At Ark Evelyn Grace Academy, our vision is to support the development of students so that they can be happy and successful in whatever their chosen career or area of further study. We believe that this means developing the student not just academically but also who they are as a person – their character. The characteristics that students need to develop form their ‘Circle of character strengths’, which stands for: Curiosity, Integrity, Responsibility, Confidence, Leadership and Eloquence. We support the development of these strengths in a coherent, highly effective way: all staff and students have a shared language for character strengths; we explicitly teach students how to develop their character strengths through our character curriculum and the house system; the Circle of character strengths is applied across all areas of the academy. We believe that every interaction is an opportunity to develop the good character of our students to help them be cleverer and kinder every day.
Strands within the character curriculum:
Circle of character strengths:
Personal development – our character curriculum is taught explicitly in tutor sessions: students learn how to develop their character strengths in character; they have social, mental, spiritual and cultural lessons; they develop their understanding of current affairs. Statutory sessions are planned for the development of students’ SMSC as per the government and Ofsted guidance. All of the above support students to develop who they are as a person – their character.
Student well-being – The character curriculum map ensures that across the students’ time at the school, students are supported to recognise online and offline risks to their well-being. Character and PSHE sessions cover the following: risks from criminal and sexual exploitation; domestic abuse; female genital mutilation; forced marriage; substance misuse; gang activity; radicalisation and extremism. We give clear details on how to seek support from a range of providers, including both in and out of school. Student well-being is also supported through the following topics, again detailed in the character curriculum map: the
dangers of inappropriate use of mobile technology and social media; how to keep physically healthy, eat healthily and maintain an active lifestyle; maintaining healthy relationships through age-appropriate relationship and sex education.
Backwards planned – we have planned backwards from what character strengths a happy and well-rounded student would have when they leave Evelyn Grace. From this, we have mapped the key units that they would need to cover in the character curriculum to support them to get there. We have also used government and Ofsted guidance to ensure that essential lessons are included to meet statutory guidance and the needs of our students within the context of our school.
Vocabulary-rich – we include key terminology in character sessions that are commonly used in sophisticated speech and writing, and terms that link to specific areas of a successful and professional lifestyle, such as financial and political terminology. We also ensure that key vocabulary around the law and essential understanding of key SMSC topics (such as FGM and Prevent) are explicitly taught in PSHE lessons. Students are supported to master these terms across units of work in the character curriculum so that they can engage successfully in these spheres of life outside of school.
Know It and Say It – within our character curriculum map, the school priorities of Know It and Say It are planned across the five-year course to support students to develop the skills that they need to be knowledge-rich and eloquent young people. In character sessions, students are taught explicitly how to revise successfully. They are also taught to take part in and lead discussions successfully. Every session also includes a moment where students are expected to stand up and read aloud in front of the group.
Regular training – we train all staff on the language in our circle of character strengths at the start of the academic year and at regular intervals across the year. We support them to make every conversation an opportunity to develop the character of our students through this training. We also train staff on how to deliver key elements of SMSC to a highly effective standard, again through briefings and CPD. This ensures that vital sessions such as on FGM, Prevent and sex education are taught well and all students come away from these with a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities.
High-quality teaching – we expect all tutor sessions to be delivered at a highly effective standard so that our students make rapid progress in the development of their character. We support staff to do so through several strategies: weekly Friday morning briefings for all year group teams on how to deliver the following week’s sessions highly effectively; learning walks with feedback for tutors conducted by the senior team and directors of learning; tutor session delivery forms part of the performance appraisal process.
Aide-memoirs – we ensure that all classrooms have the circle of character strengths on the wall to support both students and teachers to use our shared language around character development. Symbols are included in schemes of work to also support teachers with this. Agendas for co-planning meetings contain a short section where staff can share where they have praised students for developing their character to ensure that staff are continuously reminded to look for ways to specifically praise character development.