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Citizenship education inquiry 2006

Submission to the Select Committee on Citizenship Education by the Association for Citizenship Teaching.

Citizenship Teaching and Learning
Citizenship ITT and CPD
Local Authorities (LA) and Community Partners
Citizenship Curriculum Design


This submission has been written by the ACT Professional Officer. The Association for Citizenship Teaching ( ACT ) is the national professional body representing those who teach Citizenship in both formal and in formal settings. ACT is a membership organization that supports teachers through our termly Journal Teaching Citizenship and the monthly E-News. We have an active web site that contains lesson and resource downloads and advice. We support teachers in the classroom by INSET and CPD support, through national and regional conferences, work with LEA’s and also offer services ranging from teaching Citizenship lessons through to leading on Citizenship projects commissioned by DfES, DCA, BECTA etc. We work closely with other Citizenship NGOs including the Citizenship Foundation, ESSA, Carnegie and CSV. You can find out more about ACT at our web site www.teachingcitizenship.org.uk

This submission does not specifically focus on key stages or phases but attempts a general overview. It does not address every single aspect of concern, rather it has as a focus the key concerns of Citizenship teachers. These key concerns have come to light as a result of the direct contact that ACT has on an everyday basis with such staff in schools and Citizenship teachers in training.

It may be construed that there was a political imperative behind the introduction of the Citizenship curriculum; one allied to political apathy, lack of community engagement and participation in the democratic process. ACT would contend that in order to effectively counter such issues, the Citizenship curriculum is central. In this respect it must therefore be given the right sort of support to have an impact and be realised with honesty and rigour by both teachers an learners. At present this is not happening and Government should be minded that although Citizenship is establishing, it cannot be established unless there is a clearer strategic vision by Government to support this. At present this is not the case and the subject is therefore at risk of not delivering on its intention.

  1. Citizenship Teaching and Learning

  2. Since its introduction in September 2004, Citizenship has provided a very mixed experience for both teachers and learners. In all phases of education the experience of teachers has been mixed. In some schools there is very effective provision with enthusiastic teachers who are confident of their subject knowledge and competent in working with young people in the spirit of the subject. These teachers have had a major impact on their schools and the young people that they work with. They are assured that they are developing the subject with the backing of their head teacher yet they are few in number. Too often there is a poor delivery of the subject by teachers who lack knowledge or commitment to the subject. They are often pressed men and women who teach Citizenship in tutor time or have been given the subject to fill their timetables. They damage the subject and they provide a second-rate experience. We need to marginalise this practice as a matter of priority.

    Where Citizenship is taught well it is by enthusiasts who have some knowledge and understanding. They may be trained Citizenship teachers or those who feel that they have a real affinity with the subject; the latter being in the greatest number. They may be teachers who have managed to secure dedicated time for the subject and have a planned and coherent school provision. They are often working closely with other partners from outside the school. Overall their work is to be applauded.

    Still too often ACT works with schools where the head or senior leadership team are ambivalent towards Citizenship and do not realise its role and importance. This role and importance is not merely in regard to the statutory requirement and entitlement but also in the relationship between Citizenship education and school improvement and developments plans. Patently the breadth of the Citizenship curriculum, the focus on pupil voice and participative learning is at the core of what schools aspire to. There are many examples where the key aspects of school improvement have been met by a focus on what the Citizenship curriculum can offer. In schools where there is poor leadership Citizenship may occupy some 3% or less of the curriculum time, not the 5% that we might have hoped for. The damage inflicted upon citizenship by this practice is serious and needs addressing by more direct co-ordinated action. Ofsted have a clear role to play in this by ensuring that HMI are clear about what Citizenship education is and what it is not. At the time of writing some inspection reports still clearly do not give confidence in this and allow schools to gain recognition for presenting to pupils something that is not what the Citizenship Programme of Study defines as Citizenship.

    Whereas there have been national strategies for Literacy and Numeracy, there should also be one for Citizenship education if it is the political imperative that it was suggested as being at its inception. ACT would contend that Citizenship teaching and learning is still evolving and is too vulnerable to the whims of head teachers. The light touch may have been appropriate of in 2002 but now requires more of a strategic vision if the impact upon the community is to be realised.

    The recent - March 2006 - KS3 Review undertaken by the QCA also involved the use of a survey of the secondary school population of England. The results of this questionnaire give evidence that many pupils see that Citizenship is marginalised in the curriculum yet it is, along with PSHE and Careers, an area of the curriculum that they value highly when well provided and see as being an integral part of the most enjoyable aspects of their time in KS3. If we are to truly devise a curriculum for young people, we should be seeking their support and opinion also. Information from the KS3 review questionnaire may be had by emailing sandsa@qca.org.uk

    Sir Bernard Crick spoke in 2002 of a ten year evolution of the subject. This needs to be underpinned by a national strategy that ensures rigour in provision and directs schools with a firmer hand; the hand of Government and the DfES in particular. Currently Citizenship is still in its infancy in English schools. We are leaving behind the perception that Citizenship is the new Civics or British Constitutional History but the subject needs driving forward with unambiguous support.

