Woodlands pupils at the graduation ceremony at King's

Woodlands pupils at the graduation ceremony at King’s College London

In the summer of 2015, the Reluctant Internationalist group’s David Bryan teamed up with the educational charity The Brilliant Club and Woodlands School in Basildon to design and run a course on the history of internationalism for a group of twelve GCSE pupils. In September the pupils, who are just beginning year 10, attended a graduation ceremony at King’s College London after completing a course of university-style tutorials and producing a final assignment aimed at A-level standards.

The Brilliant Club places doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in non-selective state schools to deliver university-style tutorials based on their own research. The organisation aims to help pupils develop the knowledge, skills and ambition to secure places at top universities. Their focus is on those groups most underrepresented at such institutions, particularly pupils with no family history of higher education and those eligible for free school meals.

The course at Woodlands comprised six tutorials spread over the summer and autumn terms. The first tutorial formed part of a visit to Newnham College, Cambridge where pupils met with university students and widening participation staff to discuss university life, study skills and the benefits of pursuing higher education. The course ended with the graduation ceremony at King’s attended by pupils, teachers and family members. In between pupils were required to attend five tutorials in school and to complete a 2000 word assignment which was given a university-style grade.

The twelve Woodlands pupils followed a bespoke course on the history of internationalism and international organisations since the First World War. Covering the emergence and development of internationalist ideas and practices through the prism of the League of Nations, the United Nations and the European Union, the course aimed to prepare pupils for the demands of the new GCSE curriculum with its requirements for thematic, longer-term studies of European and world history. It also provided an opportunity for pupils to discuss current debates around the EU, global migration and the refugee crisis in their historical context, and to engage with some of the ideas covered in the Citizenship curriculum.

All of the Woodlands pupils performed extremely well on the course, achieving a 100% pass rate and engaging enthusiastically with some very challenging ideas and material. Special congratulations to Rose and Isobelle who received distinctions for, respectively, their outstanding final assignments and contribution to tutorials.

We hope this will be the first of a number of activities aimed at making the research produced by the Reluctant Internationalists group accessible to secondary school pupils and teachers.