Young citizens

16th April 1999 at 01:00
Chris Waller, community tutor at Mill Chase School near Petersfield, Hampshire, talks to Alan Combes about his school's citizenship programme Mill Chase, a rural comprehensive with about 860 pupils between 11 and 16, is served by seven feeder primaries. It has pupils from Irish, east and west European families. It also has a strong military connection.

How did your programme start?

A new head in 1990 started a PSE department with three dedicated staff. He believed that if cross-curricular themes and dimensions were important, they deserved to be taught in their own right.

Has it developed since?

We spend more time on it during Years 7 and 8 as some matters must be tackled early.

What is successful?

Bullying and developing relationships are what young people want to talk about. We take on the traditional myths which accompany transfer from junior to secondary. And we deal with bullying specifically. For example: here is a map of the school; where does bullying happen and where have you heard it happens? Are there any "no-go areas"? Where feels safe because teachers are present and where else should staff be? From there, we move on to rules and how we make them work. We get them to imagine a community transported to a deserted island and they have to devise a civic structure and laws; plus a topic where the pupils develop their own friendship games, which other pupils can use - for example, a card game with forfeits. Last July, the Year 7s created a brochure which was passed on to September's intake to help them settle in.

Are there practical projects?

We do a lot of work on human rights in a project run by Hampshire in which we join up with schools in Germany, France and Denmark. Through Years 7 to 10 we do work on homelessness and runaway children which becomes more specific in Year 11, when we will look at sexual, emotional and physical abuse of children. Often a "sleep out" night in May results from this work.

What does citizenship do for your pupils?

We hope it produces pupils who ask questions and know how to find help. We hope they can provide firm support for someone with problems, can empathise without pulling another person down or being trite. Our pupils are encouraged to see citizenship as a train journey which they should complete even if they do not always like the view out of the window.

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