Is it possible to teach character? | Portsmouth High School

Is it possible to teach character?

In all the pre-Christmas rush you may have missed the announcement by the Department for Education that schools which teach character skills such as perseverance, grit and resilience will be able to apply for an award worth £15,000 and furthermore an additional £20,000 is available for the overall winning school. As far as I can see in order to apply the school just has to encourage the development of character traits in its curriculum.

PHS is a school that prides itself on turning out very well-adjusted, well-rounded girls who enjoy as a standard part of their school experience enriching activities that enhance their learning and the point that independent schools in general provide this “extra” is made by the many comments that followed the announcement. Perhaps I am being cynical but I question whether any independent school will win this award for something they are doing anyway.

It did make me think, however, is it possible to teach character? Isn’t this unique to each individual? Schools are first and foremost there to educate their pupils academically but at PHS we take very seriously our other function which is to help children grow as they learn. We are well aware that school isn’t just about examination grades and helping children develop their curiosity and become interesting people is important to us. Of course examination results matter but it also matters that along the way pupils develop manners and the ability to communicate well and with confidence.

Our approach to education is holistic—the development of the whole person is central to our curriculum throughout the school from nursery to sixth form. Character cannot be taught, in my view, from a textbook and the development of character in schools needs to be embedded in the school ethos.