Citizenship

5th January 2001 at 00:00
THE JUNIOR CITIZENSHIP VIDEOS. Two videos plus handbook pound;37.74 (incl VAT + pamp;p). Team Video Productions, 105 Canalot Studios, 222 Kensal Road, London W10 5BNTel: 020 8960 5536 Fax: 020 8960 9784.

CHILDREN AS PARTNERS IN PLANNING. Save the Children pound;15 from Plymbridge Distributors. Tel: 01752 202301.

Following the recent widespread media dismissal of Francine Britton's textbook Active Citizenship as psychobabble, it looks as if the producers of citizenship resources will be under a great deal of scrutiny as the subject settles into the curriculum.

The Junior Citizenship Videos and Children as Partners in Planning are two resources which will probably escape criticism. With Junior Citizenship, each tape comprises two dozen short films demonstrating a range of ways in which primary children can learn about citizenship through involvement in their school.

The accents on the videos are broadly representative, coming from central Scotland, the West Country and south London. The first video shows the work of school councils. We are shown the electoral mechanisms - manifestos, ballots, declarations - and the friendly but formal seriousness with which these are carried out. We also see the councils in action and hear members, pupils and teachers, reflect on their purpose and effectiveness. Questions that arise naturally - Should the franchise be extended to the nursery? Are articulate children inequitably favoured? - mirror issues that arise n adult life. This is a well-produced insight into democratic procedure.

The second video covers more regular occasions on which children can show their mature participation in school life. Some are seen taking part in circle times or operating a buddy system for younger pupils. Others are overheard implementing a mediation scheme or taking on running the tuck shop, acting as office administrators during lunch or learning first aid.

The accompanying handbook is useful in helping the teacher devise ways of using the video for discussions with classes and for staff development. But the most effective advocates for these excellent films are the young citizens themselves, whose dignity and seriousness speak with their own eloquence.

The booklet Children as Partners in Planning lacks the immediate appeal of speech and gesture, but is another useful contribution to crossing generation barriers. It focuses on activities in early years centres and out-of-school clubs and is particularly intended for those who work in them.

Through a mixture of case studies and training schemes, it outlines imaginative ways in which adults can help children contribute to the greater good. Examples range from designing a graffiti wall to choosing food for teatime. Like the videos, it makes a persuasive appeal to our better natures, to our sense that the productive connection of rights and responsibilities is more than a visionary fancy.

Tom Deveson


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