School’s Out! But character still matters.

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New resources to support families and children’s moral development over the summer break.

Children running in a line holding hands.

By Catherine O’Leary, Andrew Maile and Joe McDowell
Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues,
 University of Birmingham

The Jubilee Centre’s, A Framework for Character Education in Schools, notes that ‘parents are the primary educators of their children’s character’.

During the last 18 months, parents and carers have adapted their homes to become places of learning. When we speak to teachers, and as this Parentkind poll and article suggests, there has been a positive realignment of the teacher/parent relationship, with most parents and guardians feeling more involved and wanting to continue supporting their child’s education in a more holistic way. As the world continues to emerge from what has been a period of concern, we should take positivity from the fact that families however they are made up, still prioritise supporting their children’s learning. This poll only shows a slim majority, however. There is still work to do to help all involved with schools recover as well as to both grow and consolidate the positives gained for the teacher/parent relationship.

The Centre’s work has repeatedly shown that good character education requires it to be taught in classrooms, but also that schools create a culture where it can be caught and sought. So too is this the case in families and communities, a key pillar of which requires providing young people with positive role models who demonstrate virtuous behaviour, which can be then replicated and practised and whose example pupils can model and thereby learn how to live a flourishing life.

This is the ambition of character education, whether it is developed in the classroom, community or at home.

The Jubilee Centre has published two new resource sets as part of its Seasonal and Character Matters Series’ to support this continuing development and increasing parental engagement. Principally for primary school pupils but with challenges for older children too, the ‘Summer Activities’ and ‘Summer of Sport’ resources showcase 15 activities that promote a range of positive virtue traits, such as confidence, curiosity, community awareness and compassion.

These packs draw inspiration from the Centre’s ongoing research, particularly its Framework and statements on Character and the Pandemic and on Character and Sport.

The first of these statements outlined in more detail in this blog emphasises the importance of consolidating those positive virtues that many individuals have exhibited in service to others and their communities during recent periods of restriction. As we recover from the pandemic this statement also highlights the need for rekindling social friendships, particularly among children and how we must prioritise and provide opportunities for re-engaging with our community, as well as celebrating the role of service and adventure, in any ‘recovery’ curriculum. The second demonstrates the character-building potential of both participating in and engaging with sport. Sport can also provide an opportunity to highlight the importance of athletes, coaches, and sportspeople as role models of good character.

Taking on board the lessons of these statements, these new resources encourage young people to get active, explore different cultures and traditions within their own communities and places they may visit over the holidays, as well as think about the positive character traits of their sporting role models. The resources encourage children to reflect on who has helped them and their families during the pandemic, and how they can express their gratitude to them. Children can also seek out opportunities for collaboration, teamwork and mutual virtue development in support of good causes and engage in acts of service, thinking environmentally and reflect on their own character traits and how these can be developed over the summer break.

Free to download — with activities for pupils of all ages — these packs are available on the Centre’s website along with a suite of other resources for parents and children. The Centre looks forward to seeing how these activities and resources are brought to life and how they support the development of character and virtues; families are encouraged to share their experiences with the Centre on social media.

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