School Citizen Assemblies Empowering us to tackle problems & take action TOGETHER

"To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination" — Albert Einstein

School Citizen Assemblies

School Citizen Assemblies (SCAs) seek to empower young people and communities to tackle complex challenges and achieve transformative change through a creative process of research, understanding, collaboration, critical thinking and compassion.

With schools acting as hubs for change, SCAs enable young people, experts and stakeholders to assemble and understand problems from a diversity of perspectives and create effective solutions.

A process of divergent and convergent thinking moves learners through research and understanding different perspectives; and then creating ideas and actions.

The SCA Process

SCAs can making a real difference in the world through a flexible, adaptable and effective approach to education and change.

Why School Citizen Assemblies?

Schools & Teachers: SCAs can be embedded into your curriculum in a flexible way and can be run over a single day, week, month or over a full year. A SCA can be designed to suit your teaching and learning needs and outcomes, with connections to one or more subject areas within your curriculum. The guides, tools and videos on this website provide the resources to design and deliver a SCA in a variety of forms. This innovative approach can also situate your school as hubs of real world learning and change, tackling local and global challenges that impact on individuals, organisations and society. The SCA also works with any issue, problem or challenge you wish to tackle. The choice is yours.

Pupils: SCAs provide engaging learning experiences that seek to empower young people with the knowledge, skills and compassion to act as change agents. By activating the pupils learning through action, choice and voice it makes the experience more engaging and relevant. This knowledge and humanity rich approach enables young people to collaborate with experts and stakeholders to understand the problems and find creative and effective solutions. In doing so, SCAs provide young people with the knowledge, agency, skills and voice to take and support positive action.

Experts & stakeholders: SCAs seek to assemble the knowledge, views and ideas of experts, stakeholders and young people, to tackle complex problems and produce impactful solutions. Listening and empathy are key alongside the ability to understand different perspectives and develop solutions that work. Impactful change is achieved by working together to expand our understanding, creativity, compassion and innovative ways of tackling complex problems, now and in the future.

What do teachers say about the SCA?

This is exactly why I came into teaching — Secondary School Teacher
This is a great way to engage our pupils in learning and support them to take action and make a real difference in the world — Primary School Teacher

SCA Learning Outcomes

Below are some of the key learning outcomes connected with the SCA process:

  • Knowledge & Understanding
  • Empathy & Compassion
  • Pupil voice & Agency
  • Literacy and Numeracy
  • High Order Thinking: creative, critical, analytical, innovative…
  • Collaborate & Teamwork
  • Communicate & Inspire
  • Real world learning
  • Commitment and resilience
  • Courageous and confident
  • Community and stakeholder engagement
  • Engages well with all pupils. Particularly effective with SEND and those who find it difficult to engage with the current education system.

How it Works

The SCA Challenge Process

The SCA Challenge Approach is based on a teaching and learning process and framework for facilitating informed, connected, collaborative, creative and compassionate learning. The approach aligns with knowledge and inclusive design approaches to understanding complex challenges and creatively responding with ideas and actions.

SCA Example: Sustainability & Climate Change Challenge

  • Challenge: How might we reduce waste and create a clean and healthy environment? [The teacher may select a more focused challenge, such as reducing waste in the school (food, water, clothing, technology, composting, litter, etc.) or recycling and single use plastics, or planting trees to increase biodiversity]. Experts can also provide talks to engage pupils in the global or local issues. For example, Chester Zoo providing a talk on climate change, habitat loss, animal conservation and biodiversity, to frame the broader challenge.
  • Research: pupils begin by researching the issues that underlie the challenge. For example, the causes of waste and opportunities for change connected to their challenge (such as reducing, recycling, upcycling, repairing). This may align to knowledge and skills they have learnt or are learning through the curriculum. Experts could also provide additional insights, knowledge and skills (talks, resources, videos, etc.). The pupils connect this research with an understanding of different stakeholder perspectives (SCA activities such as empathy interviews, point of view analysis). This helps them to gain greater knowledge and empathy of the problems, barriers and possible solutions for change.
  • Define: pupils then reframe the initial challenge based on the insights gained from the research and understanding process (using SCA activities). For example they may take a broader issue around waste and focus more on questions such as: How might we reduce waste within the school by changing behaviour and views to food waste (canteen staff, parents and pupils)? How might we reduce food waste and climate change by refining the school lunch menu to provide more tasty, healthy and climate friendly options?
  • Create: the next stage is for pupils to develop ideas to tackle the challenge through practical actions, voices and choices. For example, what ideas do they have relating to waste reduction and improving recycling in the school (e.g., more information, composting, school meals, reducing single use plastics, recycling bins). They then develop prototypes (draft versions) and pitch these to others to help refine solutions (other groups, teachers, experts or stakeholders).
  • Implement: they then move into the final design process by implementing their ideas and actions. For example, set up a school composting process, produce a leaflet explaining the process and benefits of composting for others in the community, and/or write a letter to your local council to improve approaches to plastic recycling in the region.
  • Review: the final stage is to evaluate the impact of the actions and review the learning outcomes of the process.

SCA Tool: Key Features

We are currently designing the following features to support the SCA. These are currently work in progress, but we hope to launch the guide and activity handbook soon. We also plan to fully develop the Meet the Experts Directory and a SCA network in the future.

  • A resource bank: a Practical Guide, an Activity Handbook and Presentations to make it easy to move from this website to the classroom (in progress).
  • Meet the Experts Directory: a directory of experts available to use to bring real world learning to life (in progress).
  • Professional Development: the SCA frameworks supports professional development and practice through a high quality pedagogical approach that enhances teaching and learning in the classroom and beyond.
  • A network: SCA seeks to develop a network of SCA educators, partners, experts and students who are part of a shared experience of collaborative, creative and compassionate education, action and change.

