Karen Thomson is the founder of the Torbay and Devon Civic Award and leads and manages the programme.
She currently works for TT Education as a School Improvement Partner and Primary Consultant. During her teaching career she has been a Deputy Head teacher, an Assistant Head, an Inclusion Manager, SENCo and a leader for various subjects and teams. She was an Advanced Skills Teacher for Torbay for ten years, specialising in PSHE and Citizenship. Karen is passionate about Pupil Participation and children taking responsibility for change.
Married with two grown-up children, Karen enjoys travelling, reading and socialising with friends
I first introduced The Torbay and Devon Civic Award in 2005. I was teaching at Cockington Primary School at that time, coordinating KS2 and was teaching in Year 6. I was also the Advanced Skills Teacher for Citizenship and PSHE for Torbay LEA, working locally and nationally to develop Pupil Voice, Pupil Participation and the development of excellent Citizenship and PSHE Education. The Torbay and Devon Civic Award aims to encourage Citizenship amongst ten and eleven year olds. I was inspired to create the award by a deep belief that education should be broader and more futures-driven and that we, as leaders in education, have a moral responsibility to develop children’s attitudes and values as well as transferable skills to equip them for a future none of us can yet imagine. It was also born from a desire to balance the SATs-driven curriculum in Y6 with a human, selfless aspect to help those children become well-rounded, confident and caring individuals who strive to make a difference in their various communities and are prepared to take responsibility for change. I was also inspired by the Southampton Civic Award, led by Roy Honeybone, who I met on a Citizenship Day in London.
I began the award with 12 Y6 children who are pictured below receiving their award from the mayor of Torbay. Many of these original pioneers have gone on to make a difference in their communities through taking part in D of E, International Baccalaureate, Scouts, Guides and in caring professions.
To achieve the award pupils have to prove their participation in five main areas. These are:
- Active Citizenship in their school community This could be Peer Mediation, Learning and Peer Mentors, Reading Buddies, School Councillors or other positions of trust and responsibility in school.
- Active Citizenship in their home communities . In the past, pupils have taken part in environmental and beach cleans, bulb planting, helping at Brownies /Cubs/sports clubs and looking after people in the community. Pupils may also work with others to organise events in school to support local charities. An active hobby(ies) and A non-active hobby (ies)Children should spend about 30 minutes on average a week on their hobbies and one of them needs to be new to the child from September 2009.
- Residential experience and adventure trainingThis entails sleeping away from home and taking part in outdoor challenges.
- Children also need to adopt a cause or charity which they feel strongly about. They need to research it and find ways of supporting it. Over the years children have adopted a range of charities including Animals In Distress, Rowcroft, Cancer Research, Bristol Children’s Hospital and Help for Heroes. Many were inspired to support these because of events in their own lives and have various sales and sponsored events to raise money for their chosen charities.
The children must also pass a rigorous assessment when they have to present all this evidence to an external assessor.
Over the last thirteen years I have encouraged other schools to join and each year numbers of children achiving the award and numbers of schools taking part grows. This year the numbers of children taking part in the Torbay and Devon Civic Award is over 300 and well over 2000 children have received their award during its existence
Gary Vine looks after the online presence of the Torbay & Devon Civic Award and provides support to Karen.
Gary currently manages Aspire Direct Marketing Ltd which is a web design and marketing agency. He also works as a Team Leader in a large sporting warehouse and has also spent nearly 20 years in retail Management working for the likes of Wilkinsons, Farmfoods, Somerfields and Tesco.
Gary believes in giving everyone a chance and during his employment has always invested time in motivating and encouraging his staff to bring out the best of their abilities and persuade them out of their comfort zones. He also supports positive actions and encourages others to take ownership of their own decisions and projects.
Gary joined Karen and the Torbay and Devon Civic Award in 2014 after he witnessed a friend’s daughter working through the programme. He was inspired by this and wanted to offer his support and therefore the online presence was born. Gary’s expertise and support have been fundamental in promoting the award and sharing the success of participating students to a wider audience.
Philosophy behind the Torbay and Devon Civic Award
- It brings about community cohesion through linking school and community
- It empowers children to become global citizens – developing their awareness of the works of charities
- It develops empathy and the desire to strive for a fairer future. It encourages them to be compassionate and to take responsibility for positive change
- It enables children to achieve economic well-being through the management of money
- It encourages children to be safe – action planning with risk assessments is an important part of the award
- It develops self-esteem, confidence, resilience and assurance
- It develops a team working ethos and promotes related skills of collaboration and independence
- It supports children in leading purposeful and full lives and is great preparation for both secondary school and the workplace.
- The scheme develops Pupil Voice and Citizenship
- It encourages acquisition of important values (respect contribution compassion etc) and allows children to see them in practice
- It is about what we all believe in: moral purpose and integrity – developing and nurturing the whole child for life and placing education in a broader and more worthy context.