Teaching global responsibility in school

Ben Evans, headmaster at Edge Grove School, says it is more important than ever that our young pupils grow up to be global citizens

Teaching global responsibility in school from a young age is becoming increasingly important. But global responsibility also means local responsibility too – they both work together and are one of our school’s guiding principles. 

Such guiding principles should always be on display in the heart of the school to serve to remind the whole community of our common purpose and goals. The essence of global responsibility is to teach children the importance of social responsibility and how we should treat others, in school as well as locally and globally.

Children need to understand how we need to support the rights and wellbeing of others as well as larger global issues such as sustainability, the protection of the environment, charitable endeavours and also human rights. 

But teaching global responsibility needs to go a step further than the basics to create opportunities for people to benefit from these actions in the long term.


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Preparing children for a world that does not yet exist

It is increasingly important that our pupils grow up to be global citizens in what is a rapidly changing world. We would be doing them a grave disservice if this were not the case – there is no place for insularity or complacency today. Our children are extremely fortunate and as such, we should not allow them to live in an unrealistic and isolated ‘bubble’. Instead, we should seek to expose them to the world around them but to go beyond a simplistic geographic or even political understanding.

We are preparing our children for jobs that don’t yet exist, jobs that may require skills and habits that we are not yet teaching our children. However, one thing is certain, they will transition into a global workplace in the future, which will require empathy and a deeper understanding of languages, cultures and religions around the world.

We have, thankfully, gone beyond the ice age principles of teaching (instruction, comprehension and examination) and most schools now go far beyond the restrictive confines of the curriculum in their weekly lessons, after school activities, trips and educational visits. Children need to have a wider knowledge of the world around them and the challenges and exigencies that people face every day.

At Edge Grove we have adopted local and global responsibility as one of our most important guiding principles, which as a whole, directs the whole school community, pupils, staff and parents

The world is a big place and stretches far beyond the school campus. For young children particularly, this can be a difficult concept to grasp but one they can readily do given the correct support and opportunities.

Exploring concepts such as charity, service to the community and to encourage children to think, debate and question is a great starting point for teaching the principles of global responsibility. It is not something that can or should be taught from a textbook but by a teacher, in person from the front of the classroom.

For children to truly embrace global responsibility, it is important that schools embed global responsibility into their ethos and aims. It won’t succeed if it is purely lip service from the head and a few enthusiastic teachers. It has to be properly introduced and become a valued habit in the school that underpins everything else. Too often, teaching global responsibility is seen as an interesting add-on for the charity objective or eco clubs, which, whilst beneficial for the pupils, can only go so far.

Encouraging lifelong skills 

There are, of course, huge pressures on every school’s curriculum: 11+ syllabus, Common Entrance, Senior School Entrance, not to mention British values, SMSC, PSHEE – the list goes on. Teaching global responsibility should not add to this list and should not be seen as a discrete subject to be taught.

It is a value, way of life and a principle that must reinforce the ethos of the school. The teaching, learning, skills and habits that we are encouraging our children to adopt here should be lifelong. If this is the case then it will naturally be part of the Geography, PSHEE, English, Science and RS curriculums but should not stop there. It will be present in assemblies, parents’ workshops, Christmas events, summer fetes and productions too.

At Edge Grove we have adopted local and global responsibility as one of our most important guiding principles, which as a whole, directs the whole school community, pupils, staff and parents. Our school aims to directly reference the importance of looking beyond our immediate community and encourage a global sense of service.

Recent examples at Edge Grove include our partnership with The Rainbow Centre in Sri Lanka, a fantastic school and charity, which provides care and education for over 100 extremely underprivileged children. Our pupils have visited the school, raised money for equipment, collected resources. A member of staff even worked in Sri Lanka training staff and teaching children for three weeks.

We have also launched a pledge against the use of single-use plastics and as a school we are working on initiatives both local and global. Pupils have written to a local milkshake outlet to work in partnership to reduce their use of plastic cups and straws, and as a community we are reducing our own use of plastics by looking at using the local milkman, buying fruit and veg from the local greengrocers, drinking tap instead of bottled water and so on.

Even closer to home, we are about to plant 105 trees (a medium working wood) from The Woodland Trust as part of our environment aims – acting locally but thinking globally. 

We will continue to teach this all-important global perspective to our pupils and encourage in them a wide outlook, tolerance and humility now and in future years.