Character Education - Wellington College

Last week, Wellington College hosted their first Prep Heads’ Conference since 2014 on the topic of Character Education. Oppidan was delighted to be invited to be part of that conversation and to join an exceptional panel of speakers discussing the characteristics of what good character education entails.

Ian Morris, Head of Character Education at Wellington College, spoke first on the foundations of what character education is and how that can be applied to classroom teaching. Katy Granville-Chapman then lectured on the importance of social enterprise and service in promoting good character. This was followed by an interview with Will Greenwood, ex England Rugby international and James Dahl, Wellington’s current Master.

Oppidan was then delighted to be part of a panel discussing The Education of the Whole Child. Our focus lay in differentiating an instinctive form of character education (caught) with a more didactic form of character education (taught) as part of Oppidan’s cohesive curriculum.

  • Most important activities that make a difference.

  • Measurement and reportability – possible?

  • Parents – a positive or a negative force?

  • How much training do staff need?

  • Can you get it wrong if you do it badly?

  • Does enjoyment make a difference?

  • Prioritisation – Character education, academic progress or pre-test preparation?

Our argument essentially follows that the issues children have in school revolve not around the academic content of subject matter per se, but rather in the mental barriers that stop them progressing within that content. Peer comparison, a lack of direction and game plan, negative self-talk and increasing parental expectation are all roadblocks to progress.

So, by moving away from exclusively by-rote teaching methods, and instead by promoting character education in our classes, the results (both qualitative and quantitative) are enormously positive: a greater sense of community and responsibility, a sense of gratitude for the opportunities they have, and a great sense of security and happiness; children’s attitudes they have about their capabilities change and their attitude also.

And through this form of education (and a reminder for the cynics who simply pay lip service to this) it’s vital to remember that character education - a form of teaching resilience, empathy, curiosity and intuition - leads ultimately to the attainment of better grades too.

Character-led education does not give way to academic progress - it assures it.