Altrincham Grammar School for Girls has language college status and therefore actively seeks to promote the concept of global citizenship. The school has developed a range of activities to enable pupils to take an active role in seeing themselves as world citizens, rather than simply focusing on their own needs.

Taking part in the Developing Citizenship project has allowed us to further develop many of the activities that were already in place and to develop several new areas. The original research that was carried out provided some interesting results into the thinking and experiences of our pupils and many of the activities that were undertaken as part of the project were inspired by this research.

There were strong opinions about refugees and asylum seekers and having the Escape to Safety exhibition in school was one way of providing less biased information than some of the national media. The pupils were shown to be very well informed for their age groups but they were vague about what they could do to make a difference in the world. We are hopeful that now that Global Citizenship has a higher priority in the school, the evaluation research will show that we have made some progress in this area.   

School Council

The school council acts as a pupil voice and focuses on the needs of pupils within the school community, but it also has links with the local community and often responds to global issues raised elsewhere in school. One example of this is the recycled fashion show that school councillors organised in response to the issues raised by the school’s Eco-school committee.

Eco-school committee

The students have studied global environmental issues and are aware of Local Agenda 21. The school had just joined the Developing Citizenship project and the school councillors were very keen to become involved. The impetus for the fashion show began with an assembly that focused on ‘Thinking globally and acting locally’.

The eco-school committee has promoted the need to recycle and the school now has a system in place for recycling waste paper. The local council has placed a bin in the school grounds for collecting the paper and this is emptied regularly.

In order to raise awareness further the school councillors persuaded pupils from every year group to design and make outfits to a strict range of criteria and they then put a fashion show together. This was quite a feat as they had to:

  • organise music
  • run the sound system
  • choreograph some very inexperienced models
  • persuade some local businesses to support them by providing prizes and helping to advertise the show
  • ask teaching staff to supervise the event
  • sell the tickets
  • organise a judging panel
  • write a programme
  • act as presenters for the show (everyone wanted to take on this role!)
  • put out the chairs
  • get support from SMT and from the caretaking staff.

The resulting outfits were stunning and the show was a huge success. Those involved are still among the keenest recyclers in school. 

Away Day

In September, the new school councillors took part in an ‘away day’ to allow them to focus on the best ways to bring about change, the need for democratic action and the most effective ways to communicate with the rest of the school, run their meetings etc.

The Developing Citizenship project enabled us to get support from the Developing Education Project and two of their staff came into school and ran a training session with the new councillors that school staff will be able to repeat with the school council in future years.

The sixty school councillors practised a range of discussion and listening skills and one of the best moments of the day was watching pupils from different year groups getting to know one another. They particularly enjoyed role playing a badly run meeting and taking turns to take over and show everyone how it should really be done!  The Year 12 pupils who attend the rest of the school’s year council meetings have been amazed since by their effectiveness and professionalism and this has helped to raise the council’s status within the school.

Europe Day  (Year 8)

As part of a Comenius project supported by the British Council the school has made links with schools in Latvia, Denmark, Italy, France and Portugal. Staff and students have visited these schools and attended conferences where there were representatives from many other European countries.

Inspiration from these experiences and support from the Developing Citizenship Project provided the impetus for the Europe day that Year 8 students took part in just before the expansion of the European Union in 2004. The year councillors were responsible for much of the planning and organisation of the day. They divided their classes into groups representing all the countries of the newly expanded Union and were responsible for communicating to them about the practical arrangements for the day.

During form time and Citizenship lessons they researched ‘their’ country, making good use of some of the resources provided by the global citizenship project, and they prepared presentations about the people, places, culture, language etc. Many groups chose to create power point presentations and several groups incorporated music, language lessons, national dress into their ten minutes.

On the day the classes spent the first part of the morning performing their presentations for members of their own classes and assessing one another’s presentations. They also had booklets about the forthcoming expansion of Europe to complete during the day. The pupils chose the best presentation from each group to perform for the whole year group in the afternoon.

The time before lunch was spent setting up ‘stalls’ in the main hall displaying information – sometimes edible! – about their country. Each group submitted a question that could be answered by a visit to the stall and during the lunch hour the rest of the school could visit the displays and complete the quiz sheet. They could taste a variety of national dishes, listen to music and the English contingent offered lessons in morris dancing! The catering staff provided a European menu, the year 7 pupils created a collage about what Europe meant to them, every pupil had a voting slip to vote on whether we should join the euro (big majority against!) and there was a display of information created by some year 12 students to help you make up your mind! The art department created a graffiti wall that gave visitors to the ‘fair’ the opportunity to say what Europe meant to them. A lot of food references turned up here!

