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1 May, 2008

St Matthews Academy, Leading the Way in Active Citizenship

Teachers at St Matthew’s Academy in Lewisham are working with the Citizenship Foundation and Social Enterprise London to ensure pupils receive a Citizenship rich curriculum from the day they start school in Nursery right though to the end of Year 11.

On 4th April the Citizenship Foundation was invited to attend a celebratory event at St Matthew's to mark the end of their Latin Enterprise Week and meet pupils, teachers and parents who had all been inspired to become active citizens.

Younger pupils in KS1 and KS2 at the academy have been learning about global citizenship and how they can make a positive difference worldwide. Each year group were given the task of learning about the culture of a given Latin American nation. They produced artwork and food based on the country and investigated the history, literature and culture. The students then set up a market stall to display their goods and convey information about issues facing the country such as poverty, crime or the plight of indigenous peoples. Each stall was visited by a representative from the country's Embassy in London.

‘‘I'm incredibly impressed by the colour and work done about my country and even more excited about the links and shared Citizenship that the students are developing''- Alejandra Hernandez, Counsellor, Dominican Republic explained.

Giving Nation Challenge

The older pupils, who just a few months after the Academy opened its doors in December 2007, launched the Giving Nation Challenge were keen to discuss how they were making a positive difference to their local community.

The Challenge, developed and funded by the Citizenship Foundation, supports students to set up their own charity or social enterprise to benefit a cause that they feel strongly about. The boys in one class explained how their project developed out of concerns over traffic and crime affecting students travelling into the school from the surrounding areas of Lewisham, Peckham and Brixton. The boys were concerned that the younger students were not getting enough exercise and were prevented from doing extra curricular activities due to parental concerns about returning to estates after dark. Muggings and gun crime were huge issues for many of the students and walking to school was a concern for some of the pupils. The boys felt that if the students were able to cycle to school the benefits would be immeasurable. They canvassed opinion amongst other students and parents and also contacted the local authority who indicated that cycling was going to be a major area for development particularly with the nearby Olympic Village and the government's drive towards encouraging healthier lifestyles.

The boys needed to obtain start up capital to run bicycle maintenance lessons, cycling proficiency classes and to buy lockers so that students would have somewhere secure to leave their bikes at school so as part of the Giving Nation Challenge they had to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts from Social Enterprise London, as budding entrepreneurs are required to do in the TV programme Dragon's Den. "

The Giving Nation Challenge showed that we are not black teenage gangsters from South London estates but we can be enterprising with the community in mind'' Okeima Scarlett a year 11 student explained.

"The Giving Nation Challenge is an investment that we can see the returns on for maybe decades to come'' David Iffansi added.

All of the social enterprises were required to be sustainable so once they had received their start up capital from Giving Nation and Social Enterprise London they had to be income generating. The boys running the Bicycle Project decided they would lease out the lockers they had bought to students at the Academy to generate the income needed to run proposed cycle maintenance and cycling proficiency classes.

The students had clearly enjoyed the project and felt it taught them valuable business skills and the confidence necessary to implement their ideas and plans.

School Ethos

Through talking to parents, pupils and teachers it became clear that Citizenship was an integral part of the Academy's ethos. By giving pupils real responsibility and the opportunity to play an active part in the life of the school and local community many previously disaffected students have dramatically changed their attitude to school.

One student, Kadeem Abbrey in Year 10, who had been in "lots of trouble" over the course of three years at the Academy's predecessor Secondary School explained how being given the role of School Mentor to Primary pupils had meant he had to "start acting more mature as you are a role model to everybody in the school so you need to up your game and start acting like a role model and be respected"

Teachers had recognised that Kadeem was a natural leader who when given a positive direction would be able to develop this attribute to become a ‘Go Giver' and support others in the school.

Go Givers - Looking Ahead

Parents and pupils were thrilled to meet the Go-Givers characters from the Citizenship Foundation's new website for KS1 and KS2 pupils containing resources, games and information about how we can become caring, giving and actively involved members of local, national and global communities.

St Matthew's Academy is just one of the many schools that will be taking advantage of the FREE training being offered to teachers in the coming months.

It really would seem that Citizenship is at the very core of St Matthew's Academy and that from Latin Enterprise Week and the Giving Nation Challenge to Go Givers pupils from all classes and all year groups are benefiting from becoming Active Citizens.

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