Teenagers take media to task for 'hoodie' stereotype

14th March 2008 at 00:00
Last term, a series of DVDs dropped through the letterboxes of the BBC and several local and national newspapers. They contained films of teenage black pupils going into local shops and being discriminated against because of the way they looked and the clothes they wore.

The DVDs were sent out by pupils at Deptford Green School who wanted to challenge the media on the "hoody" stereotype they had created and show how it affected real lives.

The idea came from Ben Hammond, joint head of citizenship at the south London secondary.

"It's about learning who is responsible for the way society functions and the views society holds," he says.

It is also one way of teaching the new topic of identities and diversity: living together. All secondaries in England and Wales must cover it from September. Billed inaccurately by ministers as being about British values, it is actually much broader and makes up one third of the new citizenship curriculum.

It will be vital in helping pupils to develop self-confidence and enterprising behaviour, engage in decision-making and deal successfully with life challenges - all required under the "making a positive contribution" goal of Every Child Matters.

But Chris Waller, from the Association for Citizenship Teaching, warns that with a shortage of resources and a majority of citizenship teachers lacking formal training in the subject, many will struggle.

Mr Hammond is in an enviable position. His department of three is fully trained and has pioneered citizenship lessons, the brainchild of Sir Keith Ajegbo, former head of the Lewisham school.

He starts the year with discrete lessons on key citizenship skills. Pupils are taught how to debate, presenting balanced arguments, empathy and expressing viewpoints other than their own.

Mr Hammond tries to help pupils understand their community and the forces that shape it by inviting speakers to the school and using what they say as a springboard for exploring local identity.

Cultural evenings are held - again involving the local community - which allow pupils to learn about and share each other's cultures through food and practical arts workshops.

Most importantly, he believes, he aims to empower pupils to "take action to influence and change their communities, to place their voices and identities within it".

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