All at Thomas Arnold work consciously and conscientiously to make it a place where children acquire the character virtues that lead to success in school and university, in work and life beyond. Essential to this is our understanding of what constitutes Character Education.
Character Education can be defined as the active development of character strengths or virtues in young people. The practice of character education is based on the view that these strengths are not merely given but can be developed through instruction and practice.
Our work in this area is premised upon two ideas. First, that character is both ‘taught’ and ‘caught’. Taught because pupils need to learn directly about character strengths and virtues, and to be given opportunities to practise them. Caught because pupils need to be exposed to the concepts and language of character throughout their experience of school. This is best delivered through the ethos of the school, by teachers and other adults in school acting as role models, by empowering children to be role models and recognising them publicly as such, and by engineering enrichment activity so that it emphasises character development.
The second idea is that there are four core dimensions to character: intellectual, performance, moral and civic. These are demonstrated in the diagram below. A complete character education seeks to develop pupils along all four dimensions, and in this broad conception character encompasses academic achievement as a route to the development of intellectual character strength.
As such, our curriculum is infused with opportunities for children to develop their character strengths and virtues. These are complimented by the headteacher’s weekly assembly and weekly class PSHCE assemblies, which constitute discrete weekly character education lessons teaching the children explicitly about the character virtues. Together, discrete and embedded learning gives the children the knowledge, language and moral exemplars to help them continue strengthening the virtues in their own lives.
Further to this, we have identified ‘50 things to do at Thomas Arnold Primary School before you’re 11 ¾’ a set of enriched experiences defined by children, parents and staff that we believe to be character building in the truest sense. These experiences are embedded in our curriculum as authentic outcomes to learning.
Character Education also informs our whole school approach to behaviour management. This is best described in the ‘Behaviour Booklet’ prepared for children, parents and staff, and designed to ensure a shared understanding for all and a continuity of approach. The approach combines clearly defined rules that guide children to ‘Stay on Green’ and clearly defined character virtues that are particularly prized in our school that encourage the children to ‘Go for Gold’: