Unexpected rewards for little helpers

29th June 2007 at 01:00
An ethos of acting for the greater good has seen one primary scoop two class and 15 individual awards

HELPING OTHERS often brings rewards, but awards are more unusual. However, 15 P7 pupils at St Philomena's Primary in Glasgow's East End have just received certificates for their "inspirational qualities and commitment to others".

It hasn't always been easy, says 11-year-old Ross O'Brien: "I'm the road safety officer, so I tell them about the Green Cross Code. It's hard.

They're no' interested."

Receptive or not, younger pupils at St Philomena's benefit greatly from the efforts of the older pupils.

"I collect fruit that people deliver to school and put it in baskets," says Ryan Quail. "Then I take it round the classes."

Ryan holds up his certificate and reads: "has taken on additional roles and responsibilities and carried these out in an organised manner". What this means, among other things, he explains, is that "I don't just barge into classes. I chap the door and make sure it's OK."

Launched in 1999, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Awards celebrate commitment, compassion and service to others by 12- to 18-year-olds. This is demonstrated through their "contribution to and impact on their schools, communities and society".

Nominated by Claire Harvey, headteacher at St Philomena's, both the P6 and P7 classes won awards, while selected P7 pupils gained individual certificates for a wide range of additional efforts.

"We wanted it to be for individuals who had gone the extra mile," says Mrs Harvey. "They weren't working to get awards and nobody knew I'd put them forward. Today is a big surprise."

Besides school ethos, the foundation behind the clutch of awards was a project called Build Our Skills. Senior pupils can opt into it, and the majority do. There are voluntary activities, such as buddying, class monitoring, library duties and gardening. They must also take part in an after-school club.

"Nowadays children dip into things," says Mrs Harvey. "We wanted to teach them the confidence to try something different and the commitment to stick at it."

Shannon McGlyn, 11, has taken this to heart, attending after-school clubs in gardening, dance, golf and African drumming. She won an award for her concern for the environment and "because she always volunteers to help others".

"I get told that's important at home and school," Shannon says. "I'm the chairperson of the school eco-committee, and I just got the phone call to say we are getting our second Green Flag."

The pupils support a number of charities, explains award-winner Ross Simpson. "We raise money for the nuns and the homeless, and we're helping Malawi right now.

"We've managed to refurbish 10 classrooms there and we got a water fountain put in, so they could get a drink at break. At Christmas we sent over a container with chairs, tables, pencils, rubbers, books, clothes and toiletries."

Paul Martin MSP has been kept busy by St Philomena's. As well as presenting the awards, he acted on a petition put together by Ryan Wilson, another award-winner, to provide computers for the local community centre.

"It was Ryan's idea," says Mrs Harvey. "He has really matured this year.

All the pupils have. You can just see them blossoming."

* www.diana-award.org.uk

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