Character education can raise standards, according to award-winning Sheffield school

Tapton School co headteachers Claire Tasker and David Dennis celebrate with pupils. Picture: Andrew Roe
Tapton School co headteachers Claire Tasker and David Dennis celebrate with pupils. Picture: Andrew Roe
Have your say

A HEAD TEACHER at a Yorkshire school which won a national award for character education has said it is possible to focus on exam success and developing pupils’ values at the same time.

Tapton School, in Sheffield, was one of the winners of the Department for Education’s new Character Awards – receiving £15,000 in the process.

The school was recognised for a system it introduced last year which measures pupils’ learning behaviour throughout their time at the school from year seven to sixth form.

This includes a student’s resilience, resourcefulness, reflectiveness, reciprocity and respect. Each pupil is given a score from one to nine and the expectation is that this will improve over time as they move up the school.

One of the school’s co-head teachers, Claire Tasker, said this approach was central to the school’s ethos and was already improving pupils’ progress.

She said the idea was inspired by research from psychologist Carol Dweck which found that a pupil’s potential was not defined by their “raw IQ” or intelligence but by their mindset and willingness to apply themselves.

Mrs Tasker said pupils had responded well by being asked to think about how they learn and how resilient or reflective they had been.

A recent report by academics at Birmingham University has suggested that a relentless focus on exams and results means that a focus on moral character is being squeezed out.

It argued that teachers need more time in the school day to teach youngsters the difference between right and wrong. However, Mrs Tasker told The Yorkshire Post that she did not think character education and a focus on raising standards and exam success needed to be mutually exclusive.

She said: “When we teach history or maths or English we can teach young people about how to develop resilience and be resourceful and reflective because it will make them better at the subject. It runs through everything we do. She added: “Our ethos is that we value everyone, care about each other and achieve excellence.”

She said there still needed to be time in the school day for pupils’ personal, social and cultural education.

The DfE character awards were announced last week by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. There were 27 schools which each received £15,000 including three in the region: Tapton, Mirfield Grammar and Bushfield Road Infant School, in Scunthorpe.

Mrs Morgan said: “Teaching character not only benefits children at school – it also plays a vital role in ensuring young people leave school prepared for life in Modern Britain.

“Investing in the character of young people will not only help them succeed academically but also improve their job prospects and help them bounce back from setbacks.”

Tapton School also won a DfE award for its use of the pupil premium funding earlier this year and was named as the best comprehensive school in a Sunday Times Parent Power guide last year.

The school is led by two co-head teachers. Mrs Tasker and David Dennis applied for the job jointly when the school’s previous head moved on. They had previously worked side by side as heads of school. She previously told The Yorkshire Post she was responsible for “teaching and learning and making sure every second in the classroom counts and he is a top-class curriculum designer and is able to analyse our data to see what it tells us”.