After what would seem to be months of planning, the Democratic Life reception last night went off without a hitch.
We filled the Member’s Dining Room in the House of Commons full of citizenship enthusiasts, teachers, students and Lords and MPs. Our aim for the event was to generate a lively discussion about the future of citizenship education and its place in the National Curriculum. When planning an event where debate and discussion plays a key part, I get a tad apprehensive about how lively it will be – will people talk, will people be inspired and motivated? And of course, will there be enough tea and cake …?
Clearly I didn’t need to worry for this event. As soon as guests entered the very plush Member’s Dining Room, people were animated in their discussions of citizenship. Young people mixed with Lords and MPs, discussing practical ways in which citizenship has had impact in their schools, whilst teachers and civil society organisations debated the current educational landscape and where they see citizenship in it.
We heard from David Blunkett MP, Professor the Lord Norton, the Co-operative (who sponsored the event), a deputy head and a head teacher. Their message was clear: citizenship needs to remain statutory. Despite their varied political backgrounds, all the speakers recognised how important it is we continue to teach young people how to engage in society. Lord Norton closed the speeches stating that ‘citizenship is vital to any democracy. Active citizenship is a sign of a healthy society. It is fundamental to society to teach about citizenship.’
For me though, it was the words of the young people attending that had a resounding effect. For many of them, they couldn’t fathom why citizenship wasn’t valued like other more traditional subjects.
A student from Newent school in Gloucestershire closed the event, making an impassioned plea; ‘some of the things we learn in subjects like maths we won’t be using in five years. But citizenship will be in our lives forever. It needs to be at the forefront of any curriculum.’