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Citizenship education inquiry 2006

CSV submission to the Education and Skills Committee on Citizenship Education


This submission is presented by the Director of CSV Education for Citizenship, Peter Hayes. CSV had campaigned for the introduction of Citizenship as an essential part of the curriculum and an entitlement for all pupils and made submissions to the Speaker’s Commission on Citizenship (1989) and to the Crick Working Group (1998). Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, the Executive Director, was a member of this Group. When the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) was inaugurated in 2000, CSV was, and remains, a founder member. The ACT submission to the Committee has been shared with CSV and our organisation supports its tenets and conclusions.

CSV contends that Citizenship education should be focused on the experiential and the participative, with young people facing up to problems in their communities (local and global), researching and finding the means to solve them, taking positive action and reflecting upon their achievements. We believe that what transforms a volunteering experience into one of active citizenship is the process of reflection. Our aim is that all young people, having been introduced to Citizenship in schools should become an asset to their communities for the rest of their lives.

CSV Education has been promoting, supporting and providing resources for active citizenship in schools, colleges and universities for nearly 40 years. For the past 3 years we have produced annual reports on the implementation of Citizenship in secondary schools (from 2002).

Teachers’ and leaders’ attitudes to Citizenship education

Our reports have shown that there is considerable support for Citizenship among teachers, many feeling that it has helped to develop links between school and community. They also think that attitudes towards it have improved since it was first introduced. 30% of teacher respondents in 2004 thought it had improved pupils’ behaviour, although there is a split view on the extent to which Citizenship has improved levels of achievement overall. Those who teach it refer to the need for more support, in particular for finding opportunities for active citizenship beyond the classroom.

We have a less clear view on school leaders’ attitudes. Anecdotally we are told that successful implementation of Citizenship is highly dependent on support from SMT where they perceive gains in whole school ethos and learning beyond the intrinsic value of the subject. It is reported that some leaders do not see Citizenship as a priority area and do not always appreciate the synergies between the subject and other ‘new’ areas of the curriculum including enterprise and work-related learning.

Initial and in-service training

CSV’s has, and continues to contribute to, both these forms of training. Through a staff member’s involvement with Citized we are making a distinctive input to the cross-curricular strand of Citizenship in ITT. For CPD our Active Citizenship Toolkit (2000) and its associated training course for teachers and LEA advisers remains popular, and another staff member has worked with a team piloting certification in the north-west.

From the outset we have noted a serious deficit in the number of teachers of Citizenship being properly trained. In 2003 we found in 51% of cases that only the Citizenship CoOrdinator in schools had been trained and just 8% revealed that the majority of staff had received training. 37% indicated that they would like additional training in community involvement. A year later there was no significant change in the nature of these responses.

CSV believes that for ITT the quality of the training experience for the 150 or so new trainees each year has been generally positive and beneficial to schools and that these are the ‘expert’ Citizenship teachers of the future. The amount of CPD training has been insufficient, due, in large part, to under-funding and the inability or even unwillingness of schools to release teachers for training. This may have had a detrimental effect on the all-round quality of Citizenship teaching and, in some circumstances, on the morale of teachers who feel under-prepared to teach the subject.

Continuity of citizenship education between phases

CSV has not yet researched this area, although we have a small grant from CfBT to study continuity and progression in active citizenship between Y9 and Y10 in 2006-8 in 10 schools. Our impression is that children at the upper end of primary have often received positive experiences of Citizenship and many have a well-developed voice for expressing views and developing active projects based on their ideas and research (cf the BBC/CSV ‘Citizen UK’ programme at KS2, 2005-6). There will be particular challenges at secondary level for sustaining and progressing this momentum, with an overcrowded timetable and subjects competing for space. It is encouraging that the examining bodies who offer the GCSE in Citizenship Studies have placed a clear emphasis on the active and practical both in coursework and examinations.

Quality of citizenship education across the full range of schools

CSV is not qualified to provide scientific feedback in this area although the Barclays New Futures award scheme for Citizenship (1995-2006) has enabled us to gain regular access to more than 900 secondary schools. Our impression is that overall quality is patchy, with some excellent and embedded practice at one extreme and some tentative steps to full provision at the other. Anecdotally we have observed some effective practice in faith – notably Roman Catholic – schools whose ethos frequently provides a foundation on which active citizenship can be built (eg an expectation of helping and providing support to others in the public domain. We have been particularly impressed by the contribution of special schools to innovative practice in Citizenship and some of those we have worked with have given a lead to their mainstream partners.

Citizenship education’s potential to contribute to community cohesion

We believe there is enormous potential in this area and a significant number of schools are already forming effective partnerships with the private, public and voluntary sectors to contribute to neighbourhood renewal and regeneration.

Young people through activities, including advocacy and campaigning can tackle issue including racism, bullying and homophobia. In particular, active citizenship can be an effective vehicle for intergenerational working whereby the young work in partnership with their seniors on ICT projects, community histories etc. Young people who may be otherwise disengaged or excluded from the formal education system have often found an ‘alternative curriculum’ through Citizenship by which they can make a positive contribution and be recognised as a resource, rather than a liability, to their communities.

It remains incumbent on national and local government, Local Strategic Partnerships and cross-sector working to ensure that the glue is provided to join Citizenship programmes in schools with agendas for local cohesiveness and sustainability.

Implementation of ‘active’ aspects of curriculum

CSV champions those aspects of curriculum which promote opportunities for the student voice, ‘empowerment’ and community involvement. In addition to training, teachers need guidance on how to work most effectively with external organisations to build effective practice of mutual benefit to school and community.

They need additional human resources: since 2003 CSV has been running Teacher Support Teams of community volunteers who can provide various forms of support to hard-pressed teachers. They can help to identify opportunities for active citizenship locally, provide additional support in the classroom to aid groupwork and, if all health and safety checks are adhered to, work with groups of young people outside the classroom.

It is vital that schools, with whatever support is available, ‘grasp the nettle’ of genuine community action for their pupils. At the moment lack of time for planning, over-rigid timetables and the fear of litigation cloud the development of Citizenship beyond the classroom. But new opportunities abound, with Extended Schools and the full range of activities beyond the school day. Pupils can volunteer to play a major role in these activities (eg as Sports Leaders) and so develop as active citizens.

  1. The issue of CPD should be urgently addressed with suitable funding from Government and time for teachers to be released to train and go on to achieve certification and qualifications in Citizenship.
  2. Local funding eg through LAs or GOs should be made available to extend the volunteer Teacher Support Teams concept nationwide. This will help to support overstretched teachers and build effective and sustained partnerships between schools and their communities.
  3. Further work should be commissioned on how schools can best address the entitlement to active citizenship for all pupils.
  4. Schools, with their partners, should review and extend the scale and range of out of school activities which are genuinely citizenship and allow for skills development beyond the classroom.
  5. Partnership models for effective citizenship that combine businesses, schools and the voluntary and community sectors should be promoted and developed at regional and local levels.

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