“It is good to be different because you can learn things from each other,” says Jack, age 7. Jack and his friends at Churchdown Village Infant School may only be at the beginning of their primary education, but they are already learning all about inclusion and identity, thanks to the Connecting Classrooms programme.
Churchdown Village Infant School is in rural Gloucestershire, England and has 180 pupils aged four to seven. It has links with schools in other countries and has held the International School Award for over ten years.
The school wanted to focus on citizenship to develop pupils’ understanding of their place in the world and what it means to be a good citizen, and to contribute to society in a positive way.
Through the Connecting Classrooms programme, the Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher attended the Citizenship core skills training. The Citizenship course is one of the six core skills championed by the British Council, to help prepare young people for life and work in a global economy.
The school decided to teach citizenship explicitly as part of the SMSC (Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural) curriculum and introduced weekly whole-school citizenship assemblies. All the teaching staff worked together to plan a series of activities, designed to help pupils understand what it is to be a good citizen.
They began by encouraging pupils to think about their own identity and why ‘I’m happy that I’m me’. They explored the children’s similarities and differences in a whole-school assembly, discussed the good points about both sameness and difference and identified the qualities of friends. Activities included watching video clips, singing and writing. They used role play in an assembly to explore how difference can make someone feel excluded and discussed how the pupils might react.
They went on to look at rights, wants and needs, and set up a citizenship display in the school hall. They shared the project with the wider community through exhibitions, local news and the school website.
As a result, pupils are more aware of stereotypes and prejudices, which has helped to break down barriers between different groups and increased the involvement of pupils with specific educational needs. They are also more aware of other people, other countries, and their rights, needs and wants.
Staff now have a better understanding of how to teach young children about being good citizens. The school has shared practice with local schools and their international partners. This has enabled everyone to develop a better understanding of different cultures and to promote tolerance.