Swavesey Village College: Where social action is part of every students’ education

Georgina Curtis, Assistant Headteacher at Swavesey Village College, a secondary school in Cambridgeshire, writes about how they’ve embedded social action into education for all of their 1317 students.

Every student will have participated in a volunteering experience before they leave us, and by embedding youth social action into the structure of the school we have made it part of daily life. To provide focus and recognise achievements, we use the PLEDGES model:

P – Participation

L – Leadership

E – Environmental

D – Diversity

G – Giving

E – Excellence

S – Service

Students take part in extracurricular clubs, hold leadership roles within school, help run reception and organise and conduct litter picks. At Christmas we run a charities morning where students plan, set-up and run their own stalls to raise money for their House Charity. Every year each of our 6 Houses pick a charity that they will raise money for over the course of the academic year. Through a variety of charity activities, they together raise a combined total of around £10,000 a year.

Students are encouraged to give service at parish events, local care homes, open days, participate in fun runs, marshal at sporting events and lead clubs for younger students.

We have targets for these PLEDGES and an awards ceremony at the end of each term where students receive either a bronze, silver or gold PLEDGES badge. They are encouraged to articulate how they achieved their badge as we think this is a crucial element of the process. We are very proud that 100% of our students achieve bronze by the end of year 9 and 100% achieve at least silver by the end of year 11. All staff at the college engage with this system and promote opportunities for PLEDGES success. This also forms a part of their performance management targets. Simplicity is the key, to get students and staff on board you need a clear system that is easy to follow. We have set up to support staff a database that is able to track those falling behind with PLEDGES achievement. Using this information staff will run clubs specifically for those students who need a little extra encouragement and their confidence boosted.

Through our annual Experience Week, we have forged greater links with the community. Our Year 9 students during this week all spend 1 day working on a community project (building small mammal houses for local woodland areas supported by the Wildlife Trust, building a bug hotel and clearing bramble areas for the RSPB at the local lakes, working on the local allotments with allotment members, leading sports activities for a local pre-school and cleaning and painting Meridian Line Markers around the village are just some of the activities that our students have been involved in during this time).

The National Citizen Service is a natural progression for our students and it is something that we promote with our Year 11’s to undertake over the summer holidays before they progress on to their post 16 studies. In 2016/17 we had 30% of cohort take this up (Gold Champion status) and last academic year we had 26% of the cohort engage (Silver Champion status).

Students are genuinely proud of their PLEDGES achievements and we find that visitors are impressed by the confidence and enthusiasm exhibited by them. Social action is promoting a sense of service, leadership, pride, ambition and perseverance, and that is why we make it a crucial part of our school culture.