"The development of young people’s characters is an obligation we all share."

In 2017, Dame Kelly Holmes Trust held a series of round table discussions to discuss the importance of character development, particularly in relation to employability and the ability of education establishments to provide this important and often overlooked part of education. A large cross section of people from politics, education and the youth sector joined conversations in London, Birmingham, Bridgend and Manchester and the resulting white paper The Opportunities and Challenges offered by Character Education is a result of these discussions which we would thoroughly recommend you download and read.

Dame Kelly Holmes, Founder & President

I am really proud that my charity are leading the way in looking at character development. It is so important these days that young people are equipped with the tools and skills to live a positive life and developing positive character traits has been shown to support improved academic attainment, workplace productivity and enable young people to make a positive contribution to British society

We were very honoured to have the Jubilee Centre for Character & Virtues host the round table in Birmingham.  The Trust have worked closely with them over the last few years when designing and building our transformational programmes for young people as we fully endorse the work they are doing and we have also used the Jubilee Centre to help test, develop and improve the programmes we deliver. 

Aidan Thompson, Director of Strategy and Integration at Jubilee Centre for Character & Virtues said:

The development of children's characters is an obligation we all share. This is not just contained to formal character education lessons in school, but something that permeates every aspect of society, and something that anyone working with young people at any level should recognise. From mainstream schooling, to enrichment activities, through to alternative and informal education provision, character-led teaching is essential for young people to flourish and live lives of meaning and purpose. The points raised in this White Paper, and the wider work of the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, should challenge all those with stakes in the education of young people to consider how they embed a character-led focus to what they do.

In Manchester, Paul Oginsky from Personal Developmemt Point (PDP) chaired our discussions. Paul has extensive knowledge in this area as the architect of the National Citizen Service scheme as well as many other successful youth development programmes.

There has never been a common understanding of what character development is and therefore a lack of clarity for how character education can effectively support people. A huge well done to Dame Kelly Holmes Trust for calling on all practitioners to rally behind a single definition. The many different programmes and styles can confuse funders and policy makers but by having a common reference point organisations can become greater than the sum of their parts.

The white paper offers six key recommendations:

  1. It is recommended that the Department for Education takes the lead in defining a clear definition for character development. This should be applied across Government and communicated effectively to education, business, community and youth sector organisations. It is proposed that character development is defined as: when people align their actions with their considered values.

  2. There needs to be a consistent level of resource allocated to character development in schools, which includes access to additional external training and support.

  3. Research should be commissioned to demonstrate a strong business case for industry to further invest in developing character amongst young people within their workforce. This will aim to confirm assumptions about improved productivity, performance, retention and progression.

  4. Improved leadership and coordination is needed around the link between schools and employers. Third sector organisations are well placed to facilitate this, however a strategy is needed to provide a consistent framework at a local level.

  5. Whilst character should be accessible and embedded for all, specific provisions and programmes are needed for young people facing disadvantages. This requires a more tailored and individual approach, with delivery undertaken by trained professionals.

  6. Department for Education need to provide a recommended measurement for character development (which the consensus from this paper suggests focuses on assessment rather than unit measurement). This will provide confidence and clear guidance around outcomes to commissioners and funders.

 Ben Hilton, CEO of Dame Kelly Holmes Trust

“The Trust have long considered character development to be a crucial part of a young person’s education. In particular, for young people facing disadvantage, this is a vital element which ensures they have the opportunities to develop the confidence, self-esteem and resilience required to navigate the school environment. However, all too often we see character overlooked and under-resourced in favour of academic qualifications.

We would welcome the Dept of Education providing a recommended measurement for character development that will provide confidence and clear guidance around outcomes to commissioners and funders.”


We would welcome any feedback on our whitepaper, please feel free to contact Rob Phillips on [email protected]