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8th Oct 2013 5:07pm Blogs

The new teaching requirements for Citizenship - a subject and also more than a subject

The progress of Citizenship Education.

Blog – Chris Waller

On September 11th 2013, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education confirmed to Parliament that Citizenship will continue as a key subject in secondary schools through its inclusion in the new newly published National Curriculum to be taught from September 2014. The decision shows there is continued cross-party political support for Citizenship. Along with other partners and as a founding member of Democratic Life, ACT has campaigned vigorously since 2010 for the subject to retain its status and position within the National Curriculum and for better support for the subject.

Speaking to Democratic Life last month, the former Secretary of State for Education and Citizenship campaigner David Blunkett MP said ‘The purpose of Citizenship is to educate our young people about democracy.  To ensure that they have the knowledge and skills to debate political questions and get actively involved together in solving problems in their own communities as well as their interest in global issues. Michael Gove’s decision to first retain and now strengthen Citizenship with these revisions sends a very clear message to Heads and governors. This is an important curriculum subject for which they are accountable. This means setting high expectations of all pupils, providing rigorous Citizenship teaching and proper subject resourcing.  I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to turn this around, against all the odds.’

ACT Professional Officer Chris Waller says ‘The revised curriculum should be seen as a baseline which citizenship teachers can improve and therefore the real development work will take place in schools and with teachers. As we have said on our website,  ACT Council is leading such development work currently and we advise teachers NOT to rush into changes this academic year but to look for advice and guidance from ACT as to how to evolve new schemes of work that enrich the new programmes of study. There is plenty of time for debate and discussion about how to implement the curriculum, how to develop schemes of work and what resources and approaches might be needed’.

Schools can now plan steps to continue to improve their Citizenship teaching so that more pupils benefit from the very best Citizenship education. The revised programmes of study for Citizenship include requirements to teach:

  •     explicitly about democracy and the political system in the UK including how it is developing and the role of political parties
  •     about the law and the justice system and the role of international law and human rights
  •     the key elements of the constitution and the roles of parliament, citizens and the free press in holding those in power to account
  •     financial education including the functions and uses of money in society, budgeting, managing risk and how public money is raised and spent
  •     different forms of taking responsible and informed action to contribute positively to communities including through volunteering
  •     skills to use a range of research strategies, think critically, weigh evidence, take part in debates and make informed and persuasive arguments.

The full programmes of study for key stages 3 and 4 can be downloaded here. The key points above are what teachers need to really think about however in their curriculum planning.

ACT will be using our extensive network of local experts and champions to provide regional support. Further information will be available through this website and in our journal to help teachers prepare for the revised programmes of study.

Key to the improvements are the inclusion of citizenship skills alongside knowledge, including critical thinking about political questions, research, interrogating evidence, debate and reasoned argument, as well as active participation different forms of informed and responsible action to improve communities.

Other important points to note about the new requirements include:

  •     The revised National Curriculum must be taught in all maintained schools from September 2014.
  •     The whole of the programmes of study for Citizenship are statutory including the purpose of the study, aims, subject content and attainment target.
  •     From September 2013 programmes of study and attainment targets for each National Curriculum subject are ‘disapplied’ for one year. However the DFE has made clear schools are still required to teach each subject including Citizenship and are expected to report on children’s progress to parents.
  •     GCSE Citizenship Studies continues and counts as one of the DFE’s ‘best 8’ measure of attainment in secondary school performance tables
  •     The revised framework for Ofsted inspection includes the school’s provision for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development as part of the leadership and management of the school. Citizenship is seen as central to meeting this requirement.

If you are a teacher or Citizenship subject leader in school, do ensure that you colleagues and head teacher and governors understand all the bullet points above-it’s not just a question of Citizenship being a subject in the curriculum, it is more than this. As ever Citizenship remains a subject AND more than a subject.

ACT Council is continuing to develop new thinking about how to develop new materials and support regarding the curriculum. You can see our latest thinking here. As always, the latest and best advice can be found on the ACT website and in our journal, the spring 2014 issue will concentrate solely on the new curriculum and will be invaluable in preparing for September 2014.