Giving young children an understanding of charity

A successful secondary school programme designed to increase young people's awareness of charities and the voluntary sector is coming to primaries this year.

The project arises from concern that although, nationally, the response to individual events can be phenomenal (he Tsunami Appeal is a case in point) the habit of regular giving to charity is in decline. One reason is fewer visible adult examples for children to follow.

Andy Thornton at the Citizenship Foundation, says: "Young people don't see money going on to church collection plates, and adults may be giving to their chosen charities by direct debit."

For more than three years the Citizenship Foundation has been tackling this in the secondary sector with its "Giving Nation" project, which provides a range of educational materials designed not to raise money for any particular charity but to support what the foundation calls "A culture of giving."

Mr Thornton says: "It's been taken up by 70 per cent of secondaries, who report a tangible increase in young people's affinity with charities and volunteering."

Now, on the basis of that success, the Citizenship Foundation is launching a complementary programme (it will have a different name, still to be chosen) in primary schools this year.

Mr Thornton is quick to insist that this is not another fundraising appeal.

"It's not to get them raising more money. It's to educate young people in primary schools about the role and value of charities, part of a long-term drive to make sure there will be a culture of giving in the UK as a new generation grows up."

So where "Giving Nation" does aim to lead children towards the giving habit, the expectation is that the primary equivalent will concentrate on education. Mr Thornton says: "In secondary school, adolescents can begin to make informed choices about giving and volunteering, and the school can support that. In primary that transition is still in the future and it's more important that younger children have good knowledge of how charity and volunteering work."

Research in the Spring into the views of teachers and others involved with primary education will lead into a pilot programme with a large group of schools later in 2006. As with "Giving Nation", what will emerge will be an educational programme with a website and downloadable resources.

Teachers wanting to contribute to the discussion, or volunteer their schools for the pilot can contact Andy Thornton at the Citizenship Foundation.

GH"Giving Nation" website The Teachers section has details of the research which preceded the project, and of teachers' evaluation.

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