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The Citizenship curriculum is still not active enough

Yesterday was the final day of the final round of consultation on the new National Curriculum that will come into effect in September 2014. Like all subjects, Citizenship has been completely reworked and we feel the result completely misses the point. Below is the response I made on behalf of the Smart School Councils Community:

[quote author=”- Smart School Councils Community”]

As an organisation working with school councils, which operate in around 95% of schools in the country, it seems to us that there is a gaping hole at the heart of this Citizenship programme of study which should be filled by active citizenship. This would connect the content specified with the experiences of the children in their schools and communities. Citizenship is not simply the practice of engaging with the government, it is also playing a role on your school council, campaigning for changes in your local area and a whole range of interactions that have an impact on those around us.

The closest the aims get to active citizenship is ‘volunteering’ but this profoundly misunderstands citizenship. Volunteering is about doing unpaid, altruistic work, but citizenship is about how we live our lives on a day to day basis conscious of the impact we have on others and they have on us. It might be about the choices we make when shopping, looking for work or interacting with our neighbours as well as whether we volunteer. These things have a direct, immediate relevance to children and will inform how they make choices about politics, the law and rights now and in the future. Without this link the subject will be dismissed by many young people as dry and irrelevant.

To address this gap we suggest replacing the aim about 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”

In terms of the subject content, there needs to be opportunities specified at both KS3 and KS4 for pupils to learn about, explore and interact with local decision-making structures. These could include their school council, school governance, parish council, local council, local voluntary groups and campaigns. In this way a link would be made from the pupils’ first experience of democracy, often a school council, through local groups to national and European parliaments.

Finally we would like to make three more general points:

The attainment targets are so vague as to be meaningless. It is difficult to see how there could be any consistency between schools on this basis.

There is no flow from KS3 to KS4; the content at KS3 is particularly limited. It is not at all clear that there is any progression from one to the next.

The inclusion of personal finance is clearly tacked on and does not fit within the subject at all. Economics and how public money is spent would be a useful addition, but what people know about “insurance, saving and pensions, as well as a range of other financial products and services” is a matter for PSHE.

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What do you think of the proposed Citizenship curriculum? What impact do you think it will have on school councils?

The image used is courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/markonf1re/5467743812/


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