Last week, Wellington College hosted our first Prep Heads’ Conference since 2014 on the topic of Character Education. From the home team, Ian Morris spoke brilliantly on what Character Education actually means in a school context before Katy Granville-Chapman extolled the virtues of serving others and service leadership as powerful vehicles for the development of children’s character. There were further sessions with Will Greenwood, Oppidan Education and Role Models all of which inspired, challenged and provided plenty of food for thought. The event made me recall the Five Foundations of Character which Damian Hinds, then Education Secretary, launched back in February, although I suspect that not many of us will be able to recall what they were…

Hinds’ highlighted the following areas as being integral to the development of good character in schoolchildren:

  1. Sport
  2. Creativity
  3. Performance
  4. Volunteering and membership
  5. Exposure to the world of work

These five areas are, of course, deeply embedded within the broader curricula of most independent schools and it is this focus on developing the whole child which attracts so many parents to schools like Wellington where transformational opportunities in these areas are offered as part of our educational DNA. The future of private education has, of course, been in the news on a daily basis over the past week (perhaps the topic of another Master’s Voice?) and it is certainly my strong belief that one of the many keys to our sector’s success lies in the fact that we produce young men and women not only with excellent examination results but also with the character to go out into the wider world with a desire to lead and serve others, and to make the world a better place.

I think Damian Hinds would be impressed with Wellington. This past week alone has seen: award-winning spoken word poet, Rakaya Esime Fetuga, run a series of workshops ahead of world poetry day next week; sports fixtures against no fewer than 18 other schools as well as the inter-house swimming competition; a symposium for US universities plus our annual conference on applying to the US; dozens of service and social action projects as part of our Global Citizenship programme; a careers-networking event for current pupils to meet and talk with OWs and parents from a wide variety of different professions; and the remarkable ‘Medea the Musical’ which was written, produced and directed by Sixth Former, Hayley Canham, and which was met with standing ovations in the GWA.

The arguments around private education will continue to play out in the months and years to come and I agree with those who argue that schools like Wellington should be doing more to widen access and provide greater public benefit. But British independent education – with its holistic focus on developing children in every facet of their being – is an educational success story and remains one of our country’s most sought-after exports. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why so many on the political left, who are now supporting abolition, have sent their own children to private schools over the past decade?

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