Citizenship is currently part of the National Curriculum. Since 2002 it has been a statutory part of the secondary curriculum (Key Stages 3 and 4), and is non statutory at Key Stages 1 and 2. For how much longer is uncertain.
This week, I was alerted via Involver, the social enterprise which helps young people to ‘do’ democracy in schools, about a campaign to safeguard citizenship in schools. Involver, along with other education and citizenship organisations are urging MPs to support the Rt Hon David Blunkett MP’s Early Day Motion (EDM 1142).
The EDM calls for the Government to secure citizenship education.
Why the concern?
As has been discussed here, the Schools White Paper, published recently, outlines plans for “a radical reform programme for the schools system”. This involves slimming down the National Curriculum, and, with it, a greater emphasis on academic subjects. Citizenship does get a mention, briefly, in the foreword, which states:
“It is only through reforming education that we can allow every child the chance to take their full and equal share in citizenship, shaping their own destiny, and becoming masters of their own fate.”
That is the only mention of citizenship. With the rhetoric of the Big Society, citizenship should, by rights, be at the centre of a proposed new education system. In the foreword the White Paper claims that reforming schools will allow children to play a full part in citizenship, but there is no real explanation of how this will be achieved. It appears that citizenship follows, automatically, as a result of the radical reform of schools proposed in the White Paper.
So, citizenship can be argued to be at the centre of these school reforms. We need though, to be careful about what this means. For example, we have heard about plans to improve the prestige and esteem of teachers ( see my previous post) by increasing their powers regarding discipline. This move may reflect an authoritarian ideology which renders the child inferior to the teacher, as well as voiceless and powerless. It may not, but without any explicit consideration of how citizenship will be promoted in schools, and with the slimming down of the statutory curriculum, citizenship, as a National Curriculum subject is under threat.