Citizenship - Making a difference

24th October 2008 at 01:00
Young people are speaking out and taking action on real issues through citizenship, says Liz Craft

At Newent Community School in Gloucestershire, pupils have been working with the county's police force to explore the issue of human trafficking. Year 9 pupils and officers leading Operation Pentameter 2 took part in a question time debate about the impact of human trafficking on people within the UK and other countries, including Thailand.

Pupils led the project, and after detailed investigation and discussion, developed a campaign to promote public understanding about human trafficking and its consequences. They used their research to design publicity materials for use at airports, including accessible information for victims translated into different languages. The children then shared their findings with those in authority at the police, from industry and the wider community.

With continued support from the police, pupils are now talking to Birmingham International Airport and the European Parliament about using their campaign more widely. "Just knowing that I helped raise awareness and maybe helped a victim makes me feel proud," says Ellie, a 14-year-old pupil at Newent.

"I feel I have made a difference because the ideas we have shown are being taking seriously," adds Bethany, Year 9.

The new citizenship curriculum gives increased flexibility, allowing teachers to respond to the interests and needs of pupils. It ensures all pupils get opportunities to take part in different kinds of citizenship learning. Teachers focus on developing citizenship skills of critical thinking, inquiry, research, active citizenship, advocacy and debate. They also deepen pupils' understanding of the new key concepts of democracy, justice, rights, responsibilities, identities and diversity.

Designing compelling learning experiences enables pupils to take ownership of their learning and the selection of some issues for exploration and action.

Jane Steele, the head of Newent Community School, says: "No one can argue that teaching pupils about what is going on in the world is not important, be it the problems facing people in Burma or what is happening in communities locally.

"We want to prepare our pupils to participate in society as active and responsible citizens. So we ensure they have opportunities through citizenship lessons to develop their understanding and skills and take action."

And Di Harrill, head of citizenship at Newent, believes the subject is giving pupils a new sense of confidence and conviction that what they say and do can make a difference. "For our pupils, citizenship matters," she says.

Liz Craft is curriculum adviser with responsibility for citizenship at QCA. The new curriculum is available online at www.qca.org.ukcurriculum.

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