Citizenship: Bringing global issues into the classroom

Community involvement: Hilary Wilce looks at the exciting new projects that will benefit students and their communities
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The Independent Online

Citizenship teaching is not a classroom science. Pupils need to get actively involved in social and community activities if they are to learn at first hand what being a citizen is all about, and the new curriculum explicitly asks schools to make sure this happens.

Citizenship teaching is not a classroom science. Pupils need to get actively involved in social and community activities if they are to learn at first hand what being a citizen is all about, and the new curriculum explicitly asks schools to make sure this happens.

For many schools this is like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs. Tens of thousands of pupils already actively engage in community service, whether by doing the shopping for an elderly person, or tending a communal garden. They follow Duke of Edinburgh award schemes, belong to environmental clubs, help organise school events, and raise money to help children in the developing world.

But the new citizenship curriculum brings exciting opportunities to look afresh at this area and consider the thousands of different ways students can get involved.

For example, young people in Southwark recently contributed to discussions about how the London borough should distribute its £560m budget. They examined the financial and legal constraints on the council, and delivered suggestions ranging from investing in improved tax collection and saving money on leisure provision, to allocating more money for asylum-seekers.

In Stoke-on-Trent, a group of pupils launched a community newspaper for 2,500 local homes, covering topics from football to an interview with the local MP. In Warrington, a school arranged a Citizenship Day, involving the mayor and the local courts, while primary schoolchildren in Newcastle got involved with talking to architects about play provision, and students in Maidstone mounted a campaign to improve the working conditions of factory workers in El Salvador.

All these and many more examples of good community involvement can be found on the website of the Citizenship Foundation ( www.citfou.org.uk), which offers a wide range of resources for citizenship teachers.

Meanwhile, Community Service Volunteers has drawn on its long experience of managing volunteer projects to publish on its website a checklist for schools wanting to ensure that any community involvement they set up is on a sound basis, with good planning and implementation, and clear goals for students.

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