10 reasons why Citizenship skills must be re-instated in the curriculum
I know I said that I would not be writing any new posts on this blog… but I’ve been provoked.
The re-draft of the National Curriculum, following the public consultation which closed in April, has been entirely cosmetic as far as Citizenship is concerned. Despite widespread demands that Citizenship skills should be included in the programmes of study, the latest draft still only lists areas of knowledge. We shouldn’t be too surprised.
In March, I submitted a Freedom of Information request to ask the DfE how they had arrived at the first draft of the Citizenship programmes of study. I did this because I was certain the experts they consulted (who included my former Head at Deptford Green School, Sir Keith Ajegbo) would not have recommended what was in the draft. My request was denied on that grounds that certain information needs,
‘to be withheld in certain instances, including where Ministers and officials need to consider various options at an early stage of policy formulation away from the public gaze. The purpose of this exemption is to allow for suggestions to be made and considered, which might not be made if options were to be exposed to the public.’
This of course is nonsense, but it allows the Government to hide the fact that they simply did not listen to the experts. And with the latest draft announced last week, the Government has done it again.
We have one more opportunity to press the Government to re-consider. The current draft of the National Curriculum is out for final consultation. The deadline to respond is August 8th and all the documents you need to do so are HERE.
And this is what everyone should say:
The Citizenship skills of critical thinking and enquiry, advocacy and representation, and taking informed action must be re-instated in the programmes of study.
That’s it. Nothing more. Do not cloud the issue with trying to get global issues in to Key Stage 3 or by trying to reword financial education. Just focus on the inclusion of skills. Here are 10 reasons why:
- Citizenship knowledge is important, but without the inclination and skills to put that knowledge to good use, it is of little value;
- Citizenship was introduced in the curriculum to, ‘change the political culture of this country, for people to think of themselves as active citizens, willing, able and equipped to have an influence in public life’ (The ‘Crick Report’, 1998). We can’t achieve this without Citizenship skills;
- The original programmes of study stated that, ‘Citizenship knowledge must be acquired and applied through Citizenship skills’. We need to remember that;
- You can’t learn to swim from a book, you actually have to jump in the swimming pool. In the same way, you can’t learn about democracy from a book, you actually have to go out there and practice being democratic.You only feel politically powerful when you have had a powerful experience of acting politically;
- Teaching Citizenship knowledge without Citizenship skills, is like teaching PE but not allowing students to kick a ball, or art but not giving students a chance to paint, or even English, but not expecting them to actually read a book;
- Citizenship has always been not just a new subject, but a new kind of subject – a pedagogy defined by giving students some choice and autonomy in their learning, developing knowledge through skills and offering opportunities for real world action. In other words, a pedagogy which all subjects would benefit from. Without skills, Citizenship is no longer a new kind of subject, or even a new subject – it’s just civics;
- The Association for Citizenship Teaching argues, “In a climate where young people are statistically less and less engaged in politics and democratic life, by being active citizens and actually ‘doing’ politics, they are far more likely to be deeply engaged in the politics of their country, especially where this involves genuine active citizenship.”
- If you are teaching children about democracy and participation, you have to reflect those principles in your lessons. There has to be coherence between your message and your method;
- From my experience of teaching Citizenship for over seven years in London schools, what students love about the subject is that they actually get to do stuff – debate, investigate, present, act! They recognise that Citizenship is different and they value it;
- By undermining Citizenship education we undermine democracy. And when democracy fails we all lose out, but it is the poorest and the most marginalised who lose out the most.
So if you care about Citizenship education, I would urge you to do two things:
- Respond to the final consultation on the Citizenship programmes of study and just say one thing: Re-instate Citizenship skills;
- Regardless of the outcome of the consultation, teach Citizenship skills alongside knowledge. Our primary duty is not follow a programme of study, but to prepare young people to be informed, active and effective citizens who have the commitment and skills to make a difference.