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15th Apr 2024 10:30am Blogs

Empowering Minds, Inspiring Change: A 26-Year Journey in Citizenship Education

AQA GCSE Citizenship School of the Year 2023 Winner Claire Blowers Reflects on 26 Years of Teaching

Background: A Journey of 26 Years in Education

In my 26-year teaching career, I’ve covered a spectrum of subjects, from Religious Studies/Ethics to History and Geography. With a background in Sociology and Social Policy, coupled with a PGCE in Religious Studies and Social Studies, the transition into Citizenship felt like a natural progression. As the Curriculum Leader of Religious Studies & Ethics, I’ve come to see Citizenship as a crucial topic, offering students a deeper understanding of the world beyond school.

Award: A Pinnacle in Teaching

Winning the AQA GCSE Citizenship School of the Year award stands out as the most significant moment in my career. The acknowledgment has not only touched me personally but has also shifted the focus on Citizenship within our school. Beyond the classroom, my involvement in various initiatives, from supporting families to organising school events, underscores the belief that an enjoyable school experience contributes to students becoming active citizens.

Student Impact: From Role Allocations to ‘Kindness Week’

Allocating roles in various activities has proven to be a transformative practice with a profound positive impact on students. By assigning responsibilities, students are not only engaged in the theoretical aspects of Citizenship but are actively participating in the practical application of its principles.

During initiatives like ‘Kindness Week,’ the students become architects of positive change, demonstrating the tangible outcomes of Citizenship education. From conceptualisation to execution, they infuse the school environment with a spirit of compassion, empathy, and community engagement. The entire week becomes a canvas for them to express and embody the values they’ve imbibed through their Citizenship education.

Through such initiatives, the students not only grasp the theoretical underpinnings of Citizenship but also internalise its essence, translating knowledge into meaningful actions. It is a testament to their ability to apply Citizenship concepts in a manner that positively impacts the broader community. It exemplifies how Citizenship education, when actively embraced, can inspire students to become catalysts for positive change, making a tangible difference in the lives of others.

Challenges & Solutions: Navigating the ‘What’s the Point’ Attitude

A central challenge arose for us when we tasked with delivering GCSE Citizenship to a whole Year 9 cohort. Overcoming an initial ‘what’s the point’ attitude for students who had not chosen to take it and changing their perceptions required effort.

As the program unfolded, the outcomes were incredibly encouraging. Despite the initial reservations, students not only embraced the course but excelled in unexpected ways. Witnessing the transformation of students who had once questioned the relevance of Citizenship education was truly rewarding. Some of these students, driven by newfound enthusiasm, went on to join the UK Youth Parliament, actively participating in the democratic process. Others dedicated their time to volunteering for initiatives like Peace Jam, showcasing a remarkable shift in their perspectives and an increased commitment to civic engagement.

Advice for Fellow Educators: Beyond Academic Grades

Encourage students to consider their impact beyond academic grades. Focus on life skills, how they can contribute to their environment, and emphasise that their voices matter. The goal is for students to realise their potential to bring about change and actively contribute to the world around them.

Looking Ahead: A Hope for Continued Significance

Looking ahead, I hope Citizenship retains its place in the curriculum, encouraging students to explore the wider world and envision how they can make a positive difference. The goal is for students to realise their potential to bring about change and actively contribute to the world around them. The emphasis is not just on academic success but on becoming active, engaged citizens.

The goal is for students to realise their potential to bring about change and actively contribute to the world around them.

ACT Citizenship Teaching Awards 2024: Nominations are open

The Citizenship Teaching Awards is an opportunity to acknowledge the fabulous work of individuals and organisations who have shown commitment to Citizenship education, and represent its core values. Do you know of someone who’s gone the extra mile to support students and provide effective Citizenship education?

Find out more about the awards and how to nominate below.

Apply here