There’s only so much a child can learn inside a classroom, which is why primary school pupils across Swindon have taken a day out to learn about knife crime, catfishing and road safety.
More than 1700 students from across 38 Swindon primary schools are expected to have taken part in the annual Junior Good Citizen scheme this month.
Yesterday morning Year 5 and 6 classes from Colebrook Primary School and East Witchel Primary School got lessons in life at the Punjabi Community Centre as police officers, firemen and the Youth Offending Team took over from teaching.
The multi-agency scheme, which aims to equip children with life skills as they transition from primary school to secondary school, enables children to take part in scenarios – led by emergency services and local authorities - that they might encounter later in life. This year scenarios include personal safety, dog safety, weapons awareness, internet safety and Envirocrime.
Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson joined students in session yesterday. He said: “This for me is what education is all about – it’s not just about reading, writing, taking exams and getting Ofsted passes. Education is setting you up for the rest of your life like learning about knife crime; learning about why not to carry a knife, what the odds are of you being a victim; and learning about the consequences of being with someone who is carrying a knife.
“One of the things about the weapons [knives] is we all see them every day of our lives but when you use them in reality you’re not going to be like Super Mario and mend immediately – and that’s the message that kids need to learn because they’re growing up, they haven’t experienced it so they won’t recognise that actually most people who are victims of knife crime are the people that are carrying the knife. What we don’t want is individual groups getting into that culture but of course they’re at a stage where everything is new and influential. “
For parents and teachers today there have been many societal shifts since their own adolescence; accessibility to the internet; social interaction; and social values. Mr Macpherson says that due to these changes not all adults will be able to guide children through all aspects of the world they’re growing up in today, but schemes like Junior Good Citizen are better equipped to communicate current issues to children which some parents may not have experienced. He said: “They’re definitely faced with different challenges and so much of it is hidden that the generation before can’t deal with it. Things that we did, you can’t do today like cycling your bicycle somewhere - the number of the cars on the roads, the way in which people drive and the speed in which people drive has all changed. You can’t just go out and do the same things.
“Parents don’t realise, or we don’t realise, that the world is constantly changing, and we see it in the way it was for us.
“When I was growing up, we’d just come through a war so there was less people around and we were much more structured as a society and so our whole attitude to life was entirely different. Now we’ve come 60 years on and we’re a bit more relaxed, we’ve had some really good times and we’ve had alcohol readily available, the internet in our houses so our attitude to life has just changed. It’s changed so fast that the rules haven’t been developed around us and I think that’s what they’re trying to do here. And education has changed beyond measure.”
The Junior Good Citizen scheme has been designed to engage children with potential scenarios they may encounter later in life in a safe, yet fun environment. Mrs Timi Alabi attended the event with her Year 6 class from East Witchel Primary School. She said: “I’m really hoping, and I can see that already that they’ve learnt how to keep themselves safe in different scenarios and different situations.
“All the different sessions so far have been really enlightening and insightful. I think it’s really important for them to know that there are some things that they don’t actually think about.
“They’ve been really positive about it and you can see the look on their faces saying, ‘Oh wow, I never knew that’ and I just think it’s really good for them. They’ve all been really engaged and attentive. I think it’s a very good programme.”
Mr Jon Souch, Year 5 and 6 Lead at Colebrook Primary School, added: “I think there’s so much going on in children’s lives they can feel quite daunted about all the events that might come up, so anything to help support them is always useful.
“They’ve certainly got a lot of social interaction going on online, but not necessarily hands-on practical experience - there’s a lot of misconceptions about how to approach a dog or overloading electrical sockets – so I think they kind of lose that when they’re sat behind a screen. It’s preparing them for that wider world.
“They’ve had some really thought-provoking issues to deal with and they’ve had some very sensible, mature responses and they’ve retained a lot of what we’ve done in school as well – so that was really pleasing to see.”
The Junior Good Citizen Scheme takes place until Friday 14 June.