The Return of Character Education- A BSA Debate, July 16

What we mean by character has been an ever present issue within youth work, even if at times it has been described in other ways. For example, the sub-title of Baden Powell’s seminal 1908 ‘Scouting for Boys’ was ‘A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship’, whilst a century later the Young Foundation’s 2012 ‘Framework of Outcomes for Young People’ seeks to form the ’emotionally resilient’ young person. At the heart of both is an interpretation of what constitutes good or indeed bad character, which can only be understood fully in the light of the underpinning economic and ideological circumstances of the day. Therefore it’s encouraging to see this BSA conference grasping the nettle of how to understand the the revival of ‘character’ education and to see the involvement of our good friend and critic, Janet Batsleer. It strikes me that it would be more than useful to organise a complementary event focused on youth work and the question of character.




‘Grit’, Governmentality & the Erasure of Inequality’
The Curious Rise of Character Education Policy
A BSA Sociology of Education Study Group Conference in association with Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King’s College London and the School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds

Monday 11 July 2016
9:30am – 5:00pm followed by a wine reception
King’s College London

Invited speakers: Dr Janet Batsleer (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Professor Val Gillies (Goldsmiths).

Over the past five years, there has been a growing interest and investment in ‘character’ education. A growing number of policy initiatives and reports have asserted the importance of nurturing character in children and young people – with qualities such as ‘grit’, ‘optimism’, ‘resilience’, ‘zest’, and ‘bouncebackability’ located as preparing young people for the challenges of the 21st century and enabling social mobility. This includes the Department for Education’s multi-million pound package of measures to help schools ‘instil character in pupils’ and the ‘All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility’ Character and Resilience Manifesto. The positioning of character education as a panacea to social and educational inequality has coincided with policies promoting ‘resilience’ in areas as diverse as health and housing to employment and welfare. It is notable that the policy traction of these terms has emerged against a backdrop of austerity in which programmes of welfare reform and continuing economic uncertainty have seen rising poverty levels among children and young people, and in which political rhetoric has explained poverty as resulting from behavioral and moral deficiencies rather than the structural inequalities unleashed by neoliberal capitalism. This one-day conference will bring together researchers across a range of disciplines and research areas to critically discuss this policy agenda. It will attempt to unravel how and why it has emerged and at this particular moment, and consider its implications.

Booking is now open.
Conference fee: BSA members £15 & Non-members £30, (includes lunch and refreshments)
Places are limited so early booking is recommended.
For further information please contact: or telephone: (0191) 383 0839.
For academic queries please contact: Anna Bull ( or Kim Allen ( )


  1. Can I take it the BSA doesn’t stand for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) one of the more conservative elements in the international scouting Movement ?

    What youth group does Dr Batsleer or Dr Gillies run i’d like to visit one of there weekly meetings to observe their work ?

  2. As I suspect, you know, BSA stands for the British Sociological Association.

    I can’t speak for Val Gillies, but Janet Batsleer has a proud history as a youth worker and academic across over three decades and is still closely involved in Manchester with direct work with young people, especially young women.

  3. Tony had I known I wouldn’t have asked. In the circles you move in BSA means British Sociological Association in my circle it means Boy Scouts of America.

    I gathered from reading between the lines some, upper middle class academics are gathering to agree how awful the provision, us upper working class volunteers are providing, is.

    But I may be wrong.

    For what its worth I do not believe that encouraging resilience is a panacea for all of societies inequalities but resilience is certainly a useful trait to have if you are pursuing social justice and community organisations which are self sufficient are a greater threat to the status quo than those which are totally dependant on government funding.

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