Aylesford School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Aylesford School's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Aylesford School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Matthew Wright, executive
head teacher, Aylesford School
and CEO of the Divergent
Partnership Trust
“Courage, Confidence,
Based in Aylesford, Kent, the eponymous Aylesford School
is a secondary with a strong focus on the development
of fundamental character traits, in the belief that
everything else desirable follows on from this foundation – be
that managing their real and online lives, or passing exams.
Instrumental in bringing this focus to the fore is the school’s
executive head teacher, Matthew Wright, whose words on the
topic comprise the following piece.
An education that builds character
At Aylesford School we have developed the language, practice and opportunities
to help students develop good character, as we know this will help them face the
challenges of academic success, while preparing them for their future lives.
We all accept that achieving meaningful qualifications at the age of 16 is very
important and should be one of the key areas of focus for every school. To give
young people the best chance of being successful in this regard, we thought
about the characteristics they needed to develop. It was straightforward to identify
resilience and motivation as key character strengths required to achieve academic
success, but we were also keen to explore the character strengths which were
important to our community.
We identified 25 character strengths and asked students, parents, staff and
the governing body to pick ten of these which they felt we should focus on
»Executive head teacher:
Matthew Wright
»Head teacher: Tanya Kelvie
»Founded circa 1940
»Based in Aylesford, Kent
»Type of school: Non-selective
»No. of students: 800
»No. of staff: 100
Aylesford School
Highlighting best practice
»Italian prisoners of war built
the school.
»The new build was inaugurated
by Ed Balls, then secretary of
state for children, schools and
families, and Jonathan Shaw
»Each year students have the
opportunity to graduate by
being awarded a certain
number of points for displaying
arange of character strengths
over the year, and by being on
track to achieve challenging
academic targets.
»We have a very close link
with the Royal British Legion.
Students regularly visit and
have the opportunity to develop their character strengths. Students have supported events at the RBL, and get
involved with social activities, such as reading with the elderly residents.
These were the most popular and
have become the Aylesford School
Character Strengths: respect, self-
discipline, courage, open-mindedness,
motivation, resilience, confidence,
integrity, compassion, curiosity.
We have based a reward system
around our character strengths.
Students receive character points when
they display any one of the character
strengths. For example, a student
might be given character points for
showing resilience in a maths lesson
by not giving up when attempting a
difficult problem. They might receive
a character point for demonstrating
compassion in a history lesson by being
able to empathise with a particular
group or viewpoint. In addition to this,
students can receive character points
for their conduct outside lessons.
For example, a student might be
recognised and rewarded for showing
integrity and respect by supporting a
fund or helping out at an after-school
event. Each lesson teachers identify
two or three character strengths that
they will focus on.
Students are encouraged to display all of
our character strengths during the year
with the intention of collecting sufficient
character strength points to enable
them to attend a special graduation
ceremony at the end of the year. Why is
this important? Good character matters.
It is as relevant now as it ever was.
Why it matters
New forms of communication enabled
by current technology and social
media mean that young people are
regularly in situations where they
find themselves having to make
decisions in a split second. Recently the
government has tried to encourage
an ethos of this type among young
people, but we had been doing this
long before – in large part due to
the ideas of the prominent historian
and educationalist, Anthony Seldon.
Today’s youth will encounter such
questions as “Do I reply to this
message? How do I reply? Do I send
on this shared image?” Often this
decision-making is made under strong
pressure from peers and the social
matters. It is
as relevant
now as it ever
construct of expected behaviour. The
ability to make a decision when two
or more emotions are conflicting can
be called “good sense” or “good
character”, and it is only through
learning about character strengths
or virtues that one can develop a
sufficient understanding of them to
be able to demonstrate this “good
character” and know what the right
thing to do is in a given situation.
The newly reformed GCSEs and the
linear course structures place increased
pressure on young people. Success with
these new qualifications requires hard
work. However, hard work alone is not
enough. It’s also necessary to have an
understanding of how you deal with
the associated pressure of exams; this
means being aware of the need to
maintain a balanced life, with time for
friendships and activities away from
studying. Doing so is actually conducive
to good exam performance.
The character strengths give us a
vocabulary to frame these discussions.
For example, beyond the need to
develop resilience and motivation,
understanding self-discipline alongside
compassion for yourself is important
when trying to maintain a sense of
balance. Furthermore, learning to be
open-minded and developing curiosity
can only help when being required to
analyse and compare ideas to achieve
the top grades at GCSE.
In schools we have become well versed
in reacting to a young person’s mental
health problems by providing support.
At Aylesford School we are supporting
and challenging students to develop
character strengths so that they are
less likely to experience mental health
problems in the firstplace.
Recognising and developing character
strengths in our staff is also very
important. When recruiting staff, we
also explore the candidates’ character
strengths and are very open about
the character strengths that we
know are necessary to be successful
at AylesfordSchool. We expect all
staff to work hard to consistently
demonstrate our character strengths,
because we know that they will have
the biggest impact on our students
when they do – and also because
they are role models for our students
and our community. This is helping
us recruit the right staff. Staff, that is,
who understand what an important
part they can play in developing the
future success of the young people at
Aylesford School. Staff that understand
and recognise that teaching is a tough
job with great rewards. Staff that
understand that our students deserve
continuity from teachers committing
to stay at our school for more than a
year. With great staff and great pupils,
success can only follow.
We expect all
staff to work
hard to
our character
Teachers highlight
specific character
strengths that they will
be looking to recognise
and reward each lesson
Staff at all levels of
leadership in the school
model our character
strengths every day


This article was sponsored by Aylesford School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy