Encouraging pupils to perform community service is the focus of an award programme at St Kevin’s College.
The St Kevin’s College Service Award was inspired by the school’s involvement in central government’s Positive Behaviour For Learning programme.
Assistant principal Jo Walshe said the goal of the school’s version of the programme was to encourage pupils to establish positive relationships with the community and expand the network of people with whom they worked.
“While we have had a lot of programmes in school that have been very successful .. they have all been staff-dependent and they have sort of operated in smaller, isolated pockets.
“Our model places emphasis on advocacy for both parties and teachers and students work hard to make and maintain good functional relationships with each other through this.”
The service award rewards behaviour through “spark cards” – a certificate and a letter home – each time a pupil performs a new community service.
“We have tried to resist the temptation to reward students for what is fundamentally the role of a good citizen – that is, to work well with others and participate in the curriculum,” Mrs Walshe said.
“We have been thinking for a while now about how to expand this into a service model, so that we are not just thanking students for good behaviour, but we are encouraging them to go beyond themselves and help others.
“We have found that the most mentally healthy students, those with the best engagement in the curriculum and the most positive relationships, are often those who are most engaged in helping other people.”
The award itself is based on the gold, silver and bronze service component of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme.
Mrs Walshe believed the benefits of the programme were “multifold”, and encouraged pupils to become more involved with the community.
“Kids have become increasingly isolated through the use of technology and often they didn’t spend a lot of time with people in the community. They don’t attend churches, for example, and mix with older people and they may not be part of groups they used to.
“We need to encourage kids to be part of the community.
The programme is being rolled out at the school and about 50 pupils are involved so far.