Not just a load of old bananas

28th September 2007 at 01:00
Pupils in Motherwell are taking Fairtrade so seriously, they even check up on their parents' shopping. Miranda Fettes reports.

People in Motherwell have been pulled up for their shopping habits by children at a local school.

Pupils at St Brendan's Primary have been telling their families and members of the community why they should buy Fairtrade products.

It began in 2004, when the school invited a speaker from the Fairtrade Foundation to talk to the children to mark the movement's 10th birthday. The pupils compiled a Fairtrade recipe book and held a coffee morning selling homemade baking made with fairly traded ingredients. Then, in January 2005, the school decided to respond to an appeal in a newsletter from the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, encouraging schools to become Fairtrade establishments.

"We fulfilled most of the criteria, so we thought we'd go for it," explains teacher Marion O'Hara. "We had to have a Fairtrade tuck shop, a whole-school policy and a commitment to use Fairtrade tea and coffee at all times. We also had to promote Fairtrade within the wider community."

In June that year, the school was awarded the Fairtrade award through SCIAF and the Fairtrade Foundation. Last year, it received its second Fairtrade award. "You have to reapply for it each year," she says.

The children's work promoting Fairtrade products, which ensure a fair deal for producers in developing countries, has promoted responsible and active citizenship in the wider community, says Mrs O'Hara.

The project has encouraged the pupils to think about the products they buy, to become responsible, informed consumers and to consider the consequences of their actions even something as simple as buying a box of teabags.

She hopes learning about Fairtrade will help the children to develop a social conscience and raise their awareness of fair wages, fair working conditions, poverty, equality and social justice.

"The Co-op has a fabulous school pack with a DVD in it, with video clips of the growers," she says. It also provides a meaningful context for global education.

The school celebrates Fairtrade fortnight every year in FebruaryMarch, involving children from other schools and inviting everybody in the community to its coffee mornings. Some pupils wanted to find out what the local supermarket would be doing for Fairtrade fortnight and what Fairtrade goods it stocked.

"My group set up a tasting stall in Asda," says Mrs O'Hara. "They asked people to sign a community pledge to buy Fairtrade goods where possible, so they're educating the community about being responsible consumers. This year the children sent out parent pledges."

The children have also influenced buying criteria in the local authority. "They wrote to the person in charge of catering and purchasing at North Lanarkshire, asking them to buy Fairtrade bananas wherever possible for their healthy snack. That's a fair number of bananas."

A Fairtrade committee meets once a term to plan future events. The school has also published a book of poems by the children about Fairtrade, several of which the Fairtrade Foundation plans to publish on its new website.

"Parents are saying their children are asking, when they go to a supermarket, if the teabags they're buying are Fairtrade," says Mrs O'Hara. "One of the wee ones in P1 came into school and announced 'I'm wearing Fairtrade pants' made from Fairtrade cotton."

During the last Fairtrade fortnight, a group of children visited the Fairtrade Experience, an exhibition at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. "It was very enlightening," she says. "They discovered there were a number of adults who weren't aware of Fairtrade. I was really proud watching and listen-ing to them explaining to adults about Fairtrade.

"I think we have made a difference in the local community. Even just talking to parents can influence a lot of people. I'm very proud of the fact that the children have this awareness. I hope they will become responsible adults."


For resources and information about Fairtrade and citizenship education, with games and ideas for assemblies, visit the Learning and Teaching Scotland website: citizenshipcreativeteaching topicalissuesfairtrade

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