What is ‘character’?
Character is sometimes referred to as ‘non-cognitive skills’ ‘character strengths’ or ‘virtues’. Character is a set of traits we possess and develop which guide our conduct and decision making. Character education is founded on the knowledge that character is not fixed but can be improved through instruction and practice, just as academic ability can be improved through effective teaching.
How did you choose the 18 virtues in your programme?
The virtues taught in the virtues literacy programme are based on Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson’s seminal work 'Character Strengths and Virtues' (2004) which identified 24 universal virtues. In consultation with academics and educational professionals, the Floreat team selected and created 18 virtues which are meaningful and developmentally appropriate for children aged 4-7.
Is there any such thing as a ‘universal’ virtue?
Our approach is explicitly universalist, based on the idea that the pursuit of virtue in order to lead a happy, meaningful and flourishing life has been the central feature of all major cultures, religions and belief systems throughout human history. We used Seligman and Peterson’s work 'Character Strengths and Virtues' precisely because it identified 24 virtues which are common across all religions and cultures. However, it might be that different cultures or even different individuals might vary in their understanding of what behaviour exmplifies that virtue, and that is something we urge teachers to explore in their practice.
Does character education produce uncritical, compliant pupils?
No, quite the opposite. The goal of character education is to develop pupils who have practical wisdom, or what the Greeks called 'phronesis'. This is the ability to make informed choices on how to live a flourishing life for oneself and for others.
Do I have to teach the whole programme?
Together these resources form a coherent programme that supplies lesson plans to support teachers to deliver a character lesson each week in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. The character curriculum has been developed with this progression in mind and pupils will increasingly be able to make links between the virtues as they progress through the course. The programme is likely to have most impact where it is delivered comprehensively over a period of time and where character is reinforced every day through the skill of the teaching staff and ethos of the school. However, the resources are freely available for teachers to use as they choose.
Why is the Floreat Character Virtue Development Programme targeted at children aged 4-7?
The decision to focus on these year groups is based on calls by distinguished academics such as James Heckman to create high-value programmes specifically targeting young children. At this age character virtues are particularly malleable, and accordingly sustained character education programmes are likely to have significant long-term impact. There are other existing programmes which successfully develop character and wellbeing in young people such as the Penn Resilience Programme, Mindfulness in Schools, and Knightly Virtues, but there predominantly focus on children aged 10+. We hope to expand our Character Programme to make provision for Years 3-6, subject to funding.
How is your work funded?
In April 2015 Floreat Education was awarded a grant from the Department for Education to develop an Infant Character Programme for pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. We supplemented the DfE funding with our own philanthropic fundraising in order to be able to produce a high quality programme.