The Department for Education (DfE) fund is aimed at putting ‘character education on a par with academic learning’ and will support both new and existing projects.
The DfE has said that the fund will be open for applications from ‘early in 2015’, with all approaches to be considered, both in-school and out-of-school projects and initiatives. However, applicants will have to show evidence that their activities ‘result in better grades, improved behaviour or improved job prospects’.
At the same time, the DfE has also unveiled its new character education awards, which is offering 27 winning regional schools £15,000 each, with a further £20,000 for the national winner – £425,000 in total.
Applicants are to be judged on their ‘approaches and practices to develop character’. The awards opened for schools and other organisations on January 5, with the regional winners to be unveiled in February and the national winner in March.
The DfE has also announced a further £1 million in funding to expand research into the most effective ways that character can be taught.
The funding is to be matched by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and will be used by the EEF to test the work of non-profit character education projects. Schools can apply under this fund for their approaches to be evaluated.
Launching the new £3.5 million fund and the national awards, the DfE quoted examples of the types of project that might benefit.
They included King Solomon Academy in London, which runs a project inspired by the US Knowledge is Power programme and focused on character-based rewards for pupils to encourage traits of ‘commitment, endeavour, resilience, and scholarship’.
School 21, based in east London, has developed a wellbeing curriculum that focuses on self-control, humour and charity. The school day includes time for students to ‘master’ personal goals.
And Outwood Academy Portland in Worksop offers more than 100 after-school classes, ranging from extra English and maths, to an orchestra, a choir and a debating club, Minecraft club and circus skills.
The announcements came as a research review commissioned by the EEF and Cabinet Office found that social and emotional learning programmes within school ‘can play an important role in developing key non-cognitive skills’.
The EEF has said that its trials will be conducted across ‘large numbers of English schools to assess whether there are links between interventions, the development of certain character traits, success at school and longer-term outcomes’. These will all be evaluated and added to the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit online resource.
The EEF research funding is open to schools, local authorities, charities, universities and other non-profit organisations that ‘would like to test other ways of developing non-cognitive skills in students’.
An EEF statement said: ‘Projects should have some existing evidence that they are likely to improve outcomes at school or later in life, and also be practical and cost-effective.’
The EEF has already funded a number of projects that aim to build soft skills in order to improve engagement and attainment.
One example is Changing Mindsets, which is running in 36 schools in Hampshire and is based on the work of Professor Carol Dweck, who found that encouraging children to adopt a ‘growth mindset’ – in which they see their own intelligence as malleable rather than a fixed attribute – led to significant improvements in attainment.
Dr Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said: ‘Although we now know that character and resilience play an important part in determining pupils’ outcomes, we know much less about the most effective ways to develop these attributes in children. By funding further trials in this area we hope to offer schools a rigorous and independent assessment of what really works in this area.’
Education secretary Nicky Morgan said that the new funding for character education was a ‘milestone’. She added: ‘It will provide a boost to those already doing great work, while also helping excellent projects get off the ground. Excellent teachers already produce well-rounded pupils, and (the funding) will give more schools the support, inspiration and resources to go even further.’
Specific application information for the national character education awards and the £3.5 million fund had not been published as SecEd went to press, but should be available this month from the DfE. Visit www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-education
For more information and to apply for EEF funding, visit http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/apply-for-funding/