Curriculum Geography global learning politics Teaching

Fundraising and campaigning in schools

through the archGlobal Learning and Global Citizenship: discussions on the roles of fundraising and campaigning in schools
– Intellectual Frameworks Seminar at the V&A Museum of Childhood, 3 March 2014
This seminar was convened as part of the AHRC ‘Child in the World’ collaborative programme between the Museum of Childhood and Queen Mary.

“Fundraising and campaigning are very well established in the contemporary experience of most children in schools. For example, education resources that consist of campaigning-based activities are prominent within Geography and Citizenship curricula. Both campaigning and fundraising activities linked to NGOs regularly appear within the extra-curricular context of the school community, in the form of special assemblies, form activities and whole-school initiatives. This seminar interrogates the way in which ‘Global Learning’ is shaped by campaigning and fundraising approaches in schools, and what impact this has on children’s ‘Global Citizenship’.”

With an introduction by Lamees Al Mubarak, PhD student on Children’s Global Citizenship, the speakers included Steve Brace, Head of Education and Outdoor Learning at The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), Dr Alex Standish, Lecturer in Geography Education at the Institute of Education,​ and NGO practitioners Aleks Leimanis, Schools and Youth Manager, Comic Relief, Kate Amis, a specialist geography consultant who creates Comic Relief’s learning resources and Colin Walker, Campaigns Manager, Plan International UK.

Colin Walker outlined the legislative requirement for youth consultation and Plan International’s partnership with Girls School Association and Girl Guiding. He reported on successful activities and used the term interchangeably with ‘impact’. It is unfortunate to hear NGOs still using this term incorrectly.

Aleks Leimanis and Kate Amis from Comic Relief were keen to say that they didn’t want fundraising to take place if young people didn’t understand why it was necessary – and that there is no campaigning purpose in the educational material. The fundraising pack is mailed to schools and the learning resources are produced every two years for distribution through TES Resources. It was also said they call upon empathy, not sympathy or guilt.

In my view, the distinction between campaigning and fundraising was undermined by use of the term campaign for the two-year cycle of television programming. Seeking an action or change in human behaviour amounts to the same whether it is simply to put your hand in your pocket or to apply your political inclinations.

Steve Brace’s role here was to outline the scope of the Global Learning Programme.  (Not summarised here, see

Steve also
– quoted Beatrice Webb’s remark: “Democracy is not the multiplication of ignorant opinions.”
– cited Learning to Read the World (2011) for the figure that 73% of teachers [in Ireland] felt uncomfortable about fundraising.
– reflected on the concern that pupils are made to feel overly-responsible for everything – and yet improvements have taken place in the 30 year time-frame.

He also echoed the criticism of teachers who refer to fair trade with providing the context of the total value of global trade. He means knowledge of trade not geographical enquiry. His suggestion that more should be taught about that trade might be met with response that if the term ‘fair trade’ would become unnecessary if global trade raised its game to meet international labour and sustainability standards. Trade could put aside the human exploitation and environmental degradation it creates in pursuit of profit. Geographical education should not just describe or critique what exists but should consider what might be possible.

He also cited that geography is a valuable careers subject with the example of financial risk assessment. I would suggest this path into gambling is a good reason for them to be encouraged into thing about ethical aspects of the world.

Alex Standish outlined his preference for a curriculum based on a canon of knowledge and his regard that anything further being a distraction. His view is that education in the broadest sense, and knowledge in particular, should be apolitical. It is both disingenuous and political. He is permitted politics, but children are not. He sees global learning as problematic and spoke of it having ‘false promise’, symptomatic of our lack of understanding about the purpose of education.

Of the global learning programme, he said DFID had set it up with an agenda of development with a narrative of dependency and neo-colonialism. He ‘wished it would go away.’

He cited Rachel Tallon’s research based on five schools in New Zealand. I looked this up:

“In this article (2012) I have shown how three types of NGO outreach have been problematically received by their intended audiences.  Two aspects of the reception can be identified.  First that the intended messages of NGO material may be received and these may reinforce a paternalistic framework and that secondly, these same messages may be challenged and other impressions formed that are far removed from the intent of the NGO, but are not necessarily negative.

One of the key concerns that commentators have of the power of the charity framework is that it does not shift thinking from charity to justice despite the rhetoric that it strives to do this.”

Alex was less nuanced and said the aim to change the world should remain in the political realm not in schools. He has written with similar tabloid stridency in Spiked (2014). In a lame response to a question about fundraising, Alex said it would be alright if children did it on Saturday but not in school.

Incidentally, in his chapter (2007) he provides an interesting overview of global learning bearing in mind it is perhaps the most accessible comparative account with the USA. However, it offers no conclusion, or reference to his Civitas work.

It was an inconclusive seminar which raised some familiar concerns about both campaigning and fundraising in schools but it didn’t really move anyone on in thought or action.

My own view is that many teachers are wary of both. They have less to fear from charity campaigns and too many hold back. They do have more reason to consider the implications of fundraising in schools as it is often uncritical. Let children take the lead, facilitated by teachers, and ensure there is attention to the primary educational process and not just the campaign outcomes or funds being raised.

End note:
“without a substantial geographical component, it is possible to argue that young people will be restricted in their capacity to make sense of the complex, unequal, fast changing and often dangerous world in which they live” (Lambert 2008).

Bryan, Audrey and Bracken, Meliosa (2011) Read the World? Teaching and Learning about Global Citizenship and International Development in Post-Primary Schools, Dublin: Irish Aid
Lambert D (2008) Why are school subjects important? Forum, 50, 2. Available form
Standish, Alex (2007) ‘Geography used to be about maps’, in Whelan (ed) The corruption of the Curriculum. London: CIVITAS.
Standish, Alex (2009) Global Perspectives in the Geography Curriculum: Reviewing the moral case for geography, London: Routledge.
Standish, Alex (2012) The False Promise of Global Learning: Why Education Needs Boundaries, London: Continuum.
Standish, Alex (2013) ‘What does geography contribute to global learning?’ in Lambert and Jones (eds) Debates in Geography Education, London: Routledge.
Standish, Alex (2014) ‘The NGOs corrupting the curriculum’, Spiked, 8 January 2014
Tallon, Rachel (2012) ‘The Impressions Left Behind by NGO Messages Concerning the Developing World’, Policy & Practice: A Development Education Review, Vol. 15, Autumn 2012, pp. 8-27

And a useful addition
Oxfam’s “Before you start raising money…”

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