A child in a bedsit has more ‘character’ than a braying public schoolboy, Mr Hinds

Years ago I taught a young girl who had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. At the age of 15, she knew that in her adult life she would be a wheelchair user. Yet, she continued working towards her dream of becoming a scriptwriter, a dream tough enough to achieve when growing up in one of the poorest parts of the country, even harder when faced with such physical limitations. Joyfully, that student, Matilda Ibini, has gone from strength to strength and I now follow on social media her career as an award-winning playwright. The Guardian reports.

In a speech to church school leaders, Hinds said children’s “character and resilience” are vitally important. Such platitudes are dull from a politician who should be tackling much bigger issues, such as school underfunding and the teacher shortage, but they are not a crime. Everyone knows character is important, so it’s fair to emphasise it. 

Hinds went on to list the five foundations that he has decided will bestow this braying character on children across the land and – quelle surprise – they look exactly like the sort of thing you’d see in a prospectus for Eton.

Sport is on the list, obviously, along with so-called purposeful activities such as “rock climbing, hiking, orienteering, gym programmes, yoga … ”. Next up are “creative” activities (such as art) and “performing” (sing in a choir), plus volunteering and work experience as the fourth and fifth foundations.

Look closely at that list. Breathe in its middle-class suppositions. And then answer these questions. How is yoga more purposeful than, say, playing computer games? Isn’t creating YouTube videos a form of art? And is being responsible for picking up five siblings from school and getting their dinner ready, as some children do, a form of volunteering that would build character, or does it only count if you’re wearing a Scout uniform?

The level of uncertainty those children have to cope with, the sheer difficulty of staying organised enough to keep up with schoolwork while moving from place to place, mean most young people in this position develop more resilience in their little finger than some rugby-playing, yoga-taking politicians have in their entire anatomy.

Will this level of grit be recognised in Hinds’s plan to benchmark schools against his new public-school-character-activities ticklist? Of course not. Nor will schools be given any money to implement his brainwave. At best, if a headteacher manages to battle through slashed budgets and imploding welfare services, yet still deliver the Duke of Edinburgh award, they might be in with a shot of getting one of the Department for Education’s Character Awards.

Read the full article A child in a bedsit has more ‘character’ than a braying public schoolboy, Mr Hinds

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. JOHN

    The idea that ‘character’ is guaranteed or generated by a list proscribed by a Public School Educated white man and that without a shred of evidence to support it it will somehow become part of Ofsteds inspection schedule is beyond irony or parody. As Teachers spend increasing time looking at research why does no politician ever do the same. Like the author of the piece I have known children who’s grit was demonstrated by just getting to school, children caring for alcoholic and drug addicted parents, children dealing with terminal illness, children surviving the horrors of war living in a squalid bedsit…like many teachers I could go on. Mr Hinds has the most important job in our Nation but seems to have no grasp of this – nor does he seem to have done any background reading – as with Mr Gove his entire stock of ideas is based on his own background – which he seems to think mirrors everyone elses. If he is sincere in wanting to have an impact for the better then he needs to stop visiting ‘outstanding’ and ‘Good’ schools which far too often are only reflecting the socio/economic make up of their cohort and spend time in schools where the Leaders have had the moral courage to hang on to the students who make it challenging, who seek to be a positive force in their communities and recognise the many ways a child and young person can demonstrate that their school is positively impacting on them. This maybe by fulfilling their academic potential – but for some there are a range of boundaries and barriers to overcome before this is possible and recognising the many ways schools do this should be at the top of his agenda = particularly as his Governments policies are exacerbating many of the issues our young people face.

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