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25th Jan 2017 4:25pm News

NCS Bill "Government need to get behind Citizenship"

Lords speak on the importance of Citizenship teaching.

‘Government need to get behind Citizenship’

This was the clear message from the Lord Bird, Baroness Royall, Lord Stevenson, Lord Cormack and many others during the 2nd and 3rd readings of the NCS Bill in the Lords. But during the 2nd reading of the Bill in the Commons there were just a few references to schools and Citizenship education.

The NCS programme for 15-17 year olds engages young people in taking social action, alongside team building activities and life skills. The NCS trust is being established with a Royal Charter in a new Bill. The trust will recieve upto £1billion of funding to support the planned expansion of the NCS programme so that it becomes a ‘rite of passage’ for young people. The potential resource for developing meaningful citizenship actions that contributes and compliments young people’s Citizenship education in schools, is huge.

Last year the Association for Citizenship Teaching was commissioned by the NCS Trust to publish a resource to support teachers in preparing their pupils for participation in the NCS programme. The resource models effective Citizenship education and pre and post programme support to encourage young people to continue taking Citizenship action. The resource has been praised by Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening and the DCMS Minister, Lord Ashton.

If we want to build a strong and inclusive democracy, then every young person regardless of background should:

  • know how democracy, politics and the law works and develop critical thinking skills to evaluate how well
  • understand why it is important for young people to have a say in matters that affect them, including by registering to vote in elections
  • experience working with others to try to make a difference in society through different kinds of  informed and responsible citizenship actions from campaigning to social action.

This demands:

  • high quality and high status Citizenship education in every school, that is rigorously taught; and
  • regular opportunities to participate in purposeful and practical citizenship action as part of Citizenship education and preparation for adult life.

Citizenship remains a statutory National Curriculum and GCSE qualification but only state maintained schools are required to teach the subject. We know Citizenship is flourishing in schools where there is Headteacher support and trained Citizenship teachers. In other schools the subject has low status, and in some it has been dropped altogether. But without any form of evaluation or inspection of the subject in place, no one really has the full picture.

We made four key points in our evidence to the Public Bill Committee which sits on 24 and 26 January 2017.

1.The Bill should reflect the link between NCS and Citizenship education in schools. We suggest that part 6, clause 2 of the Bill should include, ‘the number of schools and Citizenship teachers actively engaged in supporting the NCS programme in their curriculum’.

2.The Bill guidance to schools and local authorities should set clear expectations about the role of Citizenship education and the role of teachersThe educational goals of the programme need to be connected to the educational aims of schools.

3.Citizenship teachers can help students gain more from the NCS programme and as they continue taking action. And action is more than volunteering.

4.A strong and inclusive democracy demands high quality Citizenship in every school. Ministers promoting the NCS Bill and the national guidance on NCS for schools should restate the important role the subject of Citizenship has in the curriculum of every school, and the opportunities to embed NCS within the Citizenship curriculum.

Read the evidence we submitted to the Public Bill Committee and keep up to date with the passage of the Bill through parliament here.