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Citizenship lessons in the UK 'inadequate'

John Simkin

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Report on the BBC website:


Citizenship lessons 'inadequate'

One in four secondary schools in England are failing to offer pupils adequate lessons in citizenship, the education watchdog has warned.

Most citizenship teachers were non-specialists working "far from their normal comfort zone", inspectors said.

They said guidelines for schools must be less ambiguous.

Citizenship became compulsory for pupils aged 11 to 16 in September 2002, but inspectors said only a minority of schools taught it "with enthusiasm".

A "minority" of schools had worked hard to make citizenship a key part of the curriculum.

"Others, also a minority, have done very little," the report said.

"In a small number of schools there is no will to change because of other priorities, resistance to the idea of citizenship education, or an expectation that it will go away."

The report concluded that 25% of schools inspected in 2005/06 were offering "inadequate" citizenship classes.

Inspectors identified widespread misunderstanding in schools over what was required and poor lessons were linked to a lack of commitment from senior managers.

Ofsted said schools must develop specialist citizenship teaching, by training existing staff or by recruiting specialist staff.

The Department for Education and Skills was also urged to increase the number of places for initial teacher training in citizenship.

And inspectors called on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to offer a full GCSE course in citizenship, as well as A-level courses.

Ofsted's director of education Miriam Rosen said: "Citizenship is still seen as the poor relation of more established subjects but it requires teachers to be highly skilled and able to deal with contentious and sometimes difficult issues.

"Urgent attention is needed to make sure it is a central part of the school curriculum and ethos."

A spokesman for the DfES said it was training 1,200 new citizenship teachers over the next two years.

"Citizenship is still a relatively new subject which Ofsted says is improving - inspectors saw much good practice and we are confident it can be successful," he said.

"Citizenship has had a positive impact on the curriculum in the majority of schools and we are confident it will continue to improve as it becomes more embedded."

A spokesperson for the QCA said the organisation would be considering the recommendations made by inspectors.

The aim of citizenship classes is to develop young people into "responsible" citizens, who understand their rights and responsibilities and can play an active part in society.

Sir Bernard Crick, one of the architects of citizenship in schools, said the subject should educate children in how to be politically literate using real issues.

"Being taught to respect the law without learning how bad laws can be changed and better ones promoted tends to create apathetic subjects rather than active citizens," he said.

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  • 1 year later...


Dear Colleagues,

I am teaching and managing children and human rights education in country in tranisiton for the last 7 years.I ma responsible for 37 local schools for monitoring and collecting good practices , training process of children rights teachers.

What i have to say.We have a psecial course human rights education at every school and during two years of teaching International human rights standards at the university. But going back to school issues. It is going pretty well here and i see that students are very active in this field and very creative as well.But it depends on the well trained teacher or school leader because it is very new subject for us after the collapse of the USSR.I was working with some colleagues from UK-Sheffield (www.timeforcitizenship.org and invited them to visit my office because my pupils got 1 and 2 places in the European school contest).But we are not members of EU-CE and other organizations like Swiss but only with bad recordsin HR and isolated in Europe.Anyway we have quite good school self government system,created voice of Ombudsman volunteer school service( and our ministry of education recognized my experience as a good practice for other 6000 schools in our country),made some video films about Holocaust in Belarus and Germany and had an exchange visits of our studnets to both countries and we found a lot of witnesses from concentrated camps in Minsk ( survived after WW2 and had meetings with them). Now i am trying to publish a book with students and teachers researches ,video film we have sent to USA students film festival and one film about local human rights hero and got 2 place and i have been at the awarding ceremony in California.Last year my team won UNESCO prize in MOndialogo school contest(more than 136 countries participated in it and we got 8 place at the INternational conference in Rome). It is only some of our activites and if we have an active teacher who is a leader and respectful person for students you must have success in this field.





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There is a different sort of controversy here in Spain over citizenship


The current socialist government (actually, it's no more socialist than

New Labour, but that's another story) has just made Citizenship a

compulsory subject in secondary schools. This has been fiercely opposed

by the Right, including the People's Party and the hierarchy of the

Roman Catholic Church. They seem to be opposed to the very idea of

citizenship being taught at all rather then having any objection to the

specific content of the course being implemented. They see it as the

responsibility of the family to educate children in social values.

This seems rather strange since the Church supported compulsory

religious education in schools for decades under Franco -- but, then

again, perhaps that isn't so strange after all...

The need for citizenship education here is, I think, inescapable:

- there's a rising level of domestic violence with hardly a day going by

without horror stories in the press

- there's a rising level of xenophobia against immigrant communities

- homophobia has been on the increase partly as a result of PP and

Church campaigns in favor of "family values"

- levels of abstention in recent elections have reached an alarming


For the bishops, however, the case is far from clear. One of them said

recently that to cooperate in any way citizenship education was to do

the work of the Evil One. Nice to see an informed debate on the issue...

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