In the afternoon the best presentations were performed for the whole year group. The ICT skills displayed were very impressive, the national costumes were inventive and the team skills developed were outstanding. The presentations were judged by the school’s three senior students (year 13 pupils) and the LEA Citizenship advisor. The pupils sat spellbound as their peers taught them about a variety of European cultures and the most interactive presentation – Ireland’s – was a popular winner.

Every pupil filled in an evaluation about the day and they were able to demonstrate increased knowledge of the European Union, they had welcomed the opportunity to be responsible for their own learning and to educate their peers. ‘We should definitely have this as a regular school event’ was one pupil’s comment, and pupils from every year group are often heard asking when it will be their ‘turn’. The school intends to repeat this with next year’s Year 8 pupils as a day with the theme of ‘Who are we?’, studying British identity by researching how many other cultures from around the world have contributed to British society in the 21st century.

Earth Summit (Year 9)

The Year 9 earth summit was jointly organised by the DEP and Geography and Citizenship staff at AGGS. This was a big project that the school would not have undertaken without the experienced DEP staff. They had run similar projects and, besides offering support on the day, they were able to run a training session for school staff.

The Year 9 school councillors acted as the United Nations for the day and organised many of the day’s activities. Before the event they researched each of the countries and groups that were to take part in the summit and prepared briefing papers on each one. Some resource were purchased with funds from the project and will be available for future projects.

The students had studied the organisation and role of the UN in their Citizenship lessons and as part of the Geography curriculum they worked out their ‘global footprints’ and compared them to those of other people around the world. The DEP web site incorporated a page where schools from around the globe could send completed questionnaires about their students global footprints and this information was collated by a team of AGGS Year 9 pupils. 

The ‘UN’ discussed with their form groups what the theme of the Earth Summit should be and they decided upon ‘Oil and the Energy Crisis.’ The school councillors put together a power point presentation on this theme to be used as an introduction for the day. The year group of 200 hundred pupils was divided into 16 groups representing different countries, a Multi-National Company, an environmental group and a media group as well as the UN.

Each group was given tokens representing its resources and the UN also ran a ‘shop’ so that each group could ‘buy’ resources to support their campaigning. The school councillors also visited another school that was taking part in the project and they were able to talk to pupils who had been involved in a similar activity and get their advice. During the morning of the earth summit pupils researched their chosen country, particularly focusing on the energy resources and policies. They were also able to make good use of the briefing papers prepared by the UN. Each country was able to lobby the UN to try to reach an acceptable agreement. This session was led by an experienced member of the developing education project and it was fantastic to see so many pupils of a wide variety of abilities debating and arguing about quotas and resources.

There was also a media group who prowled the corridors of the school reporting on the issues that became contentious and the secret deals that were being done. They produced a news report about the summit tht was eventually distributed to everyone at the end of the afternoon. The summit meeting was chaired by the UN and each country was given the opportunity to present their views through chants and speeches.

The Earth Summit activity had links to almost the entire Key Stage 3 Citizenship curriculum and the pupils had a wonderful day. We are already preparing for this year’s ‘summit’ and wondering what the pupils will choose as their theme.   

Human Rights Week (Year 11)

The school’s Human Rights week gave Year 11 pupils the opportunity to organise activities for their year group and the rest of the school. During their Citizenship lessons in Year 11 pupils focus on Human Rights issues and the work of Amnesty International.

The school’s Amnesty group also took an active role in the week’s activities. This year’s theme was Asylum Seekers and Refugees. The ‘Escape to Safety’ exhibition from Global Link was set up in school and almost every pupil in the school was able to walk through the exhibition during the week. This allows visitors to experience the journey made by asylum seekers as they seek entry into the UK. Many of the pupils found this very moving and it had a big impact throughout the school. They also completed an information/work booklet that challenged their preconceived views about asylum seekers and refugees. Many of the groups were guided through the exhibition by Year 12 pupils who had been active in organising Human Rights Week the previous year and were now committed Amnesty members.

It was through the advice and support of the Developing Citizenship project team that we were able to have this opportunity and it had a big impact on our pupils. Two years later one Year 12 pupil was overheard telling a visitor that her attitude to asylum seekers had been completely changed through visiting the exhibition and taking part in the following discussions.

