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Character Development

Volume 612: debated on Monday 4 July 2016

As some Members of this House have discovered in recent days, character—whether that be perseverance, respect for others, bounce-backability or the ability to build strong relationships—is an important attribute that should not be underestimated. That is why we are working with schools to ensure that all young people can develop the character traits that will support their future success. We are investing £6 million to test approaches to character education and are delivering character awards to highlight the excellent practice that already exists.

I thank the Minister for that answer. I chair the all-party group on the British Council, which is about to launch an inquiry into the causes of extremism and radicalisation. I am sure that my hon. Friend well understands the crucial importance of the arts in developing breadth and depth of character—we will be debating arts education later today. How is the Department working to ensure that schools are provided with the right tools to build tolerance, balance and understanding in our young people?

I commend my hon. Friend for launching his inquiry. I know that there is a debate later in Westminster Hall on the EBacc, and I am sure many of these issues will be discussed. In many ways, schools provide the best protection from radicalisation by ensuring that pupils are encouraged to explore and debate ideas, and to test each other and themselves, so that they leave school with the resilience and critical thinking skills they need to challenge extremist views. To that end, we have launched the educate against hate website to provide practical advice to parents, teachers and school leaders on how to protect children from extremism and radicalisation.

18. Child abuse is rife in the UK, and I welcome the comments about character. Will the Secretary of State support my call for all primary school children to have statutory resilience and child protection lessons to prevent child abuse? (905626)

The Secretary of State is very aware of the hon. Lady’s campaign, as well as of the need to ensure that children are as resilient as they can be to the greater dangers that face them in the world in which they live. Those matters remain under review as part of personal, social, health and economic education, and we will return to them in future.

19. Thank you for spotting the link, Mr Speaker. The original question about character is all very good, but what is the Minister doing to ensure that young people have sound moral judgment and a tough backbone, so that they pick the right side of an argument and accept democratic decisions, supported by their peers and the wider populace? (905627)

Perhaps I could pick out two traits that would be well worth considering: one is common sense, and the other is kindness—two things that we would do well to try to instil in every young person as they grow up in the society we have created for them.

We would all agree that participation in sport at school is character building, and the Chancellor announced in his Budget that moneys raised from the sugar tax will be spent on sport in schools. How much money is expected to be raised from the sugar tax, and what talks have taken place on how those funds will be spent?

The hon. Lady is right to highlight that money from the sugar levy will be spent directly on sport and physical activity. There is also a commitment of £500 million to help up to 25% of secondary schools extend their school day, and we have doubled the PE and sport premium for secondary schools from £150 million to £300 million per year, which is already making a significant impact on the quality of PE in many of our primary schools.

Character development includes turning young people to the outside world and helping them to gain confidence when thinking and working with people. Work experience in the teens is crucial, and it is damaging that Ministers scrapped the key stage 4 requirement in the curriculum. No wonder business groups urged them to do more, as did the skills commission on careers advice; and a five-year policy and funding vacuum has failed to prepare young people for that world of work. Will Ministers use the new Education and Adoption Act 2016 to restore work experience to the curriculum?

Many of us have had the benefit of work experience—I am sure some Members are enjoying that right now on the Opposition Front Bench—and we know that it provides people with a better understanding of the opportunities that they have in later life. The Careers and Enterprise Company is an important development because it seeks to open up those opportunities and create better links between schools and business.