Active citizenship needs to be at the heart of education

Yesterday was the final day to respond to the last bit of the Government’s consultation on its controversial and rushed reworking of the National Curriculum. We have been actively involved with the Democratic Life consortium which has been using this opportunity to campaign for the strengthening of the Citizenship curriculum. As well as contributing to Democratic Life’s response to the consultation we wrote a response on behalf of the Smart School Councils Community. We used the response submitted by involver, below, to reinforce what they both said:

We would like to reinforce the points made the coalition we are part of, Democratic Life, and our sister organisation, the Smart School Councils Community.  We are especially concerned about the omission of active citizenship in any meaningful sense. We wholeheartedly support Democratic Life’s suggestions:

1. The skills necessary for pupils to make progress in Citizenship must be made explicit in the revised programmes of study. Pupils should use and apply Citizenship skills whilst developing knowledge and understanding about the subject. Therefore Citizenship must ‘equip pupils with the skills and knowledge to critically explore political and social issues, weigh evidence, debate and make reasoned arguments, and experience and evaluate ways citizens can act together to solve problems’.

2. Active citizenship must be made a requirement at both key stages 3 and 4. The current reference to ‘community volunteering’ at key stage 4 is insufficient and should be expanded to include ‘social action’. At key stage 3, active citizenship is missing entirely. Citizenship without active citizenship is meaningless and key stage 3 should require pupils to be taught about, ‘ways in which citizens can work together to address issues in communities, including opportunities to take part in different forms of responsible and social action in the school and wider community’.

3. Key stage 3 is narrow and bland and does not address the breadth of the subject or provide adequate progression to key stage 4. Teaching about human rights, the international dimension, the exploration of identities and diversity in society and the ways citizens to contribute actively and opportunities for pupils to participate in social action should be included at key stage 3 as well as key stage 4. The proposed requirement to teach about ‘the precious liberties enjoyed by citizens of the UK’ is abstract and likely to be poorly understood and taught. If ‘precious liberties’ means teaching about political, legal and human rights and freedoms then it should say so.

4. If financial education is to be included then it should relate to the subject of citizenship rather than simply adding personal finance which is part of PSHE. Any ‘financial’ element needs to include how economic decisions are made, where public money comes from and how public money is spent. Without this broader context financial education will never move beyond the personal and is likely to be a badly taught ‘bolt on’.

We would also like to see the inclusion of the suggestion made by the Smart School Councils Community to replace the aim related to volunteering with:

“develop a sound knowledge and understanding of how their actions impact on others locally and globally
develop an interest in, and commitment to, playing an active role in community action and decision-making that they will take with them into adulthood”


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