Government minister claims character ‘cannot be taught’

A Cabinet Office minister has directly contradicted one of his own government’s flagship education policies by declaring that character “cannot be taught”.

Rob Wilson, the minister for civil society, is in charge of overseeing the government’s National Citizen Service, a scheme created to promote the development of character in young people.

But in an opinion piece published by TES today, Mr Wilson states that rather than being taught, character is instead instilled through life experience.

This is despite education secretary Nicky Morgan giving a speech in December calling on England to become a “global leader” in teaching character, resilience and grit to pupils.

Mr Wilson writes: “That ambiguous term ‘character’ is something which I believe can’t be taught. Instead, it’s built over time through personal experience, and through our relationships with friends, family and peers.

“Our school lives form an integral part to the forming of characters – and since 2011 we have had something extra to offer today’s young people: National Citizen Service.”

Ms Morgan attracted criticism earlier this month when she announced a raft of programmes aimed at teaching character to England’s pupils, which included a £500,000 project to bring high-profile rugby players and coaches into schools. The scheme was part of a £3.5m pot created to teach character.

It even followed a speech by the education secretary in March, in which she said lessons in grit and resilience were as important to students as top academic grades.

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