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Policy matters

What future for Citizenship in the 14–19 agenda?

The government working group looking at reforming education at 14–19 will publish its final report in September. Where does Citizenship fit in, and what strategies will be needed to cope with the possible changes?

Read the following thoughts from people in the field, and have your own say in our discussion forum (registration required).


TONY BRESLIN
Chief Executive, Citizenship Foundation

The key to any understanding of Tomlinson is to read it as a framework for curriculum development over the next decade rather than as a curriculum itself. With the latter, the tendency is to ask "where's my subject?" and that type of question is likely to lead to disappointment.

Whatever the lessons of the Key Skills initiative, Tomlinson has resisted throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water and has built his framework around the importance of a particular set of skills for all 14–19 learners, wherever they learn, whatever subjects they study and whatever curriculum they follow.

This is welcome: a curriculum framework that starts from what learners need to achieve, a lack of dogma about how they get there and a simplified diploma model to make some sense of the current qualifications jungle.

However, I am left with three concerns:

  1. the focus on 'active' rather than 'effective' citizenship, which tends to lead one to citizenship as ‘being nice’ rather than citizenship as engagement and political literacy;
  2. the somewhat uneasy fit between a 5–16 National Curriculum and a 14–19 continuum which ultimately must raise questions about the future of Key Stage 4 (and, therefore, the statutory subjects within it including Citizenship);
  3. the tension between a 14–19 curriculum vision, characterised by ‘just in time and ‘fit for purpose’ assessment, and how schools are organised and how post 16 providers (struggle to) collaborate.

But Tomlinson is a major move in the right direction. He promises the kind of space and flexibility within which good citizenship learning can prosper, something that today’s school timetable often frustrates.

Yes, I’d like to see a stronger focus on the development and demonstration of effective citizenship skills within the proposed core and the achievement of the diploma, but that is to argue with the content and language, not the form.

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PETER HAYES
CSV Education for Citizenship

I welcome the proposals put forward in the Tomlinson Interim Report. They seek to provide further opportunities than at present for the broad range of knowledge, skills and attitudes developed by young people during this phase to be formally, and more equitably, recognised. I am interested in developments in the various components of the core and how these might both complement, and have parity with, the requirements set for main learning.

It is vital that the wider activities do not get pushed to the edge of the proposals, either because they are too general or they are seen as overly demanding in terms of resource provision. It is important that the Working Group takes account of the many organisations which should play a part in a wider educational programme including employers as well as the voluntary and community sectors. It is through such engagement that key issues such as alternative approaches to the curriculum, attendance and motivation can be addressed as well as the specific expectations of the core.

In turn this would give those normally at some distance from the processes of the formal education system greater 'ownership' of the diplomas in relation to careers and lifelong learning.

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PAT MCNEILL
Education Training and Publishing Consultant

As we wait for the final report of the Tomlinson Working Group in September, so many interest groups are jockeying for position in the emerging curriculum that it is difficult to get a clear picture of what is going on.

At the time of writing (1 May 2004), imminent changes affecting 14–19 in schools and colleges include:

  • the renaming and revising of GNVQs and VCEs as GCSEs and A levels “in applied areas”, with the associated loss of a properly vocational focus;
  • a revised National Qualifications Framework from this September;
  • work-related learning for all at Key Stage 4 from this September;
  • moves towards merging key skills with basic skills;
  • huge sums being spent on developing e-learning;
  • fast moves towards e-assessment.

By 2007/08, there will be another whole host of changes in progress, including revised GCSEs and A levels, probably unitised within a credit framework, prompted by the phased introduction of whatever Tomlinson's Working Group finally comes up with.

The problem for Citizenship is going to be to maintain its current high profile and momentum. There is a real danger that it will be swamped as the big beasts (GCSE, A level and work-related learning) dominate the post-Tomlinson agenda.

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JULIA FIEHN
Project Manager, Post-16 Citizenship Development Programme

Citizenship within the Diploma framework
We believe that active citizenship should be a key element of the core for all 14–19 year olds. In order to provide opportunities for learners at all levels (entry – level 3) and in all education and training contexts, to develop the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding for active citizenship, a unit of active citizenship should be developed.

This unit would form part of the core, would build the common skills and could be linked to the extended project. It would be available at all levels, and would be flexible enough to be relevant for all main learning programmes.

The unit could be accredited by awarding bodies, or could be assessed by the centre, depending on future arrangements. It would include an element of participation by learners in their communities, but would also build their knowledge and understanding of citizenship issues, problems and events.

The Post-16 Citizenship Development Programme is funded by the Department for Education and Skills and managed by the Learning and Skills Development Agency. It has been running for nearly three years and has aimed at the provision of citizenship development for learners in all education and training contexts, post-16: school sixth forms, sixth form colleges, further education colleges, tertiary colleges, training organisations, workplaces, youth services and voluntary community groups.

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