In 2003, a study of more than 600 California State schools found a distinct correlation between the strength of the character education that a school offered and its academic scores.
In 2008, a study published in School Psychology Quarterly reported that social-emotional competence, which is closely related to character education, strongly influenced the academic skills of almost 300 third-grade students that were included in the study. More importantly, a recent meta-analysis of over two hundred different studies has found that character education truly does have a positive effect on academic achievement, increasing achievement test scores by 11 to 17 percentage points.
As educators, we recognise that character is a set of personal traits that produce specific moral emotions, inform motivation and guide conduct. Character education is an umbrella term for all explicit and implicit educational activities that help young people develop positive personal strengths called virtues.
However, character education is more than just a subject. It is about helping students grasp what is ethically important in situations and how to act for the right reasons, so that they become more autonomous and reflective. Students need to decide the kind of person they wish to become and to learn to choose between alternatives. In this process, the ultimate aim of character education is the development of good sense or practical wisdom: the capacity to choose intelligently between alternatives.
Character education in Great Schools Trust academies is not an educational programme. It is an approach that, implicitly and explicitly, permeates all subjects as well as the general school ethos; it cultivates the belief that character education enhances academic success and places great emphasis virtues of character associated with common morality. The values and attitudes we live by affect how we relate to other people and our environment; they predispose us to respond in particular ways to people and events, and fashion our outlook on life. By framing our approach to educating our young people within a firm set of values, we seek to help them discover more about themselves and become successful citizens, able to make a meaningful contribution to society.
The Great Schools Trust’s seven pillars of character are: