We are really happy to see that Citizenship will stay in the National Curriculum, it’s something for which, as part of Democratic Life, we have been campaigning for a long time. We hope that now the uncertainty that has hung over the subject has been lifted schools will give it the support and time it deserves.
We have always argued that the best way to teach Citizenship is with the support of genuine, democratic, active student voice. How better to understand your impact on your community and society than by being involved in improving the community you spend most of your time in, your school? How better to understand democracy and its difficulties than by trying to create, manage and take part in a democratic school council? So we are somewhat concerned that the active element of Citizenship seems to have been virtually removed from this Programme of Study, all that is left is volunteering.
More than volunteering
Volunteering is a part of active citizenship, but it is far from the essence of it. Active citizenship is about the choices one makes consciously about how one interacts with society. This includes what kind of work you do, whether you pay your taxes, whether you vote, how you challenge and support institutions (including your school) as well as what you do in your free time. Getting students to research, discuss and submit responses to this National Curriculum consultation, or their school’s consultation on whether to convert to academy status is active citizenship, but it’s not volunteering. Volunteering tends to be about helping others; I would suggest that citizenship is about helping the community of which you are a part.
We will be submitting a response to the Department for Education that is generally supportive of the proposed Citizenship elements, but asks it to broaden out the active citizenship element. We’ll post that response here soon.