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Lessons in citizenship

At the beginning of the term I reported to you about a project on citizenship education that I worked on during term two.  Here’s what I wrote at that time:

Do we expect children to be citizens-in-waiting or can they already be citizens-in-action’?  By citizenship I mean being active members of a community; knowing that they belong and that they have rights and responsibilities ...Enabling children to become active citizens is another way of tackling our goal of Wakefield School being a place where children become confident lifelong learners who can set their own goals, manage themselves well and know how to collaborate with others.  As you know, we place great importance on children’s learning being connected to their lives and their world; because we know they are much more motivated when they can see a purpose in what they are doing and when they experience the success of having an effect on the world.

We decided to test our ideas of citizenship education this term with a project on elections, to coincide with New Zealand’s general election.  It was, frankly, amazing.  Wakefield School over the past few weeks has been a hotbed of democracy, with political parties debating policies, wooing voters, campaigning and voting - all leading to a ‘day of power’ this week where the winning party (the Starstrikers) governed the school and discovered that power is very much a two-edged sword - heavy with responsibilities as well as rights. 

 We want your feedback... 

Several parents have talked to us about how our election project spilled over into the home.  That’s good news - we like to know that home and school are connected through your child’s learning.  So to help us review the project we want your feedback.  Did your child talk about the school election project at home?  Did it lead to conversations about the real general election?  Did your child show an interest in the general election?  Please email me (address is below) or your child’s teacher with your response - even if it is ‘no’.  That will be very helpful.  Do it right now.

We are all ready for a short break after what has been a long and very busy term.  I know holiday is often not a break for parents but I hope you enjoy the extra time with your child. Thank you for your support throughout the term.

Peter Verstappen 








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Here’s What We Mean by ‘Student-Led Learning’


Jordan, who is six years old, was recently appointed to our Student Council as a representative of Matai Kereru team.  Last week our Council meeting clashed with scooter training for Jordan.  He came to the office to tell me but I was out, so what did Jordan do?  He wrote me this letter:



To mistir vstn

Sore I cant go to the

Shooht cousool

Becose I

Got scooti

Chraning at



from Jordan.


I love this letter, for two reasons.  First, it is a beautiful expression of a child learning to write; look at how he has made sense of the words ‘student council’, you can hear Jordan picking out the sounds in his mind. 


Second, it is a beautiful expression of student-led learning.  You might ask, ‘what’s he learning?’ but consider this.  Here’s Jordan, 6, as a thinker: he knows he has an obligation to the Student Council, he sees he cannot fulfil it, he comes to tell me, that doesn’t work, he decides he needs to write to me so he creates this letter and brings it to the office.  This is even more impressive because Jordan doesn’t know much about the Student Council yet, he’s only attended one meeting, but he knows he has some sort of obligation to it.  Here’s Jordan as a communicator: if he can’t tell me in person, he’ll slave over this letter to get the message to me.  Here’s Jordan as a planner: he’s thinking ahead and balancing his commitments.  Okay, Jordan will have had some prompts from his teacher, but he’s taken up the challenge and look at what he’s achieved. 


I value the opportunities children have to be leaders at school through the Student Council, committees, monitors and other roles.  Their work in these roles contributes to the smooth running of the school, but as well as leading others they provide real occasions for children to lead themselves, to become masters of their own learning.  And that’s what a democratic curriculum looks like.


Have a good week,




Peter Verstappen 


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