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7 February, 2013

Citizenship to stay in the National Curriculum, Michael Gove confirms

This morning, Michael Gove publicly declared his support for citizenship education, during a House of Commons debate that followed his statement on changes to the National Curriculum.

Michael GoveResponding to a question from David Blunkett, Mr Gove told the House of Commons:

'Citizenship will remain a programme of study at key stages three and four and I look forward to working with the Right Honourable Gentleman to ensure that this valuable subject is even better taught in more of our schools'.

‘I am extremely pleased that Michael Gove recognises the importance of citizenship education in schools,' David Blunkett told us. 'It is vital for the future of our democracy, and I am relieved and pleased that the subject now has such cross-party support.'

At the Citizenship Foundation, we are very pleased that citizenship will stay on the National Curriculum, with a programme of study and with the Education Secretary's express support. 

'We are delighted that Michael Gove has turned around advice to drop the subject,' said Andy Thornton, the Citizenship Foundation's Chief Executive.

‘Citizenship strengthens civic and civil society and is set to grow in strength and influence in the coming years.'

‘Citizenship is a distinctive subject,' said David Barrs, headteacher of the Anglo European School in Essex.

'It is a subject plus; it combines learning knowledge with engaging actively in local, national and global affairs.'

The Citizenship Foundation values the high aspirations behind this curriculum reform. Developing the intelligence and abilities of each new generation is key to the progress of our nation’s communities as well as our economy and culture. 

By retaining education about law and democracy in the statutory curriculum, Michael Gove signals that our political life does not just consist of perpetuating inherited or historic norms but that it needs continual renewal. He is reiterating that young people need support to take on that task with discretion and understanding.

He also recognises that people are not born democrats: instead, each generation needs to be taught about how our legal, political and economic system has evolved so that they, in turn, can safeguard and reinvigorate democratic society as they see fit. 

This thinking values the role of the curriculum for an increasingly insecure and uncertain future where every member of a democracy needs to step up and play their part.

However, while we welcome Mr Gove’s announcement, we must ask him now to redress the damage caused by three years of uncertainty around citizenship education. Much momentum was lost because people believed he did not support it. Now it’s time for  extra investment to return its delivery to levels that clearly he wants.

Immediate action is needed:

  • Headteachers and senior leaders support and promote citizenship in schools
  • Ofsted monitors and inspects to ensure high and consistent standards in this domain
  • The Training Agency ensures new and existing teachers have access to the best subject training
  • Government supports the best delivery of the new National Curriculum
  • Ofqual ensures there is rigorous assessment and examination of this subject.

The new programme of study will set the bar for the citizenship education that pupils should receive, whether or not their school follows the National Curriculum.

Mr Gove gives future generations the chance to develop wider skills for public life. This will strengthen their lifelong participation as members of a vibrant democracy and give them the confidence to take initiative in local communities.

We call on schools to do justice to the government’s concise new programme of study. We encourage them to build lively, effective and active citizenship programmes that take advantage of the school setting, the opportunities through the National Citizen Service and post-16 settings. 

We also reiterate our belief that the vital knowledge for participation in democratic communities can, and should, be introduced earlier in life. This is evidenced by the success of our primary school programme Go-Givers, which is now subscribed to by over 33,000 primary school teachers who recognise how valuable it is.

'It is important that schools grasp any new programme of study with both hands and turn it into something that really makes a difference to the development of our children,' said David Blunkett.

'And it is important that headteachers, Teaching Agency Ofsted, Ofqual and the Department for Education give it the support that it needs to flourish back into a rigorous, nourishing and respected subject.’ 

Mr Gove has made it clear that schools must help their pupils develop into people who are knowledgeable, empowered and innovative: people that want to make a difference in their communities and in democratic society, and who know how to do it.

The draft programme of study for citizenship is available from the Department for Education website.

[Updated: 18:00, 7 February 2013]

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