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Senior Headmaster's Blog: Character Education

Over the last two weeks, we have been focusing on Character Education at Felsted, by trying to be more explicit about what we are seeking to achieve. This then supports the other key target areas for 2020 (our New Year's resolutions, if you like), to get the very best behaviour, work ethic, and engagement with the opportunities that are available at the school.  

Last weekend, I attended a gathering of Round Square Heads from all over the world, and this topic was very much top of the agenda. One of the points that was made was that schools often talk about character development, but treat it as something that just happens, and even talk about a hidden curriculum.  To an extent we have fallen into that trap, and while we think that we know the benefits of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, or service activities, or taking part in Drama, or playing in sports teams, these benefits need to be made explicit in order to encourage active participation, and to ensure that these benefits are available to all students.

At the same time, we often make assumptions about behaviour, and think that young people know how to behave (the idea that some 'get it' and others don't).  This is not the case, and all of us have to learn the values that are expected within our community.  So, as with the qualities that we want to promote, we have to be explicit about the behaviours that we want to see, we have to model those behaviours, and then we have to reward positively those who display this behaviour, while guiding those who do not in the right direction (with sanctions playing a part in this).  As a school, having outlined the qualities that we want to see, we are now looking for examples of those qualities being displayed, in order to recognise and reward this behaviour.  After the initial Assembly, these ideas are being followed up in houses, by tutors, and by prefects, and I hope that there will also be some conversations at home, to support and reinforce the importance of this area of development.

We will be reviewing the impact of these actions in the coming weeks, because we are looking for a long term effect, not just a short term change. We will also be looking at maximising the positive work ethic, particularly by using senior pupils to talk to the younger ones about what worked for them, and perhaps what mistakes they made; and then looking at how we can encourage and steer all the students to make the most of the right opportunities for them to develop.  If anyone is interested in reading more, the DFE has done some work in this area (click here to read) and the Jubilee Centre, based at Birmingham University has some excellent thoughts and resources (click here to view).

It is time for the hidden curriculum to be brought into the open, for the benefit of every student, and indeed, the whole community.

Chris Townsend