Every now and then, teachers get the opportunity to teach something not because it is part of the curriculum, but because it is just worth passing on. Fairtrade is one of these topics − and is something that young people are genuinely concerned about, according to the results of a new survey.
Commissioned to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Fairtrade mark, the survey revealed that more than half of UK teens are fairly or extremely worried about issues that the Fairtrade Foundation works to address, such as inequality, workers' rights, child labour and climate change.
Nine in 10 of those surveyed also said that they are willing to take action on issues they care about, with buying an ethical product being their most popular course of action.
“There is no fairer slice of society than the young,” says Nick Hewer, star of BBC’s The Apprentice, who has been involved in a recent Fairtrade education initiative in St Lucia. “When you get down to it, kids are really generous. We need to start at school level to get the message across that we all have a duty to others and not just to ourselves.”
But how should teachers go about harnessing existing student interest and communicate Hewer’s message within a tight schedule of existing planning?
One option is for schools to take part in the Fairtrade School Awards, which combines whole-school activities − such as fundraising, inviting guest speakers for assemblies and serving Fairtrade food in canteens − with classroom learning. The result is that the school will achieve Fairtrade School status, a badge already held by more than 1,350 schools in the UK.
The Foundation’s Education Campaigns Manager Joanna Milis suggests that holding a Fairtrade bakesale party could be a first step towards achieving this award.
“The lessons surrounding the bakesale will help students to understand where food comes from and how much we rely on farmers,” Milis explains.
“It’s a brilliant way to introduce pupils to Fairtrade because they get to put what they have learnt into practice, demonstrating that the personal choices we make do have an impact and that what we buy might mean a child on the other side of the world gets an education.”