During the week Year 11 students prepared and led school, year and form assemblies. They organised a debate with a neighbouring school, visited year 7 forms to talk about the work of Amnesty International and set up a ‘Fair’ in the main hall during one lunch time to raise money for Amnesty and show films informing pupils where human rights abuses are happening around the world. They also made games on a variety of human rights themes and these were played by year 8 pupils during form times during the week.

A group of Year 11 pupils wrote a quiz which involved searching for answers all over the school and the winning form ‘won’ a non-uniform day for their form group. A barrister from the Bar Council gave a spell binding talk to Year 11 pupils about human rights law in the UK and some of the cases he had been involved with.

The army presentation team came into school and ran a session with each of the Year 11 classes who had been studying human rights issues. They had studied the conflicts in Bosnia and the soldiers who came into school spoke of their role in trying to end the fighting and protect the human rights of those involved. Talking to soldiers who had been actively involved helped open the students’ eyes to the complexities of human rights issues.

Human Rights week has now become a regular feature of the school year and the current Amnesty group have built a ‘cage’ from chicken wire that they are planning to use to raise awareness in school about the plight of political prisoners around the world. 

Fair Trade (Year 9)

Pupils had studied the issues of Fair trade in their Year 9 Geography lessons for some time, but taking part in the Developing Citizenship project has really encouraged its development into a whole school issue. Some of the school councillors began a fair trade group and developed links with a local supplier of fair trade goods. Gradually, as several other pupils wanted to become involved, the group became a separate entity. There is now a flourishing Fair Trade stall. ’Fair Trade Fridays’ is their slogan and although their best selling products are Divine and Dubble chocolate bars, they sell a wide range of goods.

The whole school’s awareness has been improved through assemblies in form, year and whole school groups. The group also put together a booklet that would tell other schools how to run their own Fair Trade stalls.  The group has made links with the community group who are about to announce that Altrincham has fulfilled the criteria to become a Fair Trade town. The pupils have the opportunity to join members of the town on a market stall in the town centre once a month and they are developing some of the suggestions that the town’s group have made.

The Developing Citizenship Project put them in touch with a speaker who taught the school councillors how to organise the chocolate game in their form groups and provided resources that have been used by the group and within the curriculum. They have just joined the ‘Young Cooperatives’ movement which will enable them to have more autonomy over their activities as well as developing some business skills. They will be handing over the ‘company’ to a group from the next year in September so that their work will be able to develop and grow throughout the school. The group that began the whole project are still involved and they are currently planning a primary school ‘conference’ to encourage other schools to promote Fair Trade.  

Citizenship Newsletter: ‘The Crunch’ (Year 10)

As Citizenship activities proliferated, a group of Year 10 pupils were recruited to report on the various events and achievements throughout the school. The Developing Citizenship project paid for a training session for the team and the resulting newsletters reflect their huge learning curve.

The team has begun to widen the original brief and plans to enter the TES Newsday competition in March thus developing knowledge of current affairs throughout the school as well as reporting on school and local activities. In the summer term they intend to recruit volunteer journalists from the year below and produce a joint edition of ‘The Crunch’ in order to pass on their knowledge and skills.

And finally…

Taking part in the Developing Citizenship project has had an enormous impact throughout the school and involved everyone from the youngest Year 7 student to the most experienced members of staff.

Our biggest difficulty with the project is that it is really a victim of its own success. Every aspect of the project has tended to take on a life of its own and lead to something bigger and better and there are just not enough hours in the day for either the pupils or teachers to take part in all the Citizenship activities that are now happening in school.

There is an endless procession of active and empowered pupils queuing at the headteacher’s office to request permission to organise activities, fund-raise for a wide variety of good causes, invite speakers or lead assemblies on a range of themes. More than fifty pupils recently applied for places with an LEA project that involves fund raising, studying and working in Romania, and eight of the chosen team of 12 were from AGGS.

We have partner schools around the world and the Developing Citizenship project has enabled Citizenship to make meaningful contributions to the school’s British Council award as an International school. During the recent UK Youth Parliament elections the school was visited by a mobile unit that asked pupils to identify the issues they felt most concerned about. Our school was the only one where the majority went for global issues rather than more personal or local problems.

Being part of this project has been a fantastic opportunity for us all and the challenge for us now is to sustain the progress so that future pupils will also benefit.

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