Primary School is a non-denominational school situated
in the south side of Glasgow. The school has 180 pupils
representing a very diverse range of cultures, socio-economic
backgrounds, abilities and needs. There are ten teaching
staff, (including two management posts and two job-share
teachers), two full-time class assistants, two part
time SEN auxiliaries and two clerical assistants. The
school has a nursery class, overseen by the Depute Head.
many schools, Holmlea is undergoing a process of change,
recognising that concepts such as ethos, self-esteem,
citizenship and inclusion form an integral part of the
curriculum. In many ways these are prerequisites to
successful learning and their development in primary
age children will form a strong foundation on which
to build the communities of the future.
school is steadily trying to build and develop all areas
of the school community to encompass these concepts,
for example, introducing a buddy system, developing
a pupil council, looking at ways of improving home-school
communication, and setting up paired reading and writing.
We have learned that, while it is crucial, the process
of change is slow and requires long-term commitment.
Also we must address our failures while celebrating
our successes, however small.
specific project was developed by the primary 7 class
and its two job-share teachers. The class has 31 pupils
(fifteen boys and sixteen girls) with a diverse range
of abilities, talents and skills. The dynamic of the
class was, generally, challenging in terms of behaviour,
social skills and motivation. The project was devised
as a vehicle by which we would improve these and give
the children a real context within which they could
develop citizenship skills in the classroom.
have found that if the children work within a real context
towards a common outcome there is more opportunity for
inclusive practices where everyone is involved and seen
to be of equal value. The children understand that the
success of the outcome depends on the participation
and co-operation of everyone in class. Projects must
evolve in response to the children's ideas as opposed
to being teacher-led. With this in mind, and the exploration
of citizenship and community development in our programme
of work, the class came up with the idea of making a
film, a short ten minute drama, written and produced
by P7 with the aim of teaching other children about
evolved into a fifteen minute film, a ten minute documentary
for teachers, a teachers' book and CD ROM with resources.
whole process took six months from the initial proposal
to the premiere in a Glasgow Cinema (see picture 1).
It was a tough journey, necessitating the securing of
funding, enlisting the help of professionals and having
faith in the ability of children to be masters of their
Sorting Basket' and Developing Collaboration
the children were to produce something together then
they had to learn to collaborate better - this was not
one of the class's noted strengths. We explored the
meanings of collaboration and co-operation with them.
Quickly it became clear that the children did not respond
well to small group situations in which they felt 'manipulated',
perceiving (correctly) that we grouped in certain ways
for certain purposes, behavioural, academic or social.
To counteract this and develop flexibility in working
with others we decided to group the class randomly,
putting the names in a hat, or 'sorting basket' as we
called it, and drawing them out 'blind'. The rule was
that we stuck to whatever groups came out and the children
accepted this even if disappointment or delight showed
sometimes. They very quickly got to know each other
and understand and appreciate each other's strengths
develop collaboration skills we set up a number of group
tasks in most areas across the curriculum. Feedback
to the class emphasised group performance and achievement
and individual contributions to the larger group effort
and the class very quickly got the message that they
rose or fell by collaboration and group outcomes.
concurrently with this skills-based approach was a programme
of work designed to develop knowledge and understanding
of citizenship. The children explored various topics
through units of study written by the teachers to address
the Glasgow City Council learning outcomes on Citizenship.
Topics included: Our Community, Rights and Responsibility,
Government and Law, UN Convention on the Rights of the
Child and Effecting Change. We had already decided that
one of the central aims of the project was that it had
to be child-led. The units were flexible and lessons
evolved in response to the children's level of interest
speakers were involved, our local MSP and representatives
from a variety of organisations including Amnesty International.
children developed confidence in communicating with
adults as well as understanding better about what it
takes to become a better citizen.
stage of the project took about three months to develop
fully. There were good and bad days. The frustration
of a project like this is that the children can give
thought-provoking and inspiring responses that make
teachers feel as if they are finally getting somewhere,
then everything collapses after, for instance, a childish
playground fight over who is first in the line. As job-share
class teachers we sometimes went home feeling we had
aimed too high. Luckily we have each other and the wider
staff team and Head Teacher for support - teacher self-esteem
difficulty was that the P7 pupils were apparently being
given so many privileges and extra in-put. We had been
given the full support of the Head Teacher who had faith
that the project could be achieved at the same time
as raising standards both academically and behaviourally.
Consequently, when the children misbehaved or worked
less well, we became defensive of the child-led ideas
and techniques. We actually became almost over-demanding
of high standards, feeling that children's lapses let
us and the project down, as well as themselves. To redress
the balance, we learned to focus on the successes of
each individual member of the class. What were they
achieving? What was going well? Who was really helping
whom? As teachers we tend to look at negatives, instead
of focusing on the positives in class. We concentrated
on what worked and this helped us to celebrate the children's
and our own successes throughout the year.