Moral values ‘forced out by exams’

The Press Association (via the Mail) is reporting a new study that suggests children are failing to develop important values like courage, fairness and gratitude at school due to a relentless focus on exams and results…

It argues that “moral character” is being squeezed out of modern day education, leaving youngsters without key qualities they will need for the future…

The new study, by Birmingham University’s Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, involved over 10,000 students and 255 teachers completing surveys and taking part in interviews.

Researchers found that eight in 10 teachers believe that a focus on academic attainment in their school is hindering the development of pupils’ characters.

“The majority claimed that exams have become so pervasive in schools that they have crowded out other educational goods,” the study said.

Pupils taking part in the research were asked to say how they would respond to a series of moral dilemmas, such as a talent young gymnast feeling uncomfortable that her coach is using the good looks of the girls on the team to gain them media attention, and give reasons for their choices. The scenarios all required values such as honest, courage and self-discipline.

Many students appeared to approach the dilemmas from a self-interest perspective, the report concluded…

Professor James Arthur, director of the Jubilee Centre, said: ” While it has been hugely encouraging to see both major political parties in Britain back the need for character education in recent months, more needs to be done to empower teachers to achieve what they came into teaching to do: to develop the whole child”…

More at: Moral values ‘forced out by exams’


You can download the report from the University of Birmingham’s Jubilee Centre at: The Good Teacher – Understanding virtues in practice


Do you agree with the central issue here that teachers want to teach character virtues but are not given enough time to do so? Should more space in the timetable be made available for it?


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Categories: Teaching.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Yet another example of “teachers have been saying this for years” expensive research study. It will be ignored by MPs though

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Data obsession doesn’t just give students/teachers sleepless nights, it’ll eventually affect entirety of society negatively

  3. No need to teach character. Children would develop as balanced human beings naturally if allowed to but constant adult management of their lives puts barriers in the way.
    Children have always developed naturally through actively playing for hours and hours every day throughout childhood, but these days few schools (and even fewer home environments) now offer what all children need in order to develop socially, emotionally, cognitively, creatively or physically.
    The situation can be easily addressed with some pretty obvious changes but who really cares enough to put a bit of effort in and make it right? I know of maybe 300 primary and secondary schools who have made the necessary efforts, and the pupils they now raise can be clearly seen as ‘competent’ young people. 
    These children are not just well behaved, they are also self-aware, healthy and display all the characteristics this government says it wants all children to have.

    We now have a large percentage of children who are several years behind in their development (compared with 30 years ago). For some reason the last couple of generations have decided they know better than previously, and it now turns out they were wrong but instead of going back to what we all know worked, we now see all sorts of daft attempts (many of them funded by this government in desperation) to fix a problem of the last two generations’ own making.

    The fact is that these days, children’s ability to develop resilience, team skills, self-confidence, etc. are restricted by constant adult interference in their lives. There is a bizarre new attitude that children must be constantly occupied by ‘meaningful’ activities and the freedom to choose, to try and to fail have been taken away. No child is allowed to learn from their mistakes, through slightly hurting themselves or through experiment, trial and error any more.

    We’ve taken all the real experiential learning out of childhood, replaced it with remoteness and isolation and then we wonder why many young people turn out socially damaged, overweight and allegedly ‘unemployable’. It isn’t rocket science to fix, but who really wants to admit they’ve got it wrong this past 20-30 years?

  4. Nor_edu

    SchoolsImprove nephew sd his grammar schl tchrs told them thy were entering them for iGCSE because it was easier to teach to test/cheat!!!

  5. Busy Mum

    How can children be expected to understand what ‘moral character’ means when moral relativism is rampant throughout society?
    How can schools teach this when nobody can even agree on what constitutes morality?
    Self-interest is the outcome of the current PSHE syllabus – learning songs like ‘1,2,3 it’s good to be me’ and being told they can all achieve whatever they want in life means children are largely detached from reality and totally confused; the focus on building ‘self-esteem’ means children are less and less ‘accepting’ of themselves and others and the world in general.
    Learn from history – true British grit existed well before nationalised education did!

  6. Johnthe14th

    SchoolsImprove Gov’t has expunged Christian teaching & assembly from our schools so now we are seeing a “moral values” problem. No kidding.

  7. FionaTipper

    SchoolsImprove I think this generation of teens is the most morally aware and emotionally intelligent I have ever met.

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