'Citizenship and identities: political identity'. Reflections on the 2013 Five Nations Conference in Edinburgh
By Helen Blachford, Curriculum Leader, PSCHE (Personal, Social, Citizenship and Health Education)
The annual conference of the Five Nations Network is an invite only event so I felt very privileged to be invited to attend in the main, I believe, as a result of the work I have been involved with as a member of the Association for Citizenship Teaching Council.
What I had not anticipated was the epic nature of the journey to get to the conference in Edinburgh – flying into the eye of the storm on the way there and flight cancellations on the way back as a result of the meltdown of air traffic control. Thank goodness it was all worth it!
Exploring Identities as a Country
The introductory session gave me the opportunity to work with other representatives from England to explore the themes for the conference i.e. identity and political identity. It quickly became clear that there were as many ideas on what these actually meant as there were people in our group. We moved into a discussion of how we approach this area of Citizenship education in our own settings – which left me questioning whether we enable Priory pupils to move toward deeper thinking on the issue of identity. How can we help pupils to move from what the word identity means to explore issues around what or who controls aspects of our identity and prepare them for a world where their identity will inevitably change over time?
What was striking for me was that all the other nations, without exception, had used their time to create displays which focused on their own country’s national identity – I am not sure what this says about the English!
During the conference we listened to a variety of speakers all giving their take on the themes of identity and political identity. Some of the points which particularly resonated with me can be found below:
During the conference I took part in a number of workshops which gave me some practical tools for developing active engagement in Citizenship – I shall be using these to produce some new lesson resources and in some CPD sessions I will be running for staff in the future so watch this space. I also made many contacts with practitioners from across the Five Nations and hope to undertake some cross-country projects with a Citizenship focus.
This was a fantastic opportunity to spend quality time exploring the key concepts of identity and political identity as well as having the luxury of time and space to focus specifically on pedagogy within Citizenship Education with fellow professionals from a variety of settings across the UK.
What I left with was a clear sense that, whatever their role or subject, every teacher is part of the endeavour to ensure we support young people so that they can become active, functioning members of society - in the same way that we are all teachers of literacy! The active engagement pupils get from having a voice and having a sense of belonging underpins the rest of the life of a school.