Active in raising money and helping others
They have studied litter, identified with the scourge of graffiti and fought speeding drivers. Now the efforts of pupils from St Paul's High in Glasgow to improve life in and around their school have been recognised at the Scottish Education Awards where they received the Active Citizenship award.
A couple of years ago, St Paul's High in Glasgow, a School of Ambition, decided to overhaul personal and social education and replace it with active citizenship in S2. Now each class - there were nine last year - homes in on a local issue that means something to them and organises a campaign, with the aim of creating a cleaner, safer St Paul's.
One S2 class concentrated on litter (left). The pupils applied to the campaign group Clean Glasgow for a grant and made two short films highlighting the problems of littering with the help of the media production company Plantation Productions. The films were shown at assemblies to raise awareness.
Another group decided to put on a Christmas lunch for 40 local pensioners. They organised a venue, raised funds for the food and gave all those attending a gift.
A third class decided to clamp down on dog-fouling and a fourth investigated traffic problems. When the latter class carried out an in- school survey, they found that 100 per cent of respondents felt that cars were travelling dangerously fast on nearby Barrhead Road. Pupils formed a pressure group and persuaded councillors to hold a public consultation on lowering the limit to 30 miles per hour; speed warning signs have also been put in place.
Evanna Lynas, S2, said: "The speed limit is 40, but cars go faster than that. Our class thought the speed limit was too high, seeing as there are so many schools nearby. We are really chuffed that we have not just been ignored and people listened to what we had to say."
The St Paul's pupils were also involved in throwing an annual Christmas party for P3 pupils and producing a magazine and DVD for the P7 induction day.
At Advent and Lent, there are two major fundraising pushes across the school when every class is challenged to raise cash. "We always raise Pounds 1,000 to Pounds 1,500 at these times, which then goes to the charity of our choice," says Lisa Pierotti, the head.
Senior pupils lend a hand on S2 projects while working on their own. S4s and S5s constructed a sensory garden for the pupils at Howford School, who have mild learning difficulties, and the S3 xl group help out in Pollok Library once a week.
Sectarian and religious intolerance is tackled through a twinning programme with Lossiemouth High in Moray. The highlight for the S3 pupils is a four-day period when they attend the other school.
Andrea Mossie, faculty head of social subjects at St Paul's, says: "A lot of our pupils don't ever really go to the countryside or the coastal areas of Scotland, so to see a school with such a massive catchment area, where the kids have to be bussed in, is a real eye-opener, and then of course the Lossiemouth pupils visit an inner-city school.
"We wanted to raise awareness of different cultures and different ways of life so that our kids realise people are different, but essentially we are all the same."
Next year, the programme, which was started using Schools of Ambition money, may not run due to budget constraints. "We'll have to wait and see," says Ms Mossie.
An evaluation of the S2 active citizenship programme found that 69 per cent of pupils felt they had had an effect on their school, local or global communities. All of the less able pupils felt their confidence had grown as a result of it.
"It's amazing how it's taken off," says Ms Pierotti. "It's become the highlight for us all. It creates the perception in the young people that raising money and helping others is just what you do."