King's Leadership Academy best at 'instilling grit' in pupils
A school which holds weekly ethics, philosophy and public-speaking classes has been praised as the best in England for "instilling grit and resilience".
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said King's Leadership Academy in Warrington was "leading the character charge".
All pupils at the free school in Cheshire play a musical instrument, take part in three hours of team sports each week, and learn how to fence.
It took the top spot at the Department for Education's Character Awards.
'Leading the character charge'
The department said the awards were designed to highlight the most effective ways of ensuring pupils leave school ready for life in modern Britain.
Schools are required to provide evidence they have improved pupils' exam results, behaviour, attendance and job prospects.
King's Leadership Academy beat 26 other regional winners to win the top prize of £35,000.
Since opening in 2012, the academy has never excluded a pupil and attendance has been "well above the national average".
The secondary school requires all pupils to sign - in front of their parents - its "Aspire" code of conduct (Aspire and achievement, Self-awareness, Professionalism, Integrity, Respect and Endeavour and promise to uphold its values).
Headteacher Shane Ierston said he was "overwhelmed" to win the national award.
"I am very proud of the staff who have embodied the values of the academy," he said.
Ms Morgan said the academy was "leading the character charge and I hope other schools can learn from its success".
"Teaching character not only benefits children at school - it also plays a vital role in ensuring young people leave school prepared.
"Investing in the character of young people will not only help them succeed academically, but also improve their job prospects and help them bounce back from setbacks."
King's Leadership Academy currently has more than 300 pupils aged between 11-14, with class sizes of no more than 24 pupils.