Karen Thomson

Karen Thomson is the founder of the Torbay and Devon Civic Award and leads and manages the programme.

She currently works as a School Improvement Partner and Primary Consultant. During her teaching career, she has been a Deputy Headteacher, 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.

Karen first introduced The Torbay Civic Award in 2004. Teaching in Year 6 at Cockington Primary School at that time and the Advanced Skills Teacher for Citizenship and PSHE for Torbay LEA, she 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 Character and Values Education 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.

Pictured below, receiving their award from the mayor of Torbay, are the first pupils to receive the award. Many of these original pioneers, like those who have followed, have gone on to make a difference in their communities by taking part in DofE, International Baccalaureate, Scouts, Guides, and in caring professions. This has been true of subsequent graduates; many of whom have reported how taking part in the award shaped their future career and life choices.

To achieve the award pupils have to prove their participation in six main areas. These are:

  • Active Citizenship in their school community This could be Peer Mediation , Reading Buddies . School Council or other positions of trust and responsibility in school.
  • Active Citizenship in their home communities . In the past, pupils have taken part in 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.
  • A physical hobby(ies) and A non-physical 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 the September of their Year 6.
  • Residential experience and adventure trainingThis entails sleeping away from home and family and taking part in outdoor challenges. This section can be back-dated to Year 5.
  • 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.
  • Children need to make a pledge to the planet during the time they are undertaking the award. Children will need to research ways to help save the environment and take action on at least one issue.
  • The children must also pass a rigorous assessment when they have to present all this evidence to an external assessor.

The award has grown over the years. In 2018 it was re-named and became the Torbay and Devon Civic Award because of the high interest from schools in Devon who wished to take part. Currently over 40 schools are registered and well over 3,700 children have taken part since the award first started.

Every year children receive their prestigious Torbay and Devon Civic Award certificates from Chairs of both Torbay and Devon Councils at the annual Torbay Civic Award Presentation Nights. In 2023 there were four Presentation Nights: two at St Cuthbert Mayne School in Torquay, one at Kingsbridge Community College and one at Uffculme School. During the years of the pandemic there were no Presentation Nights, but nearly 300 children received a limited edition certificate at celebrations in their own schools and the award became stronger than ever.

Over the years many groups, societies and individuals have been inspired to support the award. In 2014 Gary Vine joined and has looked after the award’s online presence and the business-side of the award ever since. There is a website: www.torbaycivicaward.co.uk and a facebook and twitter account.

Gary Vine

Gary Vine looks after the online presence of the Torbay & Devon Civic Award and is also looks after all business admin including financial and compiliance.

Gary is a Director for Aspire Direct Marketing Ltd which is an online retailing company. He also works as a Team Leader for a large online sporting retailer and has also spent over 20 years in retail Management.

Gary believes in giving everyone a chance and encourages and embraces others 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 2012 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.

The Torbay & Devon Civic Award does not allow the downloading of images from our website. To request a image please contact the relevant school who will get in touch with us.