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Developing Character and Resilience in Young People

Volume 575: debated on Monday 10 February 2014

18. What assessment he has made of the potential role of schools in building character and resilience in young people. (902486)

Schools play an important role in providing character-building activities for their pupils. Sports clubs, orchestras and choirs, school plays, cadet forces and debating competitions all help to build character and give children opportunities to flourish. Schools are best placed to determine the needs of their pupils and how best to meet them.

Given that welcome emphasis on character building for all, may I commend to the Minister—and subtly plug—a report out tomorrow on character and resilience by the all-party group on social mobility? Will he consider more ways to develop these crucial traits throughout childhood, and in and out of school?

The report has clearly moved to the top of my reading list. I will read it carefully and look at some of the lessons that we can learn from my hon. Friend’s work, to which I pay tribute. We have already spoken about the role that cadet forces can play in state schools, and we are working with the Ministry of Defence to improve that role. We are also removing unnecessary health and safety rules that prevent children from going on expeditions and seeking adventures, which I hope that the whole House will applaud.

Of course one of the ways of building resilience among pupils would be to introduce compulsory sex and relationships education. Fahma Mohamed, a 17-year-old student from Bristol, is spearheading a national campaign to end female genital mutilation. I understand that she has written to the Secretary of State to ask if he is prepared to meet her. Her petition has already attracted 167,000 signatures. Will the Minister ask his colleague whether he is prepared to meet Fahma, who is doing brilliant work through the campaign?