Author: Antoinette Morris
Posted: 14 Dec 2023
Estimated time to read: 5 mins
Education in today’s world is about so much more than academic success. Senior leaders are increasingly recognising the importance of holistic development, acknowledging that character education plays a pivotal role in shaping well-rounded individuals.
Why is character education important?
The Department for Education's Character Education Framework outlines the multifaceted benefits of character education. It not only contributes to students' personal development but also enhances their overall wellbeing. By instilling virtues such as respect, responsibility, resilience, and integrity, character education lays the groundwork for a society of conscientious citizens that do good (and feel good too). We refer to this as a kind of holistic development.
What is holistic development?
Holistic development is a multi-dimensional approach that nurtures all aspects of an individual's growth: physical, intellectual, emotional, social and moral. It transcends conventional academic focus, recognising that an individual's wellbeing and success depend on the harmonious development of various facets.
This approach encompasses cultivating a healthy body, fostering cognitive abilities, promoting emotional intelligence, enhancing interpersonal skills and instilling moral values. Holistic development acknowledges the interconnection of these things, aiming to produce well-rounded individuals with the skills, attitudes and character traits necessary for success in all aspects of life.
In essence, holistic development prepares individuals not only for academic challenges but also for the complexities of personal, social and professional spheres. It aims to create resilient, adaptable individuals capable of positively contributing to society. That’s where character education comes in.
Choosing character virtues that work for your school
Selecting character values for a school to focus on is a strategic and reflective process that demands careful consideration from senior leaders. First and foremost, leaders should align the chosen values with the school's overarching mission and vision, ensuring a coherent and unified approach to character development. These values should resonate with the school community, reflecting its unique ethos and fostering a sense of belonging.
Engaging stakeholders, including teachers, students, parents and the wider community, is crucial in this decision-making process. By soliciting input from various perspectives, senior leaders can gain insights into the values that hold significance to the diverse members of the school community. This community approach not only promotes inclusivity but also ensures that the selected values are meaningful and relevant to those they aim to influence.
Leaders should also consider the broader societal context and anticipate the skills and qualities that students will need in the future. Adaptable and future-focused character values contribute to the holistic development of students, preparing them for challenges beyond the classroom.
In essence, the selection of character values should be a collaborative and intentional process, rooted in the school's mission, reflective of community perspectives and forward-thinking in preparing students for a rapidly evolving world.
Implementing character education in your school
Assessment and planning
Before diving into curriculum development, assess the current culture and climate of the school. Identify the values that are already being promoted and areas that need improvement. This assessment will serve as a foundation for strategic planning.
Character education is a collective effort. Involve teachers, parents, and the wider community in the process. Solicit their input on the values they believe should be emphasized and integrated into the curriculum.
Develop a curriculum
Utilise free online resources as a base for developing your own curriculum that aligns with the school's ethos and values. No need to start from scratch when there’s already a lot out there to help you!
Utilise professional development
Equip teachers with the knowledge and skills required for effective implementation using CPD. Workshops, seminars and other ongoing professional development opportunities can ensure that educators are well prepared and feel confident.
Integrate into everyday life
Character education is not a standalone module and should permeate every aspect of school life. Embed character-building activities that match your school values into the daily routine wherever possible to help them become second nature.
Assessment and Reflection
Implement a system for assessing students' character development. This could involve self-assessment, peer evaluation or teacher observations. Regularly reflect on the effectiveness of the character education program and make adjustments as needed. Many educators fall into the trap of not trying to assess character education, but it should be evaluated regularly to ensure effectiveness.
The link between character education and social emotional learning (SEL)
Character education and social-emotional learning are two intertwined concepts that collectively contribute to the holistic development of students.
They share common goals – fostering emotional intelligence, promoting empathy and building interpersonal skills. By recognising the common ground, senior leaders can integrate character education seamlessly into existing SEL initiatives and vice versa.
If you want to learn more about social emotional learning, check out our SEL 101 guide.
Building character and pursuing holistic development
Senior leaders in UK schools have the unique opportunity to shape the future by prioritising the cultivation of virtues and values within their educational institutions. By implementing a robust character education program, schools can foster environments where students not only excel academically but also emerge as compassionate, responsible and well-rounded individuals who are poised for success in all facets of life.
Use Skills to track and manage character education
Tracking character education progress in your school can feel like a daunting task, with many wanting data to understand impact but not knowing how to get it.
Satchel Pulse’s new Skills tool is an all-in-one, cost effective solution to negative student behaviour, poor academic performance and low wellbeing that’s quick and easy to implement. It's compatible with character education and a fantastic way to put data behind your efforts.