His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge has lent his support to a new and pioneering national character education scheme to help schoolchildren develop an inner strength for life…

The SkillForce Character Award pilot programme has started this term at 37 primary and secondary schools in England, Scotland and Wales and involves 1,013 pupils aged five to 14-years-old. The new scheme is the brainchild of SkillForce, a national education charity that employs predominantly ex-Services personnel as instructors in schools to deliver education programmes and mentoring that boost resilience and self confidence.

The Duke of Cambridge is SkillForce’s Royal Patron. The Duke expressed his support for the new scheme during a speech at the 100 Women in Hedge Funds London Gala at Middle Temple on Monday October 10th, held in aid of SkillForce.

The programme is being delivered in schools this academic year, and involves practical activities that develop resilience, compassion, courage, self control, self confidence and leadership, in addition to teamwork and problem solving skills. Supported by investment company Standard Life, the award programme covers five themes: personal development, relationships, working, community and environment and reaches a younger age group than the charity has worked with before.

Ben Slade, Chief Executive, SkillForce, added: “The SkillForce Character Award aims to give children from a younger age the confidence to dare to be their best selves and comfortable in their own skin, and I want to thank The Duke for his fantastic support for our work with schools to transform lives.”

He added: “Character traits such as resilience can affect academic performance, psychological wellbeing and success in the workplace later on in life. Our new pilot scheme is based on the premise that those softer skills are as valuable as academic qualifications and can be taught.”

The scheme draws on the skills, knowledge and expertise of SkillForce instructors, 70% of whom are ex-Services personnel. They started delivering the programme, which runs weekly as a two-hour session, at schools in England and Wales last month. Schools in Scotland started the scheme in August 2016.

Amanda Pullinger, Chief Executive Officer, 100 Women in Hedge Funds, said: "As we have partnered with SkillForce throughout 2016 we have been enormously impressed by the motivation and skills they impart to the young people on their programmes. We are very proud to be able to help the organisation continue its important work.”

Sandy Begbie, Chief People Officer, Standard Life, who are supporting the pilot, said: “We’ve been partnering with SkillForce for a number of years and see first-hand the impact of the great work they do. By tapping in to the unique experience and skills of ex-Services personnel SkillForce are helping young people to develop and build greater resilience in life. We’re delighted to be supporting this pilot scheme as part of our commitment to both young people and ex-Services personnel, helping the individuals involved and our community to prosper.”

The award programme has been developed with education experts including the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, and involves practical activities and challenges, inside and outside of the classroom. An evaluation of the project will be completed during this academic year, following feedback from schools, parents and children. The charity has plans to extend the scheme to more schools next year following the evaluation results.

Professor James Arthur, Director, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham, commented: “We at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues are delighted to work with SkillForce as their key academic partner for this character award. This award will help five to 14-year-olds across Britain develop essential virtues including inner strength, the ability to make good and wise choices, compassion, self control, leadership and most importantly practical wisdom that is essential for human flourishing.”

SkillForce’s education programmes and motivational mentoring have been shown to raise aspirations, achievement and attendance. During the last academic year, SkillForce supported 5,174 children. Of those, 31% were in receipt of free school meals and 26% had additional educational needs. The charity’s work resulted in a 38% drop in fixed term school exclusions and 85% of children progressing to a positive destination.

SkillForce – Heroes in Schools Transforming Lives. To get involved and find out more, visitwww.skillforce.org

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