If citizenship with a global dimension is taught and learned in all schools, great things can be achieved! Heather Swainston from Cheshire Development Education Centre explains how.

Background

Prior to our involvement with Developing Citizenship, Cheshire Development Education Centre (CDEC) had done comparatively little work with secondary schools other than a few workshops directly with pupils and some inset with PSHCE coordinators. This was via input on the Race Equality inset run by the LEA, attended by secondary teachers. We had secondary schools as members of CDEC and had advised on and sold resources to secondary schools and we also had involvement of secondary teachers on our management committee. We had done no work on whole school change in secondary schools and had never worked with senior management. Much of our focus was on primary schools. So, we had a very steep learning curve!

Getting started

We had good and strengthening relationships with the LEA and had become an important part of the MacPherson Group, so when the idea of this project was first mooted, the LEA were positive and it was John Plummer – the then Principal Adviser – who first picked this up and then Pat Simmons, the Senior Advisor for PSHCE was the person we were to work with.  

It was decided that we’d send out a letter to all 45 secondary schools in Cheshire to give everyone an equal chance of being involved. The letter was addressed to headteachers and signed by David Cracknell, the Director of Education, as it was felt this could carry more weight.

One assistant head responded directly, the rest passed it to their citizenship coordinators. Five schools expressed an interest.

CDEC had never been involved in a national project like this, we’d had locally based projects which were part of wider initiatives such as On The Line and the Commonwealth Spirit of Friendship Festival projects, but nothing like working with three national agencies, two other DECs and the LEA.

We were excited by the prospect of working on a national pilot and thought it would be an opportunity to be involved in something of national significance. It would be an excellent professional development opportunity for CDEC and would raise our profile not only locally but also nationally. We also wanted to do more work with secondary schools.

Building a relationship with the schools

As a DEC worker, every day I am dealing with the global dimension in some way or other, it has become internalised, a natural way of working. It’s an obvious way of working to have the global as context for everything we do. As CDEC’s mission statement states:

‘CDEC exists to promote an understanding of and respect for the lives and cultures of everyone, in order for us all to contribute and actively participate in the development of a fair society that celebrates diversity and difference and our global interdependence.’ 

In working with the schools I have had to be very aware that this is not necessarily the context within which schools are operating. They have so many agendas, targets, etc. that citizenship and the global dimension to this is a tiny part of what they have to do. Therefore the constraints and the reality of just what can be achieved has played a massive part in the project experience and I guess was a real learning point for me, as to just how long institutional change takes. 

It feels now after nearly three years that we are starting to move in the direction we were aiming for and that several more ‘project years’ would be helpful. It feels like the first year was just needed to set up the project with the schools.

What has become apparent, though, is that if the global is the context for all that is taught and learnt in schools, this is meaningful and great things can be achieved and it feels almost automatic that certain activities and responses take place.

For example, it was no surprise that Rudheath High was the first school after to ring regarding the Tsunami – not for materials on the Tsunami but to inform me that the pupils had decided that they would like to do a five-year citizenship project to link with the long-term development that the affected countries are going to need. They will focus on a human rights perspective and alongside this raise money.

Only one of the project schools, Hartford High, had contact with CDEC before the project, so I needed to build new relationships with teachers. This has been a really good experience – rewarding and challenging in terms of getting the balance right, with what support is realistic to offer and in gaining the trust and respect of those teachers. To understand their roles and the pressures that they face has been very important. I have hopefully been realistic in what I have required as the local coordinator and have been sensitive to their needs and expectations.

Working on the project

The project and all its players has felt like a very close-knit group of people.  Despite the very long days travelling to and from London,  I have always looked forward to project meetings and workshops. I feel that the DECs, NGOs and LEAs have been mutually supportive and that my views have been valued. Getting to know my colleagues better and meeting everyone else has been fantastic. I think my confidence has grown and it has been valuable to represent DECs to LEAs and the NGOs as so often there is too little time to do this. I think this has been a project of partnerships in the best possible sense of the word.

My relationship with the LEA has been very strong and mutually supportive. The project has been reported to the Promoting Equality and Diversity Group (PEDG) and the Healthy Schools team have been involved. As a result of the project, global citizenship has been written into the Cheshire Healthy School Standards. 

Learning from the project

I feel that much of what has been done as part of the project can be replicated by other schools, LEAs and DECs. 

There are some key things that CDEC will do every time we work with secondary schools, and indeed we have already adopted some of these things.

  • Write a contract with the school
  • Get the school to join CDEC
  • Organise a whole staff inset – that may be resources focused, project focused, theme focused, depending on what is appropriate
  • Involve more than one member of DEC staff
  • Get some involvement of more than one named member of staff so that if are staff changes there is less impact and there is also support more for the project teacher from the start.
  • If possible, build supply cover costs into funding applications, this has proved invaluable in getting teachers out.
  • Have collective input and ownership of the evaluation framework and a clear understanding of what this is going to be used for.
  • (These are also applicable to working with primary schools too, on longer- term projects.)

The relationship with the LEA will not stop because the project comes to an end. CDEC will be bought in for one day per week from April 05 to further the LEAs commitment to Valuing Diversity and Promoting Race Equality work.  This will be done within the global context. The project learning will be disseminated to the Inclusion and School Improvement Service team and senior managers in the LEA. We will use this along with our new strategic plan to make sure we are an active partner in the delivery of Children’s Services in Cheshire.

We believe that the opportunities presented by Every Child Matters and the whole Make Poverty History campaign provide CDEC with a chance to support schools and the LEA in embedding the global dimension across the curriculum and making the ‘global’ the context for much that is done.

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