Thousands of Year 6 schoolchildren from across the London Borough of Hillingdon are learning invaluable life skills this month at Brunel University London as part of the Junior Citizen scheme.
The annual event, a partnership led by London Fire Brigade (Hillingdon), is being held at Brunel for the first time – with the stimulating learning environment of the university's new STEAM Learning Centre, Inspire, being used to full effect.
3,790 children from 56 Hillingdon schools are each learning bitesize lessons in eight engaging scenarios, ranging from staying safe on public transport to how to react to a fire at home.
For the last 20 years, Junior Citizen has been helping children get more savvy in the months leading up to the move to secondary school.
"Hopefully, the children will realise that it is a big world out there, but there are ways to say safe – if they think and they follow instructions," said Theresa Tausch, a teacher from Guru Nanak Sikh Academy, attending with a group of her students.
"When the children get to see what can happen, they go back and tell their parents, and it's a knock-on effect. So everybody stays a little safer."
Staff from all the partner services take part in the training – Transport for London, The London Borough of Hillingdon, The London Borough of Hillingdon School Nursing Service, The Royal National Lifeboat Institute and The Metropolitan Police (Hillingdon Division) – together with teaching staff from Hillingdon Life Education.
Mayor of Hillingdon, Councillor Carol Melvin, and her Consort Andrew dropped in on various sessions, including a scenario about the perils of sharing too much personal information online.
"The way the lessons are delivered is so memorable," she said. "The interesting thing is when children are this age, they absorb things a lot better than when they're older.”
Inspire is a new cutting-edge teaching and learning facility that inspires and engages children from Key Stages 1 to 5 in science, technology, engineering, the arts, maths and medicine (STEAM) – areas in which the UK economy is crying out for more talent. It uses Brunel's research and expertise as inspiration to deliver curriculum-linked and industry-relevant learning experiences.
“I’ve asked you all to draw the image that comes to mind when you hear a name like Princess Petal.
But actually do we know what she looks like? Could anyone go on a game and create a profile, and call themselves Princess Petal?”
– Anna Horton, Hillingdon Life Education
"The venue's great, and it gives us capacity as we get more children in the borough," said Martin Wilson, Hillingdon Borough Commander of London Fire Brigade. "And there's a fun element to the learning environment: the astroturf, the beanbags, multi-coloured chairs and coat racks. It's very stimulating, interactive, fun and visual."
Staff and students from Brunel and beyond are all working to make Junior Citizen run smoothly, with placement students from Buckinghamshire New University supporting the scheme alongside Brunel Volunteers.
"The Brunel Volunteers have been a huge plus," commented Mr Wilson. "They've assisted moving the students around, giving out certificates and evaluation sheets. And Brunel's Security have been helpful, from storing props overnight, looking after bikes, charging radios overnight, and our point of contact for first aid."
The final session will take place on Friday 23 March, leaving another year’s worth of children better prepared for challenges they may face.
"I think it's absolutely fantastic because they're now learning very important life-enhancing lessons,” added Cllr Melvin. “The children are our citizens of the future.”
For more information about the venue, contact Head of Inspire, Michelle Evans.
Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268821 firstname.lastname@example.org