Hello! I’m Michael. (That’s about as coherent as it’s going to get.)

This blog comprises whatever I happen to throw at it. I’ve divided this stuff loosely into Work (anything that is vaguely related to the job I do) and Me (anything that isn’t). Have fun, if you can.

Prince Charles’ #iWill reminds schools to start social action young

25 November, 2015
I wrote this for work. It was published first on Citizenship Foundation blog.
CEO Andy makes our pledge at the second anniversary of #iWill

CEO Andy makes our pledge at the second anniversary of #iWill

Yesterday I attended the uplifting second anniversary of #iWill – the campaign to get 60% of young people engaging in meaningful social action in their communities by 2020.

The campaign’s patron Prince Charles made an impassioned call for more people to join in the action – and along with all speakers reinforced the value of engaging young people when at school.

Even a Minister from the DfE turned up (for the first time) and told us why that department considers youth social action to be important – albeit in developing character and not, for instance, knowledge, skills and competences – as one might expect from an educationalist.

But the stand-out figure for me was from new research that indicates that 46% of young people committed to active participation in their communities started when they were 10 or 11: at Primary school.

This is great news for our own Go-Givers programme –which is highly popular in Primary schools and unrivalled in its ability to kick-start a school’s activities – offering a fantastic array of resources and activities alongside training that is second to none.

Go-Givers has also be been through rigorous testing to show that it now only develops knowledge, skills and competences, but also ‘character’, in the terms that the DfE is keen to champion. Last year the Cabinet Office paid for a randomised control trial that showed Go-Givers’ efficacy in this respect: it helps to develop empathy and community spirit alongside giving pupils the skills to take action based on these dispositions.

Our secondary school equivalent, Giving Nation is also available as a tremendous resource for schools looking to develop their programme of social action.

So if you’re looking for a way to propel your school into the #iWill era, start here!

‘We are at War’ – Paris, Beirut, Syria and the UN

16 November, 2015
I wrote this for work. It was published first on Citizenship Foundation blog.

The Citizenship Foundation offers sincerest condolences to those affected by the atrocities of these last few days. The loss of life seems senseless and futile and the spread of terror tactics are increasingly disturbing and threatening.

To hear the President of France declare that ‘We are at war’ is a reminder that a UN intervention, albeit consensual among member states, is a consolidated use of force in the name of politics and peace that has had horrific repercussions. This needs explaining to our young people, enabling them to grasp the value of negotiated global alliances and the implication of being a member of nation that is a global military power.

We hope that schools, parents and others will use this chance to communicate how the ongoing struggle against tactics of terror will only be won through a mixture of understanding and resolve that upholds democratic values without seeking to dominate or use terror or prejudice in response.

We are all too aware that none of this is easy – and that education will always be a key intervention in creating peace between people: a power for good.

Want to stop crime in schools before it starts? Send in the lawyers

25 September, 2015
I wrote this for work. It was published first on Citizenship Foundation blog.

The UK Government’s response to reports that crime rates are rising in schools is to talk in terms of tougher policing and greater protection. ‘Crime and violent behaviour have no place in our schools,’ said a spokesperson.

Students and Lawyers discussing the Law at Burlington Danes Academy

‘We have put teachers back in charge of the classroom,’ they said. ‘They can search pupils without consent, confiscate prohibited items and use reasonable force to remove disruptive pupils from the classroom when necessary.

‘We know many good schools already work with the police and other organisations to educate pupils and protect them from harm and involvement in crime.’

Which is all very well, but seems a little inadequate – and arguably unhelpful.

For a start, beginning from a standpoint that kids are probably criminals that need protecting from each other is likely to alienate the kids and, well, turn them into criminals; that is, people who don’t follow society’s rules because they’re imposed and appear arbitrary, and feel they have no stake in them.

It’s a shame the Government’s reaction is to see pupils as the problem, rather than as people that benefit from education about the law: what it is, why it’s there, how it gets there, how it affects people and why society criminilises certain behaviours. It’s a double shame because this Government wrote a citizenship curriculum that is supposed to do that.

So, businesses are stepping in. More than 40 law firms, in-house legal teams and chambers put their staff into schools as part of our Lawyers in Schools programme. Big companies like Addleshaw Goddard, Olswang, Barclays, Verizon, JP Morgan, Mitsubushi and BBC Worldwide work with groups of school students to connect them to the legal framework that governs their lives.

Of course, it’s not just altruistic: businesses are keen on Lawyers in Schools because it connects them with communities, offers pro bono opportunities and breaks down barriers between young people and the legal profession. But they also like it because they see a positive change in attitudes towards the law and, as a result, towards other people.

So, if you want to help schools reconnect young people with society, send in your lawyers.