Taught, Not Caught: Educating for 21st Century Character

Taught, Not Caught: Educating for 21st Century Character

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As Education Secretary from 2014-16, Nicky Morgan had a job she describes as 'one of the best in the UK Cabinet'. Here, she reveals why she believes that building characterful children has a positive impact on academic attainment.


As Education Secretary from 2014-16, Nicky Morgan had a job she describes as 'one of the best in the UK Cabinet'. In her time in office, she announced a GBP3.5m programme to be spent promoting classes and extra-curricular activities that build 'grit' and 'resilience' in a generation of schoolchildren.

Here, she reveals why she believes that building characterful children has a positive impact on academic attainment. In writing this book, she had the privilege of visiting some of the schools who won Department for Education character awards. Hearing their stories, looking at the work they've done to promote character education and identify the values they want to embed in their schools and seeing how positive they are about this area of their school life confirmed to her that focusing on character sits alongside gaining knowledge. In fact, the former helps the latter.

The generosity of the schools enabled her to capture key examples and bring character education to life. Change in education doesn't happen by accident. It needs a deliberate push. Public awareness needs to be raised, government needs to make it clear to those in the education system that this is a priority and they will support it and, most importantly, the frontline namely schools, heads, teachers, governors and communities need to be enabled to create the conditions to allow systemic change to happen, to take hold and to grow.

Nicky believes that education is the greatest investment we can make in the future of our country. And the greatest investment the education system can make in our pupils is to ensure they gain both knowledge and character.

About the author

Nicky Morgan stood as the Conservative Candidate for Loughborough at the 2005 General Election and again in 2010, when she was elected to Parliament to be Loughborough's voice in Westminster. She has been married to Jonathan, an architect and Councillor for the Loughborough Outwoods Ward, since July 2000 and they have a son who was born in 2008.

Nicky studied law at Oxford University. She worked as a solicitor specialising in Corporate Law advising a range of private and public companies from 1994 till her election in 2010. Nicky previously served as Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities (2014 - 16), Financial Secretary to the Treasury (2014), Minister for Women (2014), Economic Secretary to the Treasury (2013 - 14), an Assistant Government Whip (2012 - 13) and the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Rt Hon. David Willetts MP, Cabinet Minister for Universities and Science (2010 - 12). In summer 2010, she was elected by her fellow MPs to serve on the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee, but gave up that position following her appointment as a PPS. Nicky was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Loughborough in the 2015 General Election. She was elected again as Loughborough's Conservative Parliamentary Candidate in the 2017 General Election.


“The value of developing character and virtues in a fast changing and challenging world cannot be overstated - for young people, but indeed for us all.  In my work as Chief Executive of UK Youth and Step Up to Serve, I have seen many fantastic examples of youth social action developing admirable - and indeed essential -  character traits.  I recommend this book, as an easy way into understanding the topic. In chapter 4 in particular, the case for embedding social action in a young person’s journey is made compellingly. Examples from some of our #iwill champion schools and colleges show the double benefit of building character and virtue, and making a positive difference to the community. Everyone reading this book should find a way to contribute to creating more youth social action opportunities.” Charlotte Hill, Chief Executive, Step Up to Serve

“This book is a must read by absolutely everyone involved in education.  Nicky Morgan’s powerful and deeply felt case for the re-establishment of Character Education at the heart of schools is the clarion call that must be heard.” Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor University of Buckingham. Former Master of Wellington College

“This book clearly sets out how character is neither ‘soft’ nor in contradiction to the need for a rigorous focus on a knowledge heavy curriculum. The key point – that a true one nation government needs to equip all its children with knowledge *and* character – is one which is too infrequently recognised by both proponents and opponents of a traditional education, and it is to Nicky’s credit that this is made explicit.” — Jonathan Simons, Director of Policy and Advocacy, the Varkey Foundation 

"An excellent and provocative account of the ways some schools are successfully helping their pupils develop positive personality characteristics, the benefits which come from such things as mental reliance and grit, and ways in which character can be assessed. Nothing could be more important (not even exam results!) and this thoughtful book will help schools understand the best of what can be achieved in this vital area." -- Barnaby Lenon, chair, Independent Schools Council

"This very readable, carefully crafted book, by former Secretary for Education Nicky Morgan, creates a powerful and convincing argument for ensuring that there is a balance in schools between a knowledge and character-based curriculum. She draws on many aspects of existing good practice and concludes that, "Every child deserves to gain both great knowledge and character… in environments with a clear values-driven ethos." My hope is that her book will signal a national renaissance, which will emphasise the urgent need to support children to develop positive character traits in values-based schools. In my view a must read book for parents and all involved in Education." -- Dr. Neil Hawkes, Founder Values-based Education (VbE), Founder of the International Education Trust (IVET)

“‘Educating for 21st century character' provides some great examples of schools underpinning their academic ambitions for pupils with thoughtful work on character development. Schools like the King's Leadership academies where character development is embedded in lessons and wider curriculum opportunities. Nicky Morgan shows how paying attention to this aspect of education supports improved outcomes for all pupils.” Mary Myatt, advisor, speaker and author (High Challenge, Low Threat and Hopeful Schools)

"Nicky Morgan was instructive, as Secretary of State for Education, in placing character education at the forefront of UK educational policy. It is gratifying to see that she now continues with her efforts at a more theoretical level by illustrating her own vision of how to educate for 21st-century character. This is a thought-provoking book which offers a well-rounded vision of character education as the development of the whole child. I wholeheartedly recommend this book as essential reading for all teachers and parents in the UK." -- Professor Kristján Kristjánsson, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham.  

Additional Information

Author Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP
ISBN 9781911382331
No of pages 128
Format Paperback
Publication Date 11 Sep 2017

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