There are no losers in the game of citizenship

15th June 2012 at 01:00

This week the Olympic torch has been uniting communities across Scotland, throughout the UK, and across the globe with Athens. If there was any sense that the Scots felt distant from the Olympics in London, it has been dispelled over the past few days, as crowds gathered in town and village streets to support the torchbearers and cheer them on their way.

Schools have played their part, not just the pupils and teachers who were invited to join the relay, but whole school communities that were inspired by the spirit of the Games. From the 240 pupils and 25 staff of Madras College who re-enacted the famous Chariots of Fire run along the West Sands of St Andrews (page 25), to the 500 S1 and P7 pupils from Queen Anne High and its 13 associated primaries who worked for nine months towards their own Cluster Olympics (pages 18-21), people have shared their ideas for celebrations.

These have fitted perfectly with the new collaborative ways of working across schools and sectors in Curriculum for Excellence. They have also helped to nurture the type of citizenship and belonging that Henry Maitles, professor of education at the University of the West of Scotland, describes in this week's News Focus (pages 12-15) when he says citizenship education in Scotland is "all pervasive": "It's not just something that you learn about - it's something that you live."

Scotland came out well in the recent National Foundation for Educational Research survey of 18- to 25-year-olds on citizenship education, compared with England and Wales, apparently because it is not just treated as a subject here, but "infuses" the curriculum. The Scots gave more to charity, were more likely to belong to a political party, feel part of Europe, and trust their family or other people the same age; they also felt more a part of their local town and their country than the English.

But the same citizenship education is not without its critics at home. It's not enough to raise money for charity; citizenship should look at the reasons for poverty, says Professor Maitles. It could do with paying more attention to the political dimensions, says Gert Biesta, professor of education at the University of Stirling. We have to be wary of teaching citizenship without values - the ethos of the school must demonstrate the principles you want to impress, says Gordon Downie, headteacher of Dumbarton Academy.

That ethos is crucial. It is the essence of the education community in which the children are brought up. It is the atmosphere created by the staff and the values they hand down to the pupils. It builds up over time and is relayed from one generation to the next. Break that continuity with constant changes of staff and you threaten the relationships that make the school (page 5)., Editor of the year (business and professional).

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