Leicester school's Green Hat scheme gives pupils a head start
As I walk into Coleman Primary School, I'm greeted by a sea of pupils donning green caps.
They wear them proudly and a quick chat with head teacher Nigel Bruen reveals why.
"The Green Hat scheme, as it's known, isn't new. In fact, it's been going for the past 10 years, ever since I became head teacher," says Mr Bruen.
"It was an easy way for pupils with extra responsibility to be seen by others – far better than a sticker or a badge and I found they really enjoyed wearing them."
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What is new are some of the responsibilities which go with it. The school, in Gwendolen Road, Evington, Leicester, is working towards the city council's anti-bullying community award and the green hats will go part-way to achieving it.
"They're worn by certain year six pupils who have shown they are capable of looking after others and have the desire to do so.
"It means that at playtimes other children know who to go to if they have a problem and they don't immediately want to speak to an adult.
"Green hat pupils keep an eye out for others and if they spot a problem are happy to help.
"It could be something as simple as making sure someone's not on their own at break time."
Year six teacher Nick Lowe said: "Our school doesn't have a problem with bullying per se, but we recognise it's important they know what to do if they have an issue – particularly as we're a large school with more than 600 children on roll.
"Communication is key to what we do and if children can't bring themselves to talk to an adult, then who better than their fellow peers."
Now green hat pupils are being trained to buddy up with others, particularly new students who might need a bit of extra help to settle in with school life.
"We're teaching everyone what constitutes bullying because we find that sometimes it can be misinterpreted.
The city council's mantra Several Times On Purpose (STOP) really helps, says Mr Bruen, and that is what they are now embedding throughout the school.
With more than 25 languages spoken and 96 per cent of Coleman's pupils coming from an ethnic minority background, respect and tolerance are also key themes throughout the school.
While many might see this as a challenge, Mr Bruen believes it is a huge strength.
"I think our pupils are better placed than most to succeed in whatever setting they're put in and that's what many employers will be looking for in the future," he said. "If they can see that individual working alongside others and fitting in, as well as having the academic background, then they're ahead of the pack.
"We have links with St Joseph's Catholic Primary, in the city, and Redmile Church of England Primary, in the Vale of Belvoir, where pupils regularly exchange visits and get to learn about one another in a different environment. We also have links with a school in Namibia, among others.
"Our diversity is what shines through and the children's ability to socialise well.
"Literacy and numeracy are very important, but our pupils' social and moral code is equally so."