Royton and Crompton School's citizenship education project developed innovative ways to help young people to get more involved in community life and be active citizens. They added practical elements to their citizenship curriculum to achieve positive results for their students.
The Royton and Crompton School (RCS) in Oldham, Manchester realised there was a lack of a practical element in their citizenship education. Yet for citizenship education to be effective in increasing political engagement, providing young people with the maximum exposure to experiences and processes is necessary. This is of particular importance if local communities are to improve social capital and young people are to make a positive contribution to this.
What they did
Since May 2010, RCS been developing their citizenship program to enable their students to gain new skills, insights and understanding of processes and issues that affect them, or issues that they have an impact on. They have taken their students on two trips, and brought in special guests in order to add to the citizenship education they already provide.
The council organised Young Voices Conference was an opportunity for students from different schools to meet each other, to talk about ways in which their area could be made safer, and decide which leisure facilities they most value and need in their area.
Students had the chance to vote on potential changes that could be made, thus directing funding, and helping them to interact with processes designed for them to have an influence. Any resulting actions will be fed back at the following year's conference, giving the students the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of those changes.
Oxfam Global Citizenship Conference
This conference gave students the opportunity to find out about how other people live, and how third world countries deal with natural disasters. The young people now have the opportunity to plan an assembly to raise awareness among their fellow students.
Member of Parliament visits
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Oldham and Sandwell Michael Meacher attended the school as part of the 'Send my friend to school campaign'. He also did a ‘day in the life' style workshop with some gifted and talented pupils.
Former Oldham and Sandwell MP Phil Woolas attended a school fete and met with its attendees. This was aimed at ‘humanising' the MP through the opportunity to meet him.
A local educational theatre group also performed to some of the older students on the issues around driving.
Outcomes and impacts
The trips and visits have provided a well-rounded programme, helping students to:
- engage with local and global issues and increase their awareness of the problems faced in the developing world, and how decisions are made locally
- gain insight into who their representatives in parliament are
- gain first-hand experience of the democratic processes that they will soon be encouraged to get involved in, hear about how things work and also be immersed in it.
- develop opinions and ideas and real practical insight into what they learn in citizenship lessons
- think of ways in which they can have a positive impact on their community
- improve their confidence, personal and interpersonal skills.
This in turn has affected the ways in which they contribute to their school community, and their understanding of how to bring about change in their local community and physical environment. The young people are a great resource, with opinions, ideas and energy to bring to improving the area, as can be seen in this quote from one young person:
"I think they need to change the image of these things, because people sometimes think its geeky, changing the image will mean hearing from more, and different people."
The pupils have given feedback, particularly through school council meetings, and have plans to present the insights that they gained during visits to conferences to update the school. The pupils are all very positive about the impact that the extra activities have had on them:
"I have gained confidence from having to talk to people from different schools."
"The people who were holding it seemed really interested in what we had to say, so that also made it easy for us to put our views out."
"it is important to get involved in your community because if you do an activity or you help outside of school, it will encourage more people to do it."
" It made me want to help people who don't have the same advantages that I do"
The citizenship coordinator at Royton and Crompton also had some ideas of which benefits the students gained.
"With the youth voice event, I don't think they [the students] realized how money is dished out and divvied or the choices that decision makers need to make to do that. They felt empowered by their voices being heard. They felt that they were making a difference in the community"
"They got the opportunity to meet an MP and find out about what they actually do. It's better than a lesson just trying to teach about MP's, it's real life, talking from experience."
Enabling students to take up opportunities to link better into their community, and have an impact is important to widening their learning about the concepts key to the citizenship curriculum, including themes of democracy, voting and politics.
Jayne Quayle, Citizenship Coordinator at Royton and Crompton School, stated that it is important to have a practical element to citizenship because it serves as an "eye opener" to students.
Most challenges came in the form of practicalities that needed to be observed. Risk assessments using a very specific framework come at the cost of time, as did administrative and organisational tasks, such as distributing consent forms and ensuring that there is a minibus and driver qualified to drive it. It becomes easier with experience however.