The 3 Rs - ready, respectful and resilient: A school has put pupils' character formation before exam results

 

For 14-year-old Laurentiu Filip, it has taught him how to channel his curiosity. He is brimming with enthusiasm as he tries to make an etching in his art lesson. Jasmin Smith, aged 13, thinks it has given her the self-control to persevere with tasks she has been set at school. Welcome to the Bedford Academy, which has become the UK pioneer for a learning programme from the United States aimed at building character among pupils.

The scheme, which has been operating in the Kipp (Knowledge is Power Programme) charter schools in the US – on which Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, partly modelled his free school programme – eschews the "exams factory" approach in an attempt to give pupils the character they need to battle against the odds academically in disadvantaged areas.

In the US, educators have drawn up a list of 24 characteristics which schools should develop in their pupils. Bedford Academy has whittled the list down to a "magnificent seven" – grit, zest, optimism, social intelligence, gratitude, curiosity and self-control. "We're looking to develop students' characters," said Emma Orr, possibly the first deputy headteacher in the country to be given specific responsibility for this list in her job description. "These are seven attributes that are going to make students successful."

Each pupil is given a passport that their teachers mark if the pupil shows they have used any of the seven attributes to good effect in lessons. They can work their way into getting bronze, silver, gold or platinum awards in each area, thereby earning a certificate that can be presented to potential employees.

Claire Smith (far left), the principal of Bedford Academy with deputy Emma Orr Claire Smith (far left), the principal of Bedford Academy with deputy Emma Orr A student showing grit, for instance, would have finished a task by persisting in it and showing resilience when things went wrong. A mark for social intelligence would be awarded for showing an awareness of the feelings and motives of other pupils, or an ability to reason with classmates.

The scheme taps into the drive – supported by the Confederation of British Industry and Labour's Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt – to create more "rounded and grounded" young people capable of taking their place in the workforce of the 21st century.

It has already won praise from David Cameron's former policy adviser James O'Shaughnessy, who said of it: "Kipp schools now provide students with character report cards as well as reporting on their academic progress. There is nothing woolly about the education delivered in these schools: it is rigorous schooling informed by hard-won experience about what young people really need to get on in life."

He cites Martin Luther King as inspiration for the programme, quoting the civil rights leader's comment: "Intelligence plus character: that is the goal of true education."

Claire Smith, the academy's principal, believes the approach is central to developing aspirations in a school which serves one of the most disadvantaged areas of the country.

Bedford Academy Bedford Academy The school is one of the old-style academies set up in a deprived urban area to replace a failing secondary school. It is sponsored by the Harpur Trust, a local charity, and by Bedford College. It will have 1,400 students when it is fully operational.

Next September it will take in 11-year-olds for the first time (Bedford has a middle school system, in which students transfer to upper schools at 13). Twenty-six languages are spoken in the homes of its pupils, many of whom have Bangladeshi or Pakistani backgrounds or have come from eastern Europe.

"[The scheme] helps make pupils more successful in life and helps them academically," said Ms Orr. "Developing character should be a big part of their learning. It is a simple enough concept," added Mrs Smith.

The early signs are that the pupils have become more attentive since the programme was introduced. Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, has already praised the school for adopting a wider approach to learning. "The academy's promotion of students' personal development, including their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, is excellent," it said.

Jake King, an art teacher at the school, said the approach had not given teachers extra work. "You soon get used to what you're looking for," he said. "It doesn't add to my teaching workload. It is thinking about how you can build their skills."

Mrs Smith added: "They are really zesty children here. They have a real spark for life. I think we've got them to a place where they believe we want to do the best for them."

Emma Orr cited the example of one pupil who, asked to assess how well they were doing, said: "I'm really good with my self-control but I need to work on my grit and optimism." That, certainly, is a different way of summing up a pupil's achievement than measuring their progress in the three Rs.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health
News
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Life and Style
The new model would be a “pedal assist” bike in which the rider’s strength is augmented by the engine on hills and when they want to go fast
tech
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

WORLDbytes: Two-Day Intensive Camera training and Shoot: Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th March

expenses on shoots: WORLDbytes: Volunteering with a media based charity,for a ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 4 Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A school in Tameside is currently l...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are currently looking for ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower