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.Developing citizenship and
Increasing pupil participation.

This is the final Case Study of five during the 2002-03 session. The two themes that it illustrates are Citizenship and Increasing Pupil Participation. It describes the making of a film and a teaching pack that explore the concept of Citizenship and the skills and understanding that underpin its development. The key players in the production were a class of P7 pupils and their two job-share teachers (Clare Harker and Geraldine Smith) in Holmlea Primary School, in the City of Glasgow. They were very ably assisted in the project by the Baldy Bane Theatre Company and Soundsmove Film Facilities. The account makes it plain that the final highly successful outcome was not won easily. Many hard lessons were learned on the way. However, the products were more than a film. The process of producing it enabled the development of flexible working, imagination, greater social cohesion in class and an awareness of what it takes to realise potential. The project was funded through the EA and the P7 venture was encouraged by the whole school community.

This Case Study was published by the Scottish Schools Ethos Network.

Contact for this Case Study
Holmlea Primary School
HT: Elizabeth McSheffrey
Holmlea Road
Cathcart
Glasgow G44 4BBY
Tel: 0141 637 3989
Fax: 0141 637 6877
Email: headteacher@holmlea-pri.glasgow.sch.uk


Introduction

Holmlea 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.

Like 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.

The 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.

This 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.

We 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 'Citizenship'.

This evolved into a fifteen minute film, a ten minute documentary for teachers, a teachers' book and CD ROM with resources.

The 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 own learning.

'The Sorting Basket' and Developing Collaboration

If 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 and skills.

To 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.

Running 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 and needs.

Guest speakers were involved, our local MSP and representatives from a variety of organisations including Amnesty International.

The children developed confidence in communicating with adults as well as understanding better about what it takes to become a better citizen.

This 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 matters too!

Another 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.

 

 

Picture 1: Head Teacher and P7 pupils outside Glasgow Film Theatre on the day of the premiere.

 

 

 

 

"Everyone wants to be a good citizen but not everyone is. Primary 7 at Holmlea Primary School has made a film on why and how we can become better citizens".
P7 pupil

 

 

 

 

"Our first speaker was from Amnesty International. Although doing work for Amnesty as a volunteer he is also a fireman. The main subjects he talked about were torture and human rights. Torture is a big issue and Amnesty found out that 132 countries are guilty of torture. The UK was guilty of some things".
P7 pupil

 

 

 

 

Amnesty International Click to browse!
Glasgow Film Theatre Click to browse!
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Click to browse!
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