Character and Education (closed)

The Character and Education grants round funds and evaluates a series of projects that aim to develop a set of attitudes, skills and behaviours that are thought to underpin success in school and work, such as motivation, grit, resilience, self-control, self-confidence, social and emotional skills, and communication skills.

‘Non-cognitive skills’ such as motivation and resilience are increasingly considered to be important in determining positive outcomes for children. The Department for Education and the EEF are interested in what can be done to help children and young people develop skills for life and work, which both complement and underpin academic attainment, and prepare young people for success in adult life. Evidence suggests that support to develop these skills is likely to be particularly important for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Supporting documents

The following links provide some background reading and summaries of existing evidence:

Existing EEF projects in this area

The EEF has already funded a range of projects that aim to build skills, attitudes or behaviours as a route to improving engagement and attainment at school (see table below). For more information about these, please see the Projects section of our website. These should provide some illustrative examples of the types of initiatives that we are interested in, though we are open to a wide range of ideas and approaches that can provide evidence that they are likely to be effective. Please note: we are unlikely to support applications that are very similar in approach to those that we have already funded.

Programme and delivery organisationDescription
Changing Mindsets
Portsmouth University
A test of Dweck’s theory of ‘growth mindset’, which suggests that intelligence is a malleable quality that can be improved through effort, not a fixed entity. This project will evaluate two models: teacher delivery and university students teaching primary school pupils about growth mindset theory.
Engage in Education
A project providing small group and one to one support for pupils in Years 9 and 10 at high risk of exclusion. Targeted pupils receive training in areas such as emotional literacy and communication, with the aim of improving behaviour, attitudes to learning and school engagement.
Philosophy for Children
A project that aims to equip children with the thinking skills to ‘do’ philosophy for themselves. Facilitated by the classroom teacher, children discuss an interesting philosophical question. The approach aims to improve children's abilities and dispositions to question, reason, construct arguments and collaborate with others.
Improving Talk and ListeningSchool21 & Cambridge UniversityA project that aims is to develop confident, articulate speakers, and to improve classroom talk in order to foster better thinking and attainment by giving oracy the same place in the curriculum as reading and writing. The project will develop a set of interventions that schools can use to boost pupils’ speaking skills.
Act, Sing, Play Creative futuresA test of the link between learning singing or a musical instrument and academic attainment. Children are taught to sing using the ‘Kodaly’ method, or to play a stringed instrument using the Suzuki method. A control group of children will participate in drama lessons.
Powerful Learning Conversations Youth Sports TrustTesting aspects of feedback central to sports coaching, eg, the fact that the feedback is rapid, immediate and reciprocal and that students are less likely to respond negatively to criticism due to the way the feedback is delivered. This project will develop and test a training programme for English and maths teachers
Developing Healthy Minds in Teenagers
How to Thrive and LSE
A project that will test a curriculum of evidence-based programmes that seek to improve pupils’ resilience, life skills, and wellbeing, delivered in PSHE sessions for years 7–10. The curriculum is based on cognitive behavioural therapy, and a review of interventions in Durlak meta-analysis, eg, Penn Resilience Programme.
Talk of the Town The Communications TrustA project providing support to schools to focus on speech, language and communication for all their pupils. Schools are provided with information about the importance of communication skills, and teachers are trained to identify and support pupils with speech, language and communication needs.
Youth Social Action Trial: Primary
Children’s University
A project in primary schools that encourages children to take part in extra-curricular activities, volunteer in the community, and learn new skills. This project will test how far such extra-curricular activities impact on engagement, attainment and non-cognitive skills such as motivation, confidence and team-working.
Youth Social Action Trial: Secondary Youth United FoundationA project in secondary schools that encourages children to undertake challenging activities, volunteer in the community, and learn new skills. This project will test how far such extra-curricular activities impact on engagement, attainment and non-cognitive skills such as motivation, confidence and team-working.
Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies Manchester UniversityA primary school project that covers topics such as identifying and labelling feelings, controlling impulses, reducing stress, and understanding other people's perspectives. Several randomised controlled trials in the US and UK have found positive effects of the intervention on social skills and emotional well-being.
The Good Behaviour Game
Mentor Foundation UK
A project that aims to improve behaviour in primary school, particularly by encouraging good group behaviour, and self-control. This study builds on promising evidence from a trial in the US, which found attainment, improved levels of progress on leaving school, and improved health outcomes.
Inclusive Behavioural ProgrammeInstitute of Education, UCLA whole-school approach to improve behaviour, social and emotional skills, and school engagement, and reduce bullying. The intervention is based on restorative justice principles, a pupil-led review of school policies, and a social and emotional learning programme in secondary schools.