Citizenship & Enterprise in Primary and Secondary Schools - Brett Kingsnorth
WHERE IS CITIZENSHIP AT
Teaching Citizenship in schools encourages students to think outside the box, have analytical and enquiring minds and develop an enterprising attitude that can prepare them for life in the real world. However, too often citizenship lessons focus narrowly on giving students specific knowledge rather than giving them the skills to apply this knowledge through active participation and real life examples. Yet, by bringing citizenship and enterprise together and the subject matter can be brought to life and this problem can be solved.
Citizenship is at a crossroads. The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulations and the Department for Education both produced reports that focus on students gaining a deeper knowledge and understanding of citizenship so they can pass their exams. While they consider citizenship as an important part of the curriculum, this leaves less of a focus on the explicit life skills being taught. Citizenship should equip students with a greater knowledge of democracy and government, but I think that it should also offer real life experiences and enterprising life skills, such as teamwork, leadership and negotiating that will help students beyond their schooling.
Over the past three years I’ve had the opportunity to lecture many trainee Citizenship teachers who relish the challenge of not just teaching students a set of facts but to bring the learning to life with links to the real world through studying the topics that affect them and their communities. Citizenship is all about empowering students through an awareness of their rights and responsibilities and helping them to realise the important role they can play in influencing their own communities and society for the better.
THE NEW 9-1GCSE CITIZENSHIP
Recently the Government has made a clear commitment to Citizenship by retaining its National Curriculum status ensuring all students have an entitlement to be taught it. In 2018 the first cohort of the new 9-1 full course GCSE citizenship will collect their results this summer whilst their teachers (like me) will wait with baited breath to see how well they have coped with the loss of coursework and renewed focus on exam technique. It is great to see many more teachers adopted to deliver these new qualifications in citizenship and I hope that more teachers see this as a great way to encourage students to get excited about their learning.
BRINGING LEARNING TO LIFE
To bring learning to life in citizenship lesson I found that project based learning approaches can really engage students in their learning. Back in my classroom, students re-created a United Nations summit to resolve the escalating situation in Syria. Students worked in teams to represent their country’s best interests and learned not only about the role of the UN but the skills of critical thinking, analysing information, negotiation and presenting findings to inform a persuasive debate. This worked well because all students wanted to participate and they learnt many enterprising skills including how to be an effective leader, work well as a team and realise that people have different strengths within a team.
MY EXPERIENCES AND ADVICE
I see the great value in embedding enterprise into citizenship lessons, and learning beyond the traditional classroom based approach. Recently, I’ve seen Bridge Academy, in East London host a Challenge Day called ‘Social Entrepreneur’ where students over the course of the day, work in teams to develop entrepreneurial solutions to social problems that need tackling in their own communities. The day encourages students to become informed members of their own community able to take responsible actions to bring about change. Their learning is brought to life and they have real purpose in what they are doing. It is encouraging to see how citizenship can add real value to the curriculum and to see how many great enterprise projects are going on across the UK that are helping students learn about citizenship.
I believe Enterprise and Citizenship sit naturally together, providing essential enterprising lifelong skills that will help all students to progress further regardless of their ability or background. These subjects help to boost young peoples’ confidence, encourage them to aim high and develop resilience along the way. Importantly, citizenship and enterprise learning can give students essential life skills as well as a sense of responsibility about the community they live in.
Brett Kingsnorth is Head of PSHE, Citizenship and Careers at a large London Secondary School. Citizenship and PSHE Consultant working with schools in South west London. Director of Cre8tive Resources.
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