SCHOOLS IN THEIR COMMUNITIES:
TAKING ACTION AND DEVELOPING CIVIC LIFE
Dr Sebastien Chapleau, Editor
This publication is the result of a collaboration between Citizen School and Big Education.
Over the coming weeks, 12 essays will be published as blogs on the Big Education website. Click here to access them. In mid-June, the full publication will be released (with a Foreword by Dr Karen Edge, an Introduction by Dr Sebastien Chapleau, a Provocation by Neil Jameson CBE, and a Postscript by Professor Liz Todd).
Why engage young people in democratic action?
In 1950, 84% of the electorate turned out to vote but only 65% did so in 2010. A survey of first-time voters carried out for Radio 1, just before the last election, reported that 30% did not believe their vote would count and 20% felt they did not know enough about politics to make a decision. Despite these comments, however, more than half claimed they would vote if they could do so online or using text messaging. And, from the 15.5 million votes cast during the last series of the X Factor, we know young people like voting.
So can politics be revitalised simply by installing better voting technology? My answer is ‘yes’ if politics is defined as – and limited to – voting for a government every five or so years but ‘no’ if it lives up to its true mission. Politics is about ‘people power’ and must surely encompass groups of citizens taking collective decisions on behalf of their society based on justice, equality, fairness, safety, sustainability and the need for cohesion.
Professor Peter Mortimore OBE, Director of the Institute of Education, Spring 2011
A ‘Citizen School’ is a school that explicitly creates a democratic culture through its role as a civic institution. This report makes the case for broadening the purpose of schools to include this fostering role, and for understanding that this may in fact enhance academic or vocational purposes. ‘Citizen Schools’ tend to share the following features:
- Ensuring citizenship was an integral element of the school’s purpose: Citizenship, in some form, has been identified as crucial to the school’s vision and therefore success.
- Creating a democratic and participative culture of citizenship: Processes of internal democracy have evolved whereby young people, teachers and community members participate in the life of the school.
- Enabling learning through action: Citizenship has been taken beyond the classroom to achieve tangible changes in the community.
- Connecting citizenship education to the school’s improvement strategy and work to raise overall educational standards: High-quality citizenship education supports a culture of raising standards.