Life Values Week is character education for Lower School

This is UCS’s inaugural Lower School Life Values Week, with time set aside during Form Period each day to the Year 7 and Year 8’s five Life Values – the ABCDs of aspiration, bravery, compassion, decision-making and self-reflection. The pupils reflect on how they go about things, and staff talk to them about how they do things.

The Lower School Life Values were first introduced at the start of the last academic year and they complement the school’s existing Learning Values – the four Rs of resourcefulness, responsibility, relationships and resilience. The Life Values take centre stage this week, but also stand as a reference point throughout the boys’ Lower School careers. This week, however, is a window for reflecting on and championing what you might call ‘character education’.

The week’s course is slightly different for Entry and Shell and it dovetails nicely with UCS’s wider PSHE programme. Form Tutors deliver the sessions, which contain video content produced by Sixth Formers and also feature various staff members.

The ‘aspiration’ element of the Life Values enables a discussion about growth mind-sets. Year 7 (Entry) pupils are asked “is it OK to fail?” and learn that failure isn’t something to avoid – even in a school setting where sights are set high – because a willingness to embrace failure and learn from mistakes is an admirable quality.

This exploration is further developed for Year 8 (Shell). They make comparisons between a fixed mind-set and a growth one that embraces challenges, accepts criticism, embraces failure and persists, equates reward with effort, finds inspiration in others’ success, shows grit and determination, and “will do their best”.

‘Bravery’, ‘compassion’ and ‘decision-making’ are the other major threads of the course. The pupils discuss compassion; how they can be better friends, be more empathetic and respect vulnerability. They consider how they would react if they saw certain things happening; the priority is to help them to do the right thing.

The boys also investigate what makes a hero and study scenarios whereby they may have to intervene rather than ignore poor behaviour or attitudes. The Year 7s’ analysis of role models or heroes, and associated attributes, concludes with pupils writing personal reflections on such qualities, which will then figure in a video due to be shown in the Lund Gallery during an exhibition later this term.

Bravery and compassion are strands interwoven through the Year 8 material, with the reminder that in order to truly stand beside someone and show support, a person must exhibit these qualities. Decision-making is aligned with taking responsibility for one’s actions – and being prepared to apologise.

Mid and longer term, the pupils will look at these attributes in greater depth, including with the aid of a new course titled ‘Pupil Champions’ which will investigate the concept of allyship. For now, though, the boys of Entry and Shell can be happy in the knowledge that Lower School heroes do not necessarily wear capes.

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