Children need resilience and character-building skills, not just academic grades, Education Secretary tells Church conference

(Photo: Unsplash/Ben Mullins)

The Education Secretary has told a major Church of England conference today that he wants to see all schoolchildren take part in activities that build character and resilience. 

In a speech at the Church of England's National Education Conference, Damian Hinds argued that learning to play a musical instrument, taking part in sports or picking up another hobby were just as important to future success as scoring good grades in class. 

'I want to make sure every child gets to build up their character and resilience by testing themselves from a range of enjoyable and activities,' he said, adding that he wanted 'public school confidence' to be replaced by a sense of confidence among all children across the educational spectrum. 

He outlined five areas that he believes can build character - sport, creativity, performing, volunteering, and work.

The ambitious drive is partly a response to concerns that modern children have become too insular and are spending too much time glued to screens and phones. 

Mr Hind wants to change that by enabling all children to pursue at least one non-academic activity, such as debating, rock climbing or hiking. 

The campaign is backed by Christian adventurer Bear Grylls, who has been the UK's Chief Scout since 2009. 

He said his childhood outdoor pursuits were just as educational for him as his classroom studies. 

'As a child, I remember learning as much outside the classroom as I did at my desk: climbing, doing martial arts and of course, Scouting,' he said.

'I didn't know it then, but I was getting a character education, developing my sense of self-worth. I was learning to weigh up risks, take decisions and develop my initiative.

'By overcoming setbacks, making mistakes and picking myself up again, I was learning resilience.' 

The Church of England's Chief Education Officer, Nigel Genders welcomed today's announcement from the Education Secretary. 

'This approach will need to be carefully thought through, and must go beyond the lifespan of a single Government; the education of our children and young people is too important to ever become political currency,' he said. 

'The Church of England has been talking about the importance of character-building for hundreds of years, and recently published a report on leadership for character education, which sets out how the development of character in leadership is a crucial part of enabling character development for children.

'Our vision for education is about the flourishing of children and adults, pupils and teachers, and goes beyond simply coping; it's about hoping, growing and thriving.'