Schools Need The Citizenship Curriculum

Allan Beavis's picture
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Yesterday was the deadline for consultation on the National Curriculum and this review might lead to citizenship education being removed. As more and more schools are encouraged to opt out of LA supervision, with too many offering a narrow academic curriculum focusing on “traditional” subjects, I wonder how inclusive these schools really can be if they are not including subjects relevant to the modern world - such as IT, business, media studies?

Is the curriculum about to get even narrower? Citizenship is obviously relevant so I wonder why the government needs to flag this up for review in the first place, given that in a democratic society we have a fundamental and human right to engage in public life. A democratically elected government should surely ensure that these rights are embedded in schools, so that children can learn about and participate in their political and social communities - about equality, justice, diversity, current affairs? Some of these are controversial but they stimulate questioning and debate. All of these topics complement the academic curriculum. They illuminate and give relevance to academic learning of music, history, languages, science.

Citizenship education is an internationally recognised and respected subject and it is crucial in equipping children with the tools to be thoughtful citizens and to have a broader knowledge of the world and their contribution to it. Citizenship plays an important part in social cohesion, in helping to eradicate xenophobia, homophobia, hatred and in promoting understanding of human rights, liberty, caring for your neighbour.

I expect some will see citizenship as a leftie leftover and will be happy to see this Labour initiative dumped in the bin, arguing that it is not a schools responsibility to waste precious curriculum time on “social cohesion”. But by abandoning citizenship education, we run the risk of even greater discrimination and social division and a decreasing awareness of human rights. What is the value of that?

There has been much talk from the government about the “Big Society” and “Social Mobility” but we can only have these if we ensure that the spirit of democracy is upheld, by ensuring that the Citizenship Curriculum retains its statutory force.
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Comments

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 15/04/2011 - 12:46

I submitted my thoughts -- not that they will be noted! I wrote a blog about the great work that's going on with Citizenship here: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/01/new-research-shows-young-p...
The CELS research project is the first proper research into a PSHE subject which shows that it can be effective if delivered by properly trained teachers. It's sadly not very well known, despite being a very important research project, with huge implications for 21st education in the UK. More can be found here: http://www.nfer.ac.uk/nfer/research/projects/cels/about-the-study.cfm

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 15/04/2011 - 14:57

I got as far as page 9 of the NFER report http://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DCSF-RR172.pdf which Francis mentioned and read this:

“Teaching methods: Although active teaching and learning methods are popular with
students and increasing in use, teaching is still predominantly delivered through less active
teaching and learning methods (across all subjects, including CE[Citizenship Education]).”

Will the use of “less active teaching and learning methods” increase under Govian prescription?

Andreas Schleicher of the OECD wrote that “value is less and less created vertically through command and control – as in the classic ‘teacher instructs student’ relationship – but horizontally, by whom you connect and work with, whether online or in person.” OECD also warned that obsession with GCSE grades was crowding out non-cognitive skills* such as those encouraged in CE.

http://www.oecd.org/document/2/0,3746,en_2649_201185_46846594_1_1_1_1,00...

*OECD Economic Surveys: United Kingdom p101

Laura McInerney's picture
Fri, 15/04/2011 - 15:29

I have never been more convinced of Citizenship education than in the last month. We are about to have a major referendum where the public will decide a matter of constitutional reform and yet most people have no idea about electoral systems or their merits. The *only* place where students develop political literacy is in the Citizenship curriculum and this knowledge has to be every bit as important as the 'core' knowledge of Shakespeare, Yeates & molecular structures that Gove is so keen for students to learn.

Finally, if nothing else should convince the Coalition that the subject is important they need to look at the topics of the curriculum - they are, largely, Politics, Economics & Philosopy - sound familiar to any of them perhaps?

If those subjects were good enough for David Cameron - and HALF of all current Cabinet Ministers - to study at degree level, I really can't see how they can object to these subjects being extended to all students.

Laura McInerney's picture
Fri, 15/04/2011 - 15:39

Okay, it's not HALF the Cabinet. It's 8, out of 23.

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