Documents to download

The Archbishop of Canterbury has previously spoken of the importance of educating the ‘whole person’, a concept which is reflected in the Church of England (CofE) vision for education. The CofE vision reflects the wider discourse around the importance of ‘character education’, and the role that plays in preparing children for all aspects of life. The emergence of character education in public policy is based on a growing body of evidence which demonstrates the positive impact in: improved academic attainment; providing the skills desired by employers; and enabling children to make a positive contribution to British society. At the same time there is also a range of evidence to suggest that not enough is being done to promote well-being with a number of reports highlighting the UK’s poor record of mental ill-health in children.

There is no explicit reference to ‘character education’ in statute. However, there is a requirement for the curriculum to at least address the traits which may contribute to the character development of pupils. Under the Education Act 2002 (section 78) maintained schools and maintained nursery schools must promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development. All schools are expected to teach personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education, which deals with issues such as drug, financial and health education. Citizenship has been a statutory subject on the curriculum in post-primary schools since 2002. The Secretary for State can now make the teaching of PSHE mandatory under section 35 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017. Under section 34 of this Act, relationship and sex education lessons would also be mandatory. The Government expects to consult on regulations and guidance, with new subjects to be taught in schools from September 2019.

The House of Commons Health and Education committees conducted a joint inquiry into the role of education in improving the mental health of students. The committees found improved wellbeing increased pupils’ capacity to learn, citing evidence that children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social and school wellbeing have higher levels of academic achievement on average. This is a finding repeated across a range of studies, some of which are also considered in this Library Briefing.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • Smoke-free legislation: The UK and New Zealand

    During the 2023–24 session, the UK government introduced legislation to raise the age each year at which someone can legally buy tobacco products. This was similar to measures introduced in New Zealand which were recently reversed. This briefing looks at developments in New Zealand and how they have informed the debate on the UK government’s proposals.

    Smoke-free legislation: The UK and New Zealand
  • Infected blood scandal: Background, impacts, interim compensation and inquiry outcomes

    Between 1970 and the early 1990s, more than 30,000 NHS patients were given blood transfusions, or treatments which used blood products, contaminated with hepatitis C or HIV. Over 3,000 people have died as a result, and thousands live with ongoing health conditions. The infected blood inquiry has reported, calling for a range of measures, including immediate compensation, public memorials, and for lessons to be learned in medicine, government and the civil service.

    Infected blood scandal: Background, impacts, interim compensation and inquiry outcomes
  • Eating less sugar: Reformulating food and drink products and government policy

    Too much sugar in diets can contribute to health issues. Reformulating products, or changing how much sugar is in what people normally eat and drink, means the public do not have to change their habits to eat more healthily. Recent governments have introduced measures to decrease the public’s consumption of sugar, as well as salt and fat. However, some organisations have encouraged the government to go further by creating more mandatory schemes and levies for industry.

    Eating less sugar: Reformulating food and drink products and government policy