What the inspectors saw - Good practice by Ofsted

26th October 2012 at 01:00

Citizenship days: Mossbourne Community Academy

In brief

Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney complements a cross-curricular approach to teaching citizenship by holding special off-timetable days for the entire school.

The project

It is not unusual for schools to hold an off-timetable day, where every class takes a break from normal subject lessons to focus on a theme.

However, Mossbourne has been singled out for praise by Ofsted for the way it uses these days to encourage its pupils to become active citizens. The school holds four such days each year, three focused on citizenship and one on PSHE.

The academy's pastoral team plans the topics, using their knowledge of the issues facing their pupils. One of the citizenship days held this year, for example, focused primarily on democracy and justice.

Paul Jenkins, then subject leader for citizenship and PSHE, planned the details, arranging visits from external speakers and theatre groups.

At key stage 3, students worked on both topics, covering systems of government, and identity and diversity, including learning about refugees and migration. Year 10s focused on human rights and taking action, and Year 11s worked on the theme of identity and diversity, considering "Britishness".

Teachers encourage pupils to take an approach the school calls "Issue, Action, Change", which was developed with staff at a training event. Pupils first consider the background to an issue and the theories around it, then what actions they can take, individually or collectively, to bring about change. The problems they explore can have global, national or local implications.

After the riots of the summer of 2011, Year 7 pupils considered concerns in their neighbourhood, and how their local community in Hackney might be made safer for everyone. They also identified the contributions that individuals might make to bring about change.

Tips for successful off-timetable days in Mossbourne's experience include:

Arrange the days around other school events, avoiding busy periods for staff and pupils.

Secure external speakers early.

Maintain high expectations for pupils' learning and involvement - off-timetable days are the same as every other school day.

Don't put all curriculum days on the same day of the week.

Consider the implications of teachers being with their groups all day - for example, senior leaders could take over duties to ensure that staff have breaks and lunchtimes free.

Provide back-up resources in the event of external visitors being unable to attend.

Signs of success

Large numbers of pupils at the school take part in community action, and the off-timetable days have helped to get them more involved in the student council. More than 50 pupils from Year 11 joined in the first of the government's National Citizen Service projects last year. The feedback from pupils and teachers about the off-timetable days has been highly positive. One pupil says: "You get to work with people in the class that you don't really know and it builds good relationships with them, which I like."

What the inspectors said

"Mossbourne Community Academy successfully promotes and encourages students' active citizenship and positive contribution to the school and wider community. The off-timetable days provide good opportunities to explore new ideas using all the school's facilities and external experts."

Read the full Ofsted good practice case study at bit.lyIE6uf4

The School

Name: Mossbourne Community Academy, Hackney, London

Type: 11-18 academy

Number of pupils: Around 1,080

Intake: A very high proportion of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic minority groups and an above-average proportion who speak English as an additional language.

Ofsted overall rating: Outstanding (2010).

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