.
Our curriculum promotes the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of all learners, allowing children to learn and pursue interests and talents whilst growing in character. The wider curriculum covers a wide range of experiences and opportunities that are open to all pupils. Enrichment activities and opportunities include: trips; visits (including residentials); theatre trips; school clubs; competitions (including, art, science, engineering and sport); school choir; performances; courageous advocacy projects, awareness days and fund raising. Other opportunities such as becoming a member of the School Council, Worship Group, leading collective worship or being a Year 6 buddy to a Year 3 child allow children more opportunities to take on board responsibility and take action that enables the school community to flourish.
High expectations for standards of behaviour and clear responsibilities of all members of the school community are explicit within the Federation Relationships and Behaviour Policy, Anti-bullying Policy and Staff Code of Conduct. Restorative approaches are implemented when addressing any relationships issues. Children are taught how they can self-regulate their behaviours using strategies from the Zones of Regulation. Expectations for high levels of respect towards others in and beyond the school community are clear, and promoted through the school’s Christian vision and values and Federation vision. There is a shared understanding of the character traits, values and virtues that are highly regarded across the Federation. Adults and children are encouraged to act as role models to each other. By empowering children to become role models themselves, they grow even more in character and shine as they take pride in themselves and our school community.
Good Character in Action
Visitors to St Margaret’s will see good character in action all around them at all points of the school day; in how children and adults engage with each other in classrooms, other learning areas, outdoors in structured learning activities and unstructured playtimes, and when our children visit off-site venues - everywhere!
“Schools should aim to develop confident and compassionate students, who are effective contributors to society, successful learners, and responsible citizens. Students also need to grow in their understanding of what is good or valuable and their ability to protect and advance what is good. They need to develop a commitment to serving others, which is an essential manifestation of good character in action.”
One of our core Christian values is service. We actively promote the value of serving God and by doing that, serving others in the school, local and global communities. Character development involves caring for and respecting others as well as caring for and respecting oneself. See our Courageous Advocacy page to see some examples of how children at St Margaret’s act courageously to be agents of change and shine as a light in the world.
Our school culture values, respects and supports all members of the school community, with adults also empowered to further enhance their own character. Parents and carers are encouraged to share constructive feedback to school leaders, are listened to and well-supported, either directly by the school team and through information on the school website. Our dedicated pastoral team also signpost parents and carers to other means of support that they can access independently. School leaders support staff with their wellbeing, management of workload, career pathway and encourage staff to take risks and be inventive with the curriculum, teaching and learning to ensure that our curriculum remains inspirational and interesting to the children. Governors and staff across the Federation all support each other and this is reflected in the Federation ethos and the Christian distinctiveness of St Margaret’s CE Junior School.
The Jubilee Centre provides resources for parents and carers should they wish to pursue discussions about character virtues with their child/ren at home. We strongly suggest that, if accessing these resources that parents and carers look at the resources themselves first to ensure that the content of the resource is age appropriate for their child/ren.