NACE member and Challenge Award holder Llanfoist Fawr Primary School has developed a whole-school approach to character education, drawing on its use of the NACE Challenge Framework alongside the SkillForce Prince William Award. Headteacher Jon Murphy explains why the school believes so strongly in character education as a prerequisite for both wellbeing and academic success.

Why focus on character education?

Character education is not an add-on: it is essential for all young people, and the remit of all educators. Schools have a crucial role in preparing young people to withstand the pressures that life presents, to respond resiliently to setbacks and challenges, and to make informed decisions to shape their future lives. Character education provides the toolbox that will allow them to do so.

At Llanfoist Fawr Primary School, we also firmly believe that nurturing non-academic attributes such as resilience, determination and teamwork is a prerequisite to sound learning. Learning only takes place if the conditions are right and children can cope with the pressures and challenges thrown up by school and life beyond school. And until an individual knows themselves and feels happy in their own skin, they cannot fully realise what they are capable of.

Developing a whole-school approach to character education has unequivocally proved to us that this kind of holistic development is essential in preparing children to become effective learners in all areas, be it academic, sporting, artistic, cultural, spiritual, musical or social. 

This goes hand in hand with our use of the NACE Challenge Framework – recognising the importance of character education as a foundation for all learners to develop and achieve at the highest levels of which they are capable.

What does character education look like at Llanfoist Fawr?

There is no single method for developing character-based curriculum provision. At Llanfoist we have aligned our character education work with the NACE Challenge Framework and with the SkillForce Prince William Award (PWA), for which we were selected as a pilot school. The PWA and NACE Challenge Framework complement and enhance each other perfectly, ensuring challenge for all.

External PWA instructors provide whole-class sessions, each exploring a character attribute or “guiding principle” such as reliance, courage or passion. The PWA explores 28 guiding principles through five key themes – personal development, relationships, working, community and environment – using experiential learning. Children engage in practical skills-based activities and are encouraged to review their actions and behaviour in accordance with the guiding principles.

How is this integrated with other areas of learning?

Character development is not a standalone programme and will not succeed as such; it will only succeed in developing productive character traits if it is an integral part of everything we do and everything we believe in. 

Once a guiding principle and its associated behaviours have been taught in a PWA session, children are encouraged to use and apply that character skill across the curriculum. At every opportunity the class teacher reinforces the principles and applies them to other areas of learning. 

The impact can be seen in every lesson; we see children become more resilient, self-regulating and develop self-belief. The guiding principles and associated behaviours become second nature as learners assimilate, value and live them.

What has been the impact for more able learners, and all learners?

Developing character has transformed the life chances of many of our pupils, including the more able, helping to equip them with the social, emotional and academic skills needed to succeed.

As with many of the most effective influencers in education, the impact cannot be measured in a number or score. The results have been seen in the children’s improved emotional health, wellbeing and view of themselves; the happiness they gain through productive learning; the self-belief and confidence that positively radiates from young people who are comfortable in their own skins and daring to be their “best selves”. 

Character development allows learners to discover previously untapped inner strength, skills, talents and self-belief. It has empowered children in our school to understand how best to lead their own learning, to make strong moral choices and to be confident, independent decision makers. Our more able realise what potential they have and are enthusiastic engaged leaders and learners who thrive on the challenges and opportunities afforded them.

As a school we seek innovative, creative and fun approaches to curriculum delivery with guaranteed high-impact learner outcomes. Developing character education has delivered on all fronts. 

Jon Murphy is the Executive Headteacher of Llanfoist Fawr and Llanvihangel Crucorney Primary Schools. With over 30 years’ experience in education, Jon is also a team inspector for Estyn, an ambassador for the SkillForce Prince William Award and a Visiting Fellow of the University of South Wales. He has been a NACE Associate and Challenge Award assessor since 2007, and is currently the NACE Research and Development (R&D) Hub Coordinator for Wales.

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From our blog: From the DfE: NACE member resources:
  • NACE Essentials: Using mindset theory to drive success
  • NACE Essentials: CEIAG for more able learners
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Monday, February 11, 2019