News story

DfE Character Awards application window now open

Schools and organisations are invited to apply to be recognised as a leader in character education through the 2015 DfE Character Awards.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan in a school classroom

From today (7 January 2015) schools and organisations will be able to submit an online application to be recognised as a leader in character education through the 2015 DfE Character Awards.

Applicants should be able to prove their programme develops character traits, attributes and behaviours that underpin success in school and work, including:

  • perseverance, resilience and grit
  • confidence and optimism
  • motivation, drive and ambition
  • neighbourliness and community spirit
  • tolerance and respect
  • honesty, integrity and dignity
  • conscientiousness, curiosity and focus

The government wants to celebrate the excellence and diversity in this field, recognising that character is already being encouraged, nurtured and developed alongside academic rigour through a variety of programmes in and outside schools across the county.

Character education can be found within a school’s ethos, in the classroom and on the playground, as much as it can be found on the sports field and outside of school in the local community. Research has shown that both universal and targeted programmes can be effective, with excellent approaches including:

  • integration into the curriculum and wider aspects of a school
  • the teaching of character as a separate subject
  • extra-curricular activities, such as sport and music
  • outward facing activities, such as community work and volunteering

Through these approaches in character education pupils can emerge from school more fully rounded and better equipped to meet the challenges of employment and future life. That’s why applicants should offer evidence that proves their programmes have had an impact on engagement, attainment or employment outcomes.

The Character Awards were announced on 8 December as part of the £5 million Character Innovation Fund to support the development of character in schools. The government will shortly be opening applications for a grants programme to fund innovative projects and build capacity in this field, as outlined in the announcement on 16 December: ‘England to become a global leader of teaching character.’

Commenting on the announcement of the Character Awards, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

Delivering the best schools and skills is a key part of our long-term economic plan that is turning Britain around.

As well as high academic standards, this means providing opportunities for all young people to develop the character and resilience they need to succeed in modern Britain.

The new Character Awards schools will help give schools and organisations the tools and support they need to ensure they develop well-rounded pupils ready to go on to an apprenticeship, university or the world of work.

Who can apply

  • all primary and secondary schools, including academies, free schools and special schools
  • alternative provision and pupil referral units
  • academy trusts may apply as a single organisation
  • schools and/or organisations applying in partnership (applicants must state a lead applicant who will be awarded the full prize)
  • private sector and non-profit organisations (you will need to have a track record running similar projects with the compulsory school age group and evidence of sustainable impact in past projects, and you will need to supply 2 references)
  • local authorities may apply as a single organisation

Please note that applicants are required to declare that there is no current or historical knowledge of financial misconduct, maladministration or safeguarding at the school or organisation.

What the government is looking for

Applicants should demonstrate outstanding practice of character education in the 2013 to 2014 academic year. The programme:

  • will be targeted at children of compulsory school age of 5 to 16
  • will have run for at least 1 year
  • should be part of a long-term approach

The core achievements should have taken place during this main period.

Organisations that work across multiple regions should only apply for 1 region, and this must be the region where their programme (or part of the programme) is based.


Applicants from all 9 regions will be looked at in order to seek out the most effective practice. Applicants will be judged by experts in the field and system leaders from across the national teaching schools network, supported by the Teaching Schools Council (TSC). Shortlisting will be supported by the Cabinet Office. The judging criteria is outlined below.

Regional award

Up to 3 winners will be selected from all applicants within each region (North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands, East Midlands, East of England, London, South East, South West) and awarded £15,000.

National award

From amongst the regional winners, 1 national prize winner will be chosen and awarded an additional prize of £20,000.

All regional winners will be invited to a national awards ceremony in March, where they will receive their prize and the national award will be announced.

Alongside headteachers and pupils from the winning schools, business representatives and experts in the field will be invited to attend - providing a platform for leaders in character and resilience to come together to share best practice.


  1. Please describe the culture of building character in your organisation? What character traits, attributes and behaviours do you promote and how do you promote them?
  2. What programmes and/or extra-curricular activities have you introduced to develop character in pupils?
  3. How have you implemented these programmes and activities? Do you take a ‘whole school’ approach or do you target groups of pupils? Do you take an in-school or out of school approach? How is character development incorporated into wider school activities and learning?
  4. How have you collaborated or shared your work with stakeholders, including parents and carers?
  5. What evidence do you have to show that the character education you provide is effective? How do you monitor its impact?
  6. What are your plans for the future? If you won an award, how would you use it to expand your programme to benefit all children?

Judging criteria

Criteria Assessment method - online application
Character building forms a core part of the ethos, culture and day-to-day running of the school or organisation and is actively encouraged among pupils and staff Question 1
Clarity and focus of aims, and the extent to which they develop and improve character traits, attributes and behaviours of an appropriate number of pupils, and balance developing the skills alongside securing academic excellence Questions 2 and 3
Programme is innovative and relevant to other contexts Questions 2 and 3
Programme engages with other key organisations/stakeholders (such as parents, teachers, schools, employers and/or the local community) Question 4
Evidence that the programme has impacted on aspects of pupils’ character in a way which is improving their engagement and achievement

Programmes with secondary-age children could provide evidence of improvement of preparation for further education/higher education and/or work

Evidence could include (but does not have to be limited to):
• measures of behaviour
• attendance
• parental feedback
• Ofsted judgments or equivalent
• achievement
• progress
• destination measures
Question 5
Evidences monitoring, evaluation, captures lessons learned and incorporates these into project/programme development Question 5
Evidence that the school/organisation will use the award to support further character building activities Question 6


Organisations have until Friday 30 January 2015 to submit an application for an award through the online application form. Once applicants have submitted their applications they will receive a confirmation email.

Application window closes 30 January 2015
Winners announced end of February/beginning March 2015
Awards ceremony March 2015
Published 7 January 2015
Last updated 13 January 2015 + show all updates
  1. Added questions for reference.
  2. First published.