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Please enjoy reading about how listening and engaging in discussions starts at primary school

Posted on: 05/12/2019

As election fever grips the country, manifestos are launched and policies discussed, you might be forgiven for thinking such things would not affect the day to day life of the average primary school child.  You would be right:  the immediate excitement of the build-up to Christmas at this time of year, with concert rehearsals and parties, glitter and glue, is likely to be much more in their minds.  However, a truly rich primary curriculum prepares children from the earliest ages to be active participants in the society in which they will live when they grow up.  We encourage children to be aware, at an appropriate level, of the values of our society, and of how decisions are made which are just and protect everyone. With the future of our very planet in the balance, there has never been a more important time to nurture engaged future citizens.

So, what does that look like in a primary school?  From the moment children enter, they are encouraged to see that decisions can be made together.  They learn to listen to others’ views and take account of them, even over small things like agreeing a class reward for good behaviour.

A big milestone happens in Year 1, when for the first time children elect their class representative to stand for a coveted spot on School Council.  This is an opportunity for teachers to begin to explain the processes of democracy and the idea of choosing a representative whom you think will put forward your views.  As children progress through the school, we can teach them more about how this works across our whole country, with the concept of like-minded representatives banding together into political parties. It is also vital that they do not take these structures for granted, understanding that not everyone in the world has this privilege and that for many groups in society the right to participate has been won relatively recently.

In September, our Year 5 and 6 children were extremely fortunate to take part in the BBC programme, Sunday Politics South.  A journalist and film crew visited the school and filmed the children studying clips of parliament which was at the time debating Brexit.  The children were then able to ask questions about what they had seen and express their opinions. Despite their young age, they showed themselves to be remarkably perceptive about the processes they saw unfolding.  One child commented that the House of Commons was ‘a war of noise’.  Another likened the debate to a group of teenagers on a street corner, arguing!  All were in agreement that we expect far higher standards of behaviour in our classrooms than they saw playing out in parliament, but many were also able to admire the passion that they saw in the politicians’ arguments.

Our curriculum encourages children to look outwards into the world in which they live, and to be able to participate confidently.  We therefore take every opportunity to help them understand, at the right level, the way decisions are made, and how they can make their voices heard. 



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