The Olive Branch Award supports schools to become safe and empowered spaces to talk and learn about tough issues through focusing on four key skills; active listening, empathy, critical thinking, and social and emotional learning. Schools can join and collect leaves for their Olive Branch by participating in SNS sessions and exclusive new programmes for teachers and students. It is a holistic approach for the school to embed a culture of learning, listening, and reflection on Israel - Palestine over a three year period, achieving full SNS accreditation at the end.
Why should I sign my school up?
The Olive Branch Award is a unique way to include key life skills within school curriculum and school culture. In addition, it supports teachers and the SLT in having challenging conversations, increasing quality teaching and learning across the board, and creating safe and informed spaces. Israel - Palestine is the vehicle through which these skills are taught and through which school culture is strengthened.
Schools can display their progress on their Olive Branch Award journey with certificates to display, which showcase their work towards becoming a safe & courageous school for learning about tough issues like Israel-Palestine.
The Olive Branch Award Journey
How does it work?
Once a school has applied to The Olive Branch Award, alongside this welcome pack, which has all the information you need to get started, you'll receive some printed materials to help you get a display underway. You can then sign up for certain programmes throughout the academic year, and send in evidence of completing programmes in order to receive the next leaf on your branch. SNS will send you new graphics and certificates for each branch. You’ll receive a framework to self-monitor progress, and the Founder and Director of SNS will support you with an evaluation process. There are over 15 different programmes to choose from and full accreditation is reached once you have done 10 of these programmes over three years and you can choose whichever ones you like. Schools need to get at least three new leaves a year in order to retain their Olive Branch Award status over the three years of their journey.
How many teachers should be involved?
Schools should nominate one teacher to be the lead teacher on The Olive Branch Award, but multiple teachers are welcome to run the programmes and attend events.
What are the programmes?
Why do schools sign up for three years?
We ask participating schools to commit to the Award for three years because we have observed from focus groups and focus schools that real cultural and organisational shifts, which have an impact within an institutional setting, require at least three years of active work. The implementation of new policies, training, and skills amongst the teaching staff, and changes to PHSE curriculums take time to settle. In addition, SNS is offering multiple programmes that are best implemented step by step over consecutive years.
How much work is it?
We ask for schools to commit to at least 3 leaves in a school year. Beyond this, the initiative is designed to be as low or high commitment as schools see fit within their needs and within their timetables. Several of the programmes can take place within normal school lessons and are programmes that schools are already doing, and others are self-run student projects, or once a year events. You can also receive DIY leaves.
How much is it?
Schools make a contribution for different programmes of the Award that they choose to participate in with an annual cap that differs based on need. There are discounts on the programmes for Olive Branch Schools. Some programmes have no cost attached at all e.g. creating a display.
Which schools can participate?
The Award is open to any secondary school or sixth form college, or higher education college. You may be interested in the initiative because of the focus on life skills and the way in which it enriches geography, history, religious studies, and politics curriculums, or it may be because you want to take a more proactive approach to Antisemitism and Islamophobia within the school, or it may be because your students, the teachers, and the general school community see Israel - Palestine as a vital international issue. If your students are interested in or passionate about Palestine - Israel, this will give them multiple opportunities to learn, listen, and express themselves. It also provides teachers with additional training, peer-to-peer learning, and a community of teachers across the country. The Olive Branch Award is neither simply for teachers or simply for students, but a wrap around Award for the school itself.
These are the life skills that the Olive Branch Award focuses on. These are designed for students, but teachers and parents alike can also benefit from better understanding and engaging in training of these skills. Whilst there are many other practical skills that the Olive Branch Award programmes provide such as public speaking, debating, researching, and knowledge on Israel - Palestine, these are the ‘soft’ skills that are important for life.
The Education Policy Institute defines Social and Emotional Learning as “is concerned with fostering children’s social and emotional skills within educational settings, alongside their academic skills. This can include developing young people’s relationships, communication, decision-making, self-esteem and behaviour.”. It focuses on Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. The Olive Branch Award seeks to address the challenge of delivering this - lack of prep and classroom time - by integrating SEL within the programmes which can be done throughout the school year and which also address other curriculum needs. These curriculum needs are particularly relevant within Geography, History, RS, PHSE, and Politics.
Active Listening is the skill of concentrating and working to understand what is being said by those who are speaking or communicating. It is about:
It connects to social and emotional learning in better understanding the emotions of others. It can help with developing empathy and helps to respect and celebrate diversity and difference with comfort. The National Literacy Trust lists Active Listening as a vital skill in their Oracy and Talk For Learning guide. Being able to fully listen to what is being said and understand the nuances of communication is a vital skill for all sorts of work and careers that students may go on to do later in life. Many things distract us in modern life, and active listening is a skill that many adults do not yet practice including educators. After reading this, why not try to engage in active listening in the next conversation you have and see what difference it makes to that interaction?
The Olive Branch Award includes the fostering of this skill for teachers and for students through the various programmes on offer including the Part 3 session, the Student Leadership Programme, the teacher community, and the annual teacher conference.
Being able to take the time to pause and think critically about what is being said is vital to learning and to life. Understanding that not everything that is said is necessarily true, and to understand the bias behind certain sources, medias, social media, and those communicating messages. Whilst we all have access to diverse narratives, different media sources, and opposing viewpoints to the ones we hold ourselves, we rarely actually look to engage with multiple perspectives and we rarely go outside of our own comfort zone. We all have ‘confirmation bias’ - seeking out information that confirms our already firmly held beliefs or perspectives. The skill of critical thinking gives us the chance to take a step back and look at what we are understanding and what we are thinking. It gives us the skills to assess the sources of our information and analyse the interests and bias behind them, as well as pushing us towards looking at different perspectives. Critical thinking also gives space to a number of other skills in other areas including maths and science, and ties into the other life skills here. The Olive Branch Award has several programmes that inoculate and promote critical thinking including the student led learning resources and the part 3 of our three part programme.
The ability to have and use empathy is another life skill to be developed. Empathy involves stepping into the shoes of someone else, and understanding their perspectives and emotions. It does not require you to become that person or take on their feelings as your own, but simply to understand and accept those feelings and perspectives. A good way to look at empathy is to think about stepping into someone else’s shoes whilst keeping your own socks on. SNS was founded on the value of empathy and being able to understand how those who are different from you, or even those who have very different viewpoints to you feel and approach situations. The premise of empathy is that every human is good and understand their needs and emotions better helps us to understand where they are coming from. All of SNS’ programmes include approaching and teaching empathy. Radical Empathy goes one step further, to look at our own internalised biases and discriminations and how the dismantling of them can lead to a fairer society.