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Survey of Character Education & Mental Health Provision in Schools & Colleges

Teenage girls
Published: August 2017

Mixed mode study on the nature and funding of provision in schools and colleges.


To explore mental health and character education provision in schools and colleges across England.

This mixed mode research was commissioned by the Department for Education to provide a basis for future policy and research.


A number of reports from the study, including case study practice examples for schools, are available on the DfE's website.  You can download the reports authored by our researchers from this website. 

Key findings

  • Almost all, 92%, of institutions reported having an ethos or environment that promoted mutual care and concern, and 64% felt that the promotion of positive mental health and wellbeing was integrated into the school day
  • The majority, 87%, of institutions had a plan or policy in place about supporting pupils with identified mental health needs, and more than half, 58%, had a plan or policy about promoting positive mental health and wellbeing among all pupils.
  • The most common types of support offered for pupils with identified mental health needs were educational psychological support, 61%, and counselling services, 61%.
  • Almost all institutions offering this provision funded it at least in part from their own budgets. 
  • Perceived major barriers to setting up mental health provision were difficulties in commissioning local services, 74%, and a lack of funding, 71%.
  • Almost all, 97%, schools sought to promote desirable character traits among their students, although fewer (54%) were familiar with the term ‘character education’ prior to being approached to take part in the research.
  • Most schools used school-wide, cross-curricular approaches to develop character. Almost all, 97%, had a mission statement or set of core values intended to contribute to character education, and assemblies and subject lessons were both used to develop desirable character traits among pupils by the vast majority of schools.
  • A significant minority, 41%, of schools offered distinct character education lessons.
  • A quarter, 25%, of schools had a dedicated lead for character education, and just fewer than one in six (17%) had a formalised plan or policy in place for character education.
  • Schools primarily aimed to develop character in order to promote good citizenship, 97%, and academic attainment, 84%.


This was a mixed methods project that included a survey and case studies. 

Our collaborators were the National Children's Bureau, who led the qualitative strand of work.