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A SMASHing way of teaching citizenship to Southwark youngsters

London SE1 website team

Pupils from Grange Primary School have been taking part in an innovative citizenship education project backed by the Southwark Education Business Alliance.

Southwark students taking an active role in improving their environment as part of the SMASH programme (picture: Dave Lewis)

‘Citizenship' is now part of the National Curriculum. As a relatively new and non-traditional subject Southwark Education Business Alliance (EBA) realised that an innovative approach was needed in order to engage with young people on what it means to be an active citizen and the role they can play in society.

Through pump-priming funding from the Pool of London Partnership, a local regeneration agency, the SMASH and BRASS citizenship programmes were born. They have now established themselves as effective models of citizenship teaching and Southwark EBA is now looking forward to rolling the programmes out to more students and sharing best practice with other schools.

SMASH stands for Southwark Movers and Shakers, and BRASS is Business Responsibility and Southwark Students. Both programmes have been developed with the National Curriculum in mind. SMASH focuses on young people experiencing democracy and citizenship in terms of day-to-day issues that affect them and their families and how they can make positive changes for themselves and their community. BRASS, on the other hand, helps students to understand the nature of business in society and provides a useful first-hand insight into the world of work

The strength of both programmes lies in the engagement of students with professionals who have specialist knowledge on the topics that are being covered. This helps to bring issues to life whilst also building links between schools and local organisations. Southwark EBA also brokers the relationship which ensures a tight cohesive partnership base in which the projects operate.

A Year 4 class (8-9 year olds) at Grange Primary School, one of the PLP's target schools in Southwark, has just finished working through the SMASH programme. In comparison with other subjects Valerie Malcolm, the class teacher, saw a marked difference in students' attitude to learning on the SMASH programme; “the children were attentive and enthusiastic during every session on the eight-week programme.” One of the reasons for the increased passion for learning may be that the topics covered are decided by the students themselves. Valerie added" "It illustrates their natural desire to learn that the students chose challenging, emotive issues and ones that involved a great deal of complicated issues – such as drug misuse, use of weapons and street crime."

As SMASH has proved itself to be an effective learning tool the PLP is extending its funding for a further six months to carry the project through to September 2006.

Thereafter, both SMASH and BRASS will be supported by the More London Community Investment Programme funds for local regeneration projects.

"We are delighted that this continued funding allows us to offer the programmes to more schools in the Borough, build on our previous successes and increase the numbers of young people engaging in community activities," says EBA manager Carol Kay. "At a recent nationwide conference, colleagues from other Education Business Partnerships (EBPs) expressed a profound interest in the model and delivery of SMASH and BRASS for potential replication as ‘best practice'."

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