Character Development Project
From September 2015, Beech Hill has undertaken a whole school project on Character development. Our school has always been committed to developing character traits in pupils, and staff have done so in a discreet and subtle way, addressing issues arising in each cohort and with children on an individual basis. Since the beginning of the project, staff (led by Mrs Fielding) have worked together with a visionary group to further develop how we can teach a range of character virtues in lessons, extra-curricular activities and opportunities throughout the school day in a more explicit way. Below are the action points set out by Mrs Fielding at the beginning of the project and how these are being met/ ongoing during the year.
- Vision set and confident leadership in place - Mrs Fielding carried out research during the summer holidays and read case studies from schools in UK who were successfully acknowledged by last year’s DfE Character Awards. A large amount of the recent research is from schools in the USA, so NF was able to draw upon this bank of research when producing an action plan.
September 2015 - Mrs Fielding led a meeting to establish a school vision for character development involving a cross section of the local community, including parents, governors, family support officer, teaching and support staff, residents from the sheltered accommodation for the elderly next door, police officer, fire officer and representation from the armed forces. The group discussed "What do we want pupils at Beech Hill to be like?" and decided on a variety of character traits that we will focus on in school. Please click the link below to see the presentation Mrs Fielding used to introduce the project to our guests on the day.
- School staff on board - Following the visionary meeting, Mrs Fielding led a staff meeting to discuss with all teachers their views/ ideas on how we can deliver the project in and outside the classroom. It was agreed that each class will focus on 3 or 4 traits with their class in response to the needs of that cohort. These were used to set character targets for each child, displayed in the classrooms.
- Make character education visible - every classroom has character targets displayed and these were communicated to parents at consultations in Autumn term. A number of whole school displays are visible for parents and visitors to see what the project looks like and how children can record their progress.
- Caught and taught – explicit teaching of character virtues through lessons, e.g. PSHCE, RE, citizenship and other curriculum subjects. This continues to be a focus of staff meetings as staff have time to discuss what works well and share good practice. We are currently trialling a scheme of work from the Jubilee Centre for character and Virtues.
- Availability of extra-curricular activities that promote our chosen virtues - this is recorded on a provision map which also identifies children who are receiving pupil premium funding.
- Time for personal reflection – as a staff we agreed to trial individual journals as a way of each child recording their thoughts, feelings and progress towards their character targets. Mrs Fielding has worked closely with Mr Rowlands, our teacher with responsibility for communication with families, to develop the Dame Nelson Award. This is available for every child to work towards and collect evidence across the curriculum and out of school.
Following this introduction to the project, we are working closely with the army, police and fire service to set up specialist days, such as resilience and determination days, to encourage children to work with members of the community who many aspire to be like.
Mrs Fielding has set up a link with the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues in Birmingham and Beech Hill are involved in a letter writing project based on gratitude in the Spring term. The ‘Thank you’ letter competition, invites every child from Reception to Year 6 to write a letter to someone they wish to show gratitude towards. This will be judged internally and the best 5 letters will be sent to Birmingham University to be judged in the final stage of the competition.
We are also working with staff from 'Making Winter Warmer', an organisation that supports homeless people in Newcastle, to give the children the opportunity to make something that can be given to those less fortunate than ourselves, whether that be food (December 2015), clothing or daily essentials such as toiletries. Our most recent developments have been around letter writing, with Mrs Fielding’s writing club composing anonymous letters to a ‘street friend’ this week which will be distributed by the homeless charity this weekend. We have also been collecting donations of clothing, toiletries and household items to support the temporary accommodation facility for families in the West End. http://3450.eschools.co.uk/website/donating_to_making_winter_warmer/175103