Martin Whittaker visits a development education centre which encourages a wider perspective on citizenship
To young people in Birmingham, the recent history of Ulster - the Peace Process, the annual Orange Order parades, and the ongoing crisis over political power -must all seem little more than remote items hidden among occasional news bulletins. Yet Birmingham has painful associations with the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Thirty years ago it was the scene of one of the worst terrorist atrocities in mainland Britain, when an IRA bomb ripped through a city pub, killing 21 people and injuring 160.
Now the lessons learned by a group of West Midlands teachers while on a fact-finding visit to Northern Ireland are proving a valuable resource for teaching citizenship.
The group visited Belfast and Derry, and spoke to a range of people from Nationalist and Loyalist communities who are striving to help those communities to live together. From this visit, they wrote their own resource pack called "Building new citizenship - learning from change in DerryLondonderry."
Dennis Edwards, who teaches history and citizenship at Hamstead Hall School in Birmingham, took part in the project. He says exploring the key issues in a city like Derry, regarded as a microcosm of the Troubles, helps his pupils look at citizenship from a new perspective. The resource includes exercises on exploring identity in our own community, and issues of local politics and policing.
Hamstead Hall has a high proportion of Sikh pupils and Dennis Edwards says he has used the resource to debate the cultural identity of British Asians with Year 10 students, and to draw parallels with the divided communities and race riots in Oldham and Burnley.
The unusual idea of a group of teachers going to Derry to create a curriculum resource came about through an educational charity called Tide (Teachers in Development Education).
Tide brings together teachers from throughout the West Midlands, to look at new ways of teaching in response to the changes and challenges of increasing globalisation.
Launched in 1975, the organisation grew from a partnership with the charity Oxfam and aimed to engage teachers in development issues. With citizenship and sustainability now firmly on the Government's agenda for schools, Tide's remit has shifted to make it a focal point of a network for teachers to exchange ideas, build and tap into resources and access professional development.
Earlier this year, Tide moved into a suite of offices in Birmingham's Millennium Point, which also houses the Youth Parliament and the University of the First Age. The new Tide Centre, opened by Clare Short MP in February, operates as a source of inspiration and ideas for schools, a well-stocked bookshop, and venue for meetings, workshops and courses.
Teachers can also take part in curriculum projects focused around four themes -place, interdependence and citizenship; sustainable development; identity, diversity and citizenship; and global dimensions at key stage 1.
In the latter, teachers have developed thinking about global dimensions with young children using stories, drama and role play, and Tide has published draft materials.
Centre director Scott Sinclair says: "Kids are growing up in an increasingly globalised society in every sense - economically, politically, environmentally. To not address that in their education is to fail them educationally."
The centre encourages teachers to take part in projects which explore ideas of citizenship from different perspectives and other places, hence the trip to Derry. There have been a host of other projects researched and written by teachers. One, "Cities and Citizenship", uses cities as a context for exploring citizenship and development issues. Another, "Towards Ubuntu", is aimed at student teachers and explores themes relating to democratic citizenship, using South Africa as a case study. There is also a resource booklet on Citizenship and Muslim Perspectives.
Scott Sinclair believes one of the strengths of the centre is that teachers feel they have a genuine partnership in it. He says it is helping students to understand their own lives and communities by looking at other places in the real world. "We are not offering a prescription for global citizenship," he says. "Our argument is that global citizenship is good quality local citizenship. You cannot understand your own local citizenship without understanding it in its global context."
Dennis Edwards of Hamstead Hall School says: "I have taught in the same place for 28 years, and you can get stale. If you take on board Tide's projects, it brings a whole new perspective on how you teach."
* For further information about Teachers in Development Education contact: Tide Centre, GO4 Millennium Point, Curzon Street, Birmingham, B4 7XG Tel: 0121 202 3290