Pupils at Kings Langley School are learning how to empathise with others, become aware of their body language and improve their self-discipline, thanks to an innovative character development programme.
Representatives from the University of Birmingham visited the secondary school in Love Lane as part of government-sponsored research to see how head teacher Gary Lewis focuses on other priorities, not just academic exam results, in school.
Mr Lewis, who leads one of six UK institutions pioneering the project, said: “For some time I have been frustrated about the focus on academic performance measured on grades. Exams are not easier, but schools have got better at coaching students on how to pass exams. This means grades don’t always reflect what a student should get, and other important aspects of learning are missed out.
“I would much rather a student get a grade B or C but have really enjoyed the subject, and felt they were able to explore it without worrying about grades. This way they can also develop all those aspects of character that we think are absolutely vital.”
The students learn about three core character values – self-regulation, empathy and ‘stickability’ – as part of their registration activities and through their physical, social and health education lessons.
Year 7 student Arthur Hardman said: “We work on how we can act in a bad situation. We learn about tensing and relaxing muscles, deep breathing and thinking of happy places. It helps me because I can calm myself down with those techniques.”
Zach Bishop, also in Year 7, said: “In registration we talk about our role models and do presentations for our form. It builds us as a person because later in life we might need these skills.”
In the two years the programme has been fully operational, Mr Lewis has noted the positive change in the school. He said: “Birmingham University were particularly impressed at the way pupils open doors for teachers, but you also get it the other way around. There is a real sense of mutual respect, and of us all working together.”