Leading Character Education in Schools: Case Study Report

Matt Walker, David Sims, Kelly Kettlewell

23 October 2017

Case Study Report | Emerging Practice Guide| Bibliography

This study provides the school sector with practical insights and illustrations about different approaches to leading character education. The project was commissioned by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and Pearson, and undertaken by a team from the NFER. The study involved visits to five schools (two primaries and three secondaries), all past winners of the Department for Education’s Character Award – an award scheme designed to act as ‘a gold standard as to what works in character education’ (Morgan, 2016). Schools were selected to provide a geographical spread, and interviews were undertaken with senior school leaders and teachers using semi-structured interview schedules. A suite of outputs has been produced from the study, comprising: i) a bibliography of recent reports on character education; ii) a case-study report; and iii) an emerging practice guide.

Key Findings

The research identified five key features of the effective leadership of character education. These emphasise the need for schools to:

  • ensure that senior leaders drive character education and involve all teachers and support staff in its delivery
  • place character education at the core of the school ethos, rather than view it as a ‘nice to have’
  • take a long-term approach to promoting and developing character education. Based on our study, this is typically five years or more
  • build a collective understanding and language to facilitate dialogue between staff, between pupils and staff, and between pupils and pupils
  • maintain focus, momentum and ongoing communication to help keep and reinforce character education as a priority.
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