Prepared for Everything: Character Education at Prince’s Gardens
Alison Melrose, Head of Prince's Gardens Preparatory School
When you think of a child with character, which qualities come to mind? Confident, resilient, emotionally intelligent, creative?
These are exactly the attributes that are nurtured in pupils as part of their character education at Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School. Character education is a term we use to describe the experiences and educational opportunities we provide to help children to become excellent citizens and courageous learners.
In a nutshell, character education is about helping pupils grasp what is ethically important and to understand their own moral code. It is vital to provide opportunities for children to develop and learn about being the best person they can be. One of the main aims of character education at Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School is the development of a good common sense, the ability to choose the right course of action and adapt to change. This is something that arises gradually out of the experience of making choices, so whilst we offer pupils a gentle and encouraging helping hand, we also treat them as individuals who can make decisions for themselves.
Thinking back to your school days, what do you remember most? It is often the plays and concerts, trips and sports that stick in our memories, or perhaps a particular teacher. We should never underestimate how much of an impact schools can have on the character of a child – not only through developing relationships with classmates and teachers but also nurtured through the curriculum. Schools provide opportunities for pupils to not just think and do, but also understand what it means to be reflective and independent. Every school should help prepare children for the tests of life, rather than simply a life of tests.
Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School is part of the Cognita group of schools whose inspiring world of education is based upon academic excellence, developing character and nurturing a global perspective. The character education programme focuses on three main points; metacognition, resilience and agency.
Metacognition is the ability to think about one’s own thinking. There are two aspects to metacognition: self-awareness and self-regulation. Knowing yourself and your strengths and weaknesses comes arm in arm with being able to control your behaviours and emotions which is extremely important for every aspect of life.
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Children will face challenges that knock their self-esteem and make them doubt themselves, from a simple Lego creation that breaks to finding a new maths topic a challenge. It is critical for children and adults to be able to see these challenges as learning opportunities rather than failures.
The power to take meaningful and intentional action is known as agency, an awareness that you can make a difference in a specific context, either to yourself or others.
When we work on developing the ability to be metacognitive, to be resilient and to have agency, we make a very positive impact on both academic and personal development.
Outdoor education is a huge contributor to the development of character as it provides a broad range of experiences where children work together in less familiar contexts. At Prince’s Gardens, we have a progressive programme of outdoor education which includes outdoor learning, key residential trips and a broad range of enrichment activities, including Bushcraft and Cuffley. The emphasis on high quality outdoor learning experiences promotes wellbeing, develops character and encourages a growth mindset.
In our fast-paced world, we cannot predict what the future holds for our children, nor what jobs they might apply for. However, it is our responsibility to prepare our pupils to be adaptable to change and to be resilient, to develop a love for learning with the ability to be metacognitive and show responsibility and agency. Character counts.