Getting Started

(Work in Progress)

Practical Guide: helps those beginning the SCA process. The guide includes planning considerations and step by step guidance on how to design and deliver a SCA that fits your needs.

  • Activities Guides: There are three activity guides to suit different types of SCA (simple, core and extended). The Simple Activity Guide is a basic introduction to the SCA process and activities. The Core Activity Guide takes you through more activities and links to ways of extending these through the SCA process. The Extended Activity Guide provides a more detailed set of SCA stages, activities and examples. In addition, there is an Generic Skills guide that covers a range of SCA skills and an Empathy Interviews Guide (in case you wish to extend your SCA further).

SCA Presentations, expert resources & pre-recorded sessions: we will also develop presentations for teachers that aim to support the SCA design process (in development).


How much will the SCA resources and support on this website cost?

Nothing, it is free! All the SCA resources and support within this website are open access and free. Other providers and experts that you link to from this site may charge for certain extended services. These are additional resources beyond the SCA offer. Many of the people and organisations connected to the SCA will seek to offer some free resources and support. However, some are small charities or educational support services and they may require additional funding to support their organisations. Please check before you sign up to anything.

I don’t have much time to learn a new approach, will I have time to do this?

You can decide how simple or advanced the SCA approach is within your class and school. SCAs are very flexible and can be adapted and used in a way that meets your teaching and learning needs, goals and time constraints. SCAs can also work on a single day, or you can develop sessions over a week, a term or a year long programme. So how long it takes depends on your needs, constraints and goals. Also like any new teaching approach, you’ll become more confident the more you use it. You could start with a simple process and then build on this over time. After an initial period of preparation, you’ll also learn by doing! We hope to also develop a network of experts who can support your school and provide additional help in the future.

There is new language and concepts, where do I start?

Start with the SCA Practical Guide and Activities Guides. These will answer certain questions and allow you to make a head start on designing a SCA for your school. While there is a framework to support the SCA process, you can select the activities that work for you and connect with your curriculum. There are many different ways to design and deliver the SCA approach. It is a very flexible approach that you can fully adapt to your timescales, requirements and availabiltiy.

How do I select a topic Challenge and embed SCAs into the curriculum?

The SCA pilot focuses on climate change, biodiversity and sustainability. However, you could select any problem, issue or challenge. SCAs can also connect to any subject in the national curriculum and can be an excellent way to develop cross curriculum links and connections between subject areas. For example, during the research stage you may begin focusing on the areas of reading, writing and communication. However, you may decide that you need to develop greater knowledge of the issue through science, maths, history, geography, etc. or ways of engaging in the issue through art, music, drama, etc. The option to draw on different subjects and disciplinary areas is the same when you begin developing and implementing ideas. For example, a webpage seeking to campaign on a specific issue may require knowledge and skills in IT, graphic design, writing and communication skills, and many other subject areas.

Where can I find more resources about my challenge?

We are assembling a range of resources to support schools in the pilot area of climate change, biodiversity and sustainability. We hope to develop this further over time. Within your school and region you will have many experts (teachers, university academics, businesses, charities, public sector, parents, governors, other individuals) who can all help in gathering information and ideas for your challenge. Also the pupils can perform desk research to collate more information about the challenge. In fact, this is stage one of the SCA and one of the aims is for the pupils to search out more information and knowledge about the challenge area through their local communities. Clearly this needs to be adjusted for specific age groups and their skills. However, researching a challenge can be a great experience for them, especially if they find the challenge relevant and engaging and they can ultimately make a real difference in the world around them.

Who are the experts?

Once we launch the directory, different people and organisations will be able to sign up for the 'Meet the Experts' directory. The resource is for teachers and schools to use rather than pupils. We recommend you follow your normal safeguarding practices when contacting and using any resources or interactions. There are many wonderful people and organisations working on SCAs. However, the experts in this directory are not verified by us through this website, so please follow the normal checks you would perform when working with any new person or organisation. Please inform us if you feel that any resources or contacts require further review by the SCA team.

I am not sure if an SCA works with my teaching area?

SCA can work in any subject area and provides a way to make learning more engaging and connected to real world issues. It can also connect different subject areas through an interdisciplinary approach to learning.

  • Is an SCA a form of citizen assembly?

The term assembly refers to the assemblage of young people, experts and stakeholders to tackle complex problems through a process of co-design. It is sometimes confused with a school morning assembly or traditional citizen assemblies. However, the SCA is much more than either of these as highlighted above.

  • How do I engage with stakeholders?

Engagement with stakeholders can be achieved through desk research or research in the field. This can provide you with a greater understanding of their different needs and perspectives. Teachers can help to explain how the needs of stakeholders may differ, or raise issues of barriers for change (e.g. teacher in role). So if you are unable to access stakeholders during certain points of the project, the teacher can help to highlight these different issues from a stakeholder perspective. However, the best way for young people to engage with stakeholders is by speaking with them or observing them and their actions (buying habits of customers in a shop, littering or what people through away in bins). Experts and stakeholders could include your friends, families, communities, businesses, academics, charities, etc., depending on the focus of your challenge.

Contact us:

Please contact Dr Chris McLean

University of Manchester

We would love to hear your stories of using the SCA in your school, as well as any suggestions to improve and develop the SCA process and website. The SCA is still work in progress and any ideas to improve and develop the approach are always welcome.