"Resilience and character development is key to any education"

Posted on: 01 Feb 2019
Posted by: Thomas Garnier

Regardless of the type of school - be it primary, secondary, state, or independent - the development of character and values as part of a child’s education is crucial, writes Thomas Garnier, headmaster of Pangbourne College.

As educators, a main focus of ours should always be the intellectual development of our pupils. However, we are also in the advantageous position of being able do much more than inspiring academic interests and ensuring excellent exam results. A well-rounded education must also develop character and values, shaping the person, not just the pupil. This now takes on greater significance since, under a new draft framework from Ofsted, schools will be marked on how much they help children to “develop their character”, including their resilience, confidence and independence.

The challenges we face in the 21st century will require our young people to have certain personal attributes, and schools can play a major role in inculcating them by making these values central to everything they do. This philosophy strikes a chord at Pangbourne, with seven College Flag Values ingrained in our ethos. We adopted these in 2006 and have since emphasised that kindness, selflessness, moral courage, industry, initiative, resilience and integrity should underpin everything we do as a school.

Clearly this has an impact on our own students but, with this initiative from Ofsted, the way we partner and develop our relationships with local state and primary schools will be of increasing importance.

One area which will be looked upon favourably by Ofsted is the presence of a Combined Cadet Force (CCF). Pangbourne’s CCF programme is longstanding and it continues to be popular every year. More recently though, it has been boosted by a partnership with local state secondary, Denefield School in Tilehurst. Originally only linked to the Army Section, the relationship has developed and now there are Denefield cadets in the Royal Navy Section and our highly successful Royal Marine Detachment, with the activities in each unit encouraging teamwork and strength of character.

An extension of this type of activity, which incorporates local prep and primary schools, is a well-established initiative here called Junior Teamwork Challenge Days, for children aged nine to 11-years-old. The children learn how to solve problems as a group, hone their communication skills, gain greater confidence as they tackle various tasks and use facilities such as a woodland ropes course. Beyond this, we are entering into a partnership with the Whitley Excellence Cluster (WEC), starting with an orienteering team challenge. This takes 20 of our students to help over 50 primary school children from the Whitley area of Reading to focus on teamwork, initiative and resilience, in a similar mould to the CCF.

Contrasting the outdoor activity days, we also help children boost confidence on the creative side by hosting musical and dramatic outreach days for local prep and primary schools. Children play instruments they have never tried before, learn a poem to perform in front of an audience, and put well-known orchestral works together in an afternoon. These days promote confidence, resilience and teamwork. A performance can, of course, also bring pressure and nerves, but learning how to master these feelings is very important.

Given the changes we have seen in Britain in a relatively short space of time, the future impact of technology and changing social mores, instilling good character traits in our young people is more important than ever.


About Thomas Garnier

Thomas Garnier is headmaster of Pangbourne College.