Character Strengths Education in Primary Schools

Character strengths education in primary schools is about helping children to understand what strengths they have and how to use them in certain situations. Developing a language and lens of strengths is important for children to develop self-awareness, self-worth, confidence and resilience. When using a language and of strengths all children can build consistent approaches that support them to improve wellbeing and develop skills for learning.

Character strengths use is the foundation for improved attainment, achievement and improved behaviour and the earlier on in a child’s education they can identify and use character strengths the more likely children will go on to lead happy and fulfilled lives – reducing the risk of developing mental health issues later in life.

Character Strengths Education for Positive Mental Health

As reported in the Department of Health document ‘Future in Mind’, in an average class of 30 children, three will suffer from a mental health disorder including conduct disorders, anxiety, depression and severe ADHD. Since COVID19 there has been a rapid increase in mental health problems in children, with one in six struggling with mental health issues.

Over the past years the Department for Health and Department for Education announced that schools would be encouraged to develop whole-school approaches to promoting mental health and wellbeing and this would include work on character and resilience. Primary schools are seen as vital in order to prevent issues like self-harm and eating disorders developing in later life, as children can develop healthy coping skills, communication and problem-solving skills early on and embed them for future difficulties and diversity. Schools are no longer just about promoting academic excellence.

A way to prevent the development of mental health problems in children is to support them to build awareness and use there strengths. There is a significant evidence base form the field of Positive Psychology that tells us when children are taught how to use their strengths they develop wellbeing, resilience as well as skills for learning and achievement. All of these are essential for promoting positive mental health and preventing mental health problems developing.

What works in Primary Character Strengths Education?

In order for children to develop good understanding of their strengths and how to use them appropriately in the right situation. It is our responsibility to teach them to be able to name, understand, explain and respond appropriately with the strengths they are using. We do this through sharing a language and framework of strengths known ad the VIA Strengths.

The VIA strengths are a set of evidence based characteristics that when we use them are natural to us, they feel good to use and we choose to do them often. All children has all 24 of these strengths they just have them in different combinations and use them differently depending on the situation they are in.  

Supporting primary schools to help children develop their strengths

Worth-it helps children to develop a language and lens of strengths. to do this by working with schools to develop whole school approaches to wellbeing. Our whole school approach incorporates our system for developing positive mental health with a simple evidence way for planning out an embedded curriculum for wellbeing based on Waters & Loton's (2019) SEARCH pathways to wellbeing. The S in the SEARCH framework stands for Strengths!

When we work with schools, school leaders, designated mental health leads and pastoral staff we teach them how to use strengths based approaches with children. Working with staff to use a strengths language, we help embed this into teaching and learning and build strengths based interventions that support more vulnerable children who may be more at risk of developing mental health problems.

Primary schools we have worked with have adapted the VIA strengths framework to suit the needs of their children and staff. They explicitly teach these strengths across the school, through themed weeks, explicit lessons and assemblies as well as aligning the strengths to specific teaching and learning objectives. Strengths are visible in every classroom and around the school environment. Some schools have created their own terminology for strengths which is understood by the whole school community including parents, children and staff. Examples include 'Super Strengths' and 'Ingredients for Success'.

Ingredients for success- strengths, positive education

Supporting you develop children's mental health and wellbeing

Through our own research and work with hundreds of schools we know that our approach to developing whole school wellbeing and positive mental health makes a positive impact on children’s lives and that of the whole school.

We have developed our approach into a training programme and library of resources for school staff that are supporting the development of positive mental health and wellbeing in children.

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