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Campaigning to make Bexley a Fair Trade borough

January 7, 2011

The first question I ask myself when I’m planning a Citizenship project is; what’s the outcome? What’s the action students could take that might result in real change in their community. If we want our young people to build the skills and confidence to change their world, they have to have hands-on experience of doing this. You only feel politically powerful, through a powerful experience of acting politically. And so the answer to that question for Year 7s this term has been, to make Bexley a Fair Trade borough.

We started the project with an investigation into Fair Trade chocolate. These resources are very helpful: PaPaPaa and Dubble.

Now last year a Labour councillor, Cllr Sandra Bauer, submitted a motion to Bexley Council to become a Fair Trade borough. The Conservatives, who hold the majority on the Council, voted it down. So I got in touch with Sandra and asked if she’d re-submit the motion, with the support of our students. She willingly agreed and came into school to record a short video (see extract below). We then showed the video to all our students – rather than asking Sandra to come into school 7 times to visit each class!

Now as a local councillor myself, I know how complex and confusing local government can be, so I think it’s much better to start with something like Fair Trade chocolate, and then explain how local government could make a difference. In this way, students are motivated to find out about local government because they realise they need to know about it in order to campaign to make Bexley a Fair Trade borough.

So pretty soon we had hundreds of students pouring over maps of Bexley to find out who their elected councillors were in order to start lobbying them. That’s what they’re busy with now.

The new motion to make Bexley a Fair Trade borough will be submitted in March, so I’ll update you on progress then!

By the way, this project has thrown up a interesting challenge, which is how political do you get with a project like this, with Year 7 students. I didn’t make a big deal of the fact that the Conservatives voted down a Labour proposal to make Bexley a Fair Trade borough, but we did talk about it. I think it’s really important to get kids talking about political parties and what they stand for and what they do as early as possible.

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