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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Royal College of Music: Assistant to the Deputy Director & the Director of Research

£24,451 - £27,061 per annum: Royal College of Music: The Royal College of Musi...

Guru Careers: Marketing Analyst / Optimisation Analyst

£35 - £45k DOE + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Optimisation Analyst is...

Recruitment Genius: Health & Social Care Assessor

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the ongoing success of t...

Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future