Brett Kingsnorth is an Education Associate at Enabling Enterprise and supports schools in the North of London. Prior to this role, he worked as a Citizenship teacher at a secondary school in Enfield and has remained actively involved in Citizenship ever since, frequently training and supporting teachers. He shares his thoughts on how bringing enterprise and citizenship together can bring learning to life.

Teaching Citizenship in schools encourages students to think outside the box, have analytical and enquiring minds and develop an enterprising attitude that can prepare them for life in the real world. However, too often citizenship lessons focus narrowly on giving students specific knowledge rather than giving them the skills to apply this knowledge through active participation and real life examples. Yet, by bringing citizenship and enterprise together and the subject matter can be brought to life and this problem can be solved.

Citizenship in the News

Citizenship is at a crossroads. The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulations and the Department for Education both have reports out that focus on students gaining a deeper knowledge and understanding of citizenship so they can pass their exams. While they consider citizenship as an important part of the curriculum, this leaves less of a focus on the explicit life skills being taught. Citizenship should equip students with a greater knowledge of democracy and government, but I think that it should also offer real life experiences and enterprising life skills, such as teamwork, leadership and negotiating that will help students beyond their schooling.

Over the past three years I’ve had the opportunity to lecture many trainee Citizenship teachers who relish the challenge of not just teaching students a set of facts but to bring the learning to life with links to the real world through studying the topics that affect them and their communities. Citizenship is all about empowering students through an awareness of their rights and responsibilities and helping them to realise the important role they can play in influencing their own communities and society for the better.

Recently the Government has made a clear commitment to Citizenship by retaining its National Curriculum status ensuring all students have an entitlement to be taught it. In 2014 twice as many students are studying full course GCSE citizenship than in 2013 and many more schools are hiring specialist citizenship teachers. It is great to see this commitment to citizenship and I hope that more teachers see this as a great way to encourage students to get excited about their learning.

My Approach as a Citizenship Teacher

To bring learning to life in citizenship lesson I found that project based learning approaches can really engage students in their learning. Back in my classroom, students re-created a United Nations summit to resolve the escalating situation in Syria. Students worked in teams to represent their country’s best interests and learned not only about the role of the UN but the skills of critical thinking, analysing information, negotiation and presenting findings to inform a persuasive debate. This worked well because all students wanted to participate and they learnt many enterprising skills including how to be an effective leader, work well as a team and realise that people have different strengths within a team.

Experiences at Primary and Secondary

Since joining Enabling Enterprise I have seen first hand students citizenship lessons brought to life with students gaining real life experience. For example GCSE Citizenship students at Paddington Academy were taken on a business trip to the Home Office. Students got the chance to interview employees, tour the offices and gain an understanding about the roles in the public sector. This kind of interactive learning could just not come from a textbook.

Similarly, I’ve seen students developing citizenship skills at a primary level. At Selwyn and Canon Barnett Primary schools in London, students participated the challenge day called ‘A Day in Politics’. The schools suspended traditional lessons for the day and all students were set the task to create their own political parties with a combination of student led activities culminating in party election presentations to real audiences. This project based approach to citizenship ensured students learn relevant knowledge in a fun and engaging way but most importantly they were given the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and the skills they had developed.

The Value of Bringing Enterprise and Citizenship together

I see the great value in embedding enterprise into citizenship lessons, and learning beyond the traditional classroom based approach. Recently, I’ve seen Bridge Academy, in East London host a Challenge Day called ‘Social Entrepreneur’ where students over the course of the day, work in teams to develop entrepreneurial solutions to social problems that need tackling in their own communities. The day encourages students to become informed members of their own community able to take responsible actions to bring about change. Their learning is brought to life and they have real purpose in what they are doing. It is encouraging to see how citizenship can add real value to the curriculum and to see how many great enterprise projects are going on across the UK that are helping students learn about citizenship.

I believe Enterprise and Citizenship sit naturally together, providing essential enterprising lifelong skills that will help all students to progress further regardless of their ability or background. These subjects help to boost young peoples’ confidence, encourage them to aim high and develop resilience along the way. Importantly, citizenship and enterprise learning can give students essential life skills as well as a sense of responsibility about the community they live in.

Enabling Enterprise is an award winning social enterprise with the mission to ensure that all students leave school with the skills, experiences and aspirations to succeed. If you’d like to find out how to embed enterprise across your curriculum and how we can support your school, contact us.

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