The Benefits of Early Character Education

July 29, 2020
The Benefits of Early Character Education

Children have enormous potential to make a positive difference to people and society around them and ultimately to change our world for the better.

The Youth Trust has been working with Key Stage 2 pupils since 2013 and in 2019 expanded our Young Leaders Award (YLA) to include Key Stage 1 pupils.

We believe that giving younger pupils meaningful opportunities to explore leadership skills and character virtues and to get involved in social action early in life is key to developing young people who show confidence, resilience and care for others. Children of all ages can be leaders today, not only as they grow up.

The KS1 YLA explores the theme ‘small steps big changes’ encouraging pupils that every small action can contribute to big changes for the better.

“The children always reflect on their actions using what they have learnt from the award and make reference to being a Young Leader when deciding how best to deal with a situation. The children's action project has broken down barriers between the older and younger generations and the children have developed their social skills. They have made memories that will last a lifetime and have smiled the whole way through the award!”
“They are becoming kind, caring and concerned citizens of the future.”

YLA Teacher

Watch the KS1 Young Leaders from Poppleton Road Primary School talking about their experiences of character education and social action through the YLA.

Research fromThe Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues’ at the University of Birmingham found that those who first get involved in service under the age of 10 are:

- More than twice as likely to form a habit of service than if they start aged 16–18 years.

- More likely to be involved in a wider range of service activities and to participate in them more frequently.

- More likely to identify themselves more closely with values such as open-mindedness, compassion and hope.

A report called ‘Our Charitable Children’, from the University of Kent & Canterbury Christ Church University, highlighted that although many schools involve their youngest pupils in charitable activities such as fundraising that often pupils have little understanding of why or even what the cause is they are giving to. Their experiences of giving are largely passive and can be purely transactional.

It is important for children to have “conscious and active engagement in giving decisions.” Our Key Stage 1 resources encourage schools to create space for children to engage with the needs and causes they support,to give them opportunities to discuss and debate the issues they are tackling and be involved in decision making about social action.  Pupils also have a chance to reflect on how they have helped others and what they have learnt.

“I loved going to the foodbank to see how we had helped people.”
“Anybody can be kind and everybody benefits from it”.
"You don't just do kindness to get something. You do it to have fun. It gives me a proud feeling."
“It's good to look after our community and make it better for everyone.”

KS1 Pupils

Through these experiences children aged 5-7 are growing in character and developing positive habits for the future. Their stories and passion to help others are inspiring.

Find out more about the KS1 YLA here: or contact

Click here to find out more about