Pudsey Bear can help young people learn about community and active citizenship

Welcome back, Pudsey Bear! This is the week of the BBC’s annual November Children in Need appeal. Though fundraising activities take place throughout the year, the main focus is the Friday night TV marathon, an all-trumpets-blaring mix of celebrity guest appearances, special Children in Need editions of favourite TV shows, information segments about how the monies raised will be used and — crucially — lots of public interaction and involvement. The mission of BBC Children in Need is “to help ensure every child in the UK is safe, happy, secure and has the opportunities they need to reach their potential.” It is a compelling cause in itself, of course, but also an excellent opportunity to introduce young children to the idea of social responsibility and to encourage young people of all ages to actively participate in making a difference.

The BBC’s first children’s appeal, on the radio, was on Christmas Day 1927. Its first televised Christmas Day appeal, in 1955, was hosted by Sooty and Harry Corbett. The format used today first began in 1980, and Pudsey Bear was adopted as the BBC Children in Need mascot in 1985. The 2020 appeal raised an incredible £57 million.

We support children and young affected by a whole range of disadvantages such as poverty, disability, illness, distress or trauma.  We also work with a range of partners to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing the UK’s children and young people today, including: mental health and wellbeing, violence impacting young people, child sexual exploitation, holiday hunger; access to employment, and social injustice. [about us]

from the official BBC Children in Need website

Taking part in BBC Children in Need is an excellent gateway into learning about charity, volunteering, social responsibility and civic participation more generally. Much of the publicity relates to TV shows that young people enjoy and relate to, though there is complete freedom to plan and develop your own ideas. The ‘telethon’-style Friday night TV extravaganza, the community excitement surrounding fundraising events, and the BBC’s unique reach and media muscle all help to reinforce a sense of shared endeavour and a feeling that your contribution really does help to make a difference.

The official BBC Children in Need website is outstanding, packed with resources to support families, schools and community groups, including a complete fundraising kit. A PowerPoint presentation for use in primary schools sets out why this work matters and what its educational benefits are:

  • It helps us to think about things that we may take for granted that other children may not have
  • It helps us to realise that some people are less fortunate than others
  • It makes us aware of the lives of other children in the UK
  • It encourages everyone to get involved and raise money to help others

The Children in Need tagline — Together, we can change young lives — reminds us that we can make a difference to even the biggest and most entrenched and intractable of problems if we work in cooperation with others. Community is one of nine life themes that make up Life-Based Learning. At its most basic level, it means children learning, and learning to value, that they are part of something bigger than just their immediate network of family, neighbours and friends.

Active citizenship — a key element of Life-Based Learning — is all about engagement and participation. On this website we regularly blog about opportunities for individuals, families, schools and community organisations to get involved in making a difference, to themselves, their communities and the world around them. Evidence suggests that active participation — doing something positive, however small — is good for our mental health and wellbeing and helps to dispel the fatalistic notion that we are powerless in the face of the problems and challenges that confront us.

And we have also argued that if we are genuinely serious about building stronger, more cohesive communities, schools have a huge role to play by ensuring that children and young people are able to discuss issues like racism, antisemitism, sexism and other forms of bigotry in a safe and inclusive environment. Charity work, fundraising, volunteering — all elements of active citizenship — are the other side of the same coin. They are all part of a values programme that helps children and young people learn about fairness, tolerance, empathy, kindness, responsibility and respect.

More About Community and Active Citizenship

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