  3. Citizenship ITT and CPD

  4. In recent years we have been training circa 220 - 250 Citizenship teachers per year. These teachers often get jobs in schools where their skills are not fully exploited and they teach only small amounts of the subject they were trained in. Whilst these teachers do not necessarily have the deep subject knowledge that we would want, they do have the skills to effectively teach the subject and the interest in its success. We need to encourage students to want to teach Citizenship and to feel that they will be able to more fully teach it in schools. At present there are too few teachers being trained and in too few HEIs. ACT contends that there should be a trained Citizenship teacher in every school by 2010. This should be realised by increasing the number of ITT courses and students and/or by fully implementing a certificated CPD course in Citizenship for the enthusiastic existing teachers who wish to teach the subject. This to be across all phases of education. The pilot CPD courses highlighted successful models and the existing PSHE CPD Certificate has been very popular with teachers. We know that many teachers feel they lack subject specific knowledge, especially when teaching about politics or the law. Such concerns can only be addressed by better training that is quality assured and has progression. Only by having an agreed national policy for training can the quality of provision be better guaranteed.

    Allied to this should be training for heads and aspiring school leaders. If Citizenship is to fully impact upon the curriculum then heads need to have a deeper understanding of what the subject is about and how important it is to society as a whole - that it is not merely a school subject. This again requires a strategy and ACT would contend that the role of NCSL would be critical here. At present we are not convinced that this connection has been made.

  5. Local Authorities (LA) and Community Partners

  6. In terms of education, ACT has found that in many local authorities there is no advisor or inspector for Citizenship or one who feels confident to effectively support the subject. Often the subject is added to the job description of the advisor without real thought. In some cases the appointee has not been an advocate for the subject and therefore is not interested in running CPD courses locally or working to support the subject. Enthusiastic teachers are left without support or direction. If the subject is to be effectively supported it requires advisors to be familiar with the subject and able to support best practice and exemplify it. Without such leadership the subject will stagnate. Similarly, if local authority advisors give out a message of indifference then head teachers will be unwilling to enable teachers to attend courses nor take the subject seriously. Where an LA advisor feels confident about the subject there is much good leadership and this manifests itself in the confidence of teachers and the quality of provision in school.

    In non-education the role of local government has been of great importance. There is much good practice involving the democratic services teams in local government with schools. The education community cannot be left on its own to carry the burden of Citizenship education; it is a shared responsibility with community partners. ACT knows of much good practice where local government is able to support schools in modeling participation and the democratic process. As Citizenship matters are not just of interest to DfES, it is important that other Government departments are able to realise their ambitions in Citizenship as well. The work of the DCA, ODPM and Home Office in relation to law and political literacy, participation and the democratic process is clearly linked to the Citizenship curriculum. Another clear example is the relationship between Citizenship teaching and the community cohesion agenda that the Home Office is interested in. Only Citizenship education can deliver a quality experience in the classroom - in all classrooms in Secondary - with rigour, quality and progression. These departments need to work together to enable the curriculum function. There is evidence that though these departments might have their own agendas and projects, there is little real co-ordination or shaping to the direction such initiatives might take and often they work in isolation. ACT contends that Citizenship education will not evolve effectively unless these initiatives and the departments who develop them work in harmony as part of a single strategy.

  7. Citizenship Curriculum Design

  8. The design of the Citizenship curriculum in 2002 was an effective model for evolution. The Programme of Study and the Schemes of Work were adequate at the time and provided the right sort of light touch that was needed. However, since that date the subject has begun to evolve and practice has revealed certain deficiencies.

    It is now accepted that Citizenship is still a contested term and that many teachers are unclear about exactly what Citizenship is. The new Citizenship CPD Handbook Making Sense of Citizenship will go some way to addressing this matter but clarity should also come from a firm steer by Government. ACT would contend that the subject needs further clarification especially in assessment, recording and reporting and progression from Early Years to Post 16. Specifically the remit of QCA, the TDA and DfES should provide for a vision of development with ring fenced funding streams to allow this to happen. This funding should allow for a development programme over a number of years with an annual review of specific targets. This will demonstrate the seriousness of the endeavor and signal an intent to ensure that the breadth and depth of Citizenship is provided for. Mention has already been made of the need for more teacher training and the CPD Certificate, allied to this would be the provision of full qualifications at GCSE and A Level with QCA leading on this. This will also underpin the academic purpose of Citizenship and further reinforce its credibility.

    The current state of the subject also shows that there is a lack of clarity about the importance and role of the participation strand - something that is part of the uniqueness of Citizenship. This needs to be strengthened and expectations of schools be made more explicit; much beyond the tokenism of many current school councils. There is much evidence that effective participation by pupils in their school and community underpins the most effective schools and meet the concerns expressed in the Power Report and Russell Commission.

  9. Recommendations

  10. In conclusion, ACT would contend the following :

    That there should be a national strategy for Citizenship education with a clear and comprehensive vision

    That the DfES should lead on this with other Government departments following a single, agreed plan with annual target reviews

    That Ofsted continue to improve the quality of inspection focus regarding the provision of Citizenship education

    That dedicated funding streams allow for real planning for progression in Citizenship education, especially in relation to teacher training, CPD and curriculum development.

    That school leadership in Citizenship be more prominent and that NCSL demonstrate their commitment to supporting the provision of a quality Citizenship curriculum through specific training in their qualifications

    That Government should aim for one Citizenship trained teacher in each state school by 2010

    That a national CPD Certificate course for Citizenship be created and funded by Government to effectively quality-assure Citizenship teaching standards

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