Student declares to room of MPs and Lords, 'Citizenship needs to be at the forefront of any Curriculum’

Thursday 13 January 2011

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.’

2 Responses to “Student declares to room of MPs and Lords, 'Citizenship needs to be at the forefront of any Curriculum’”

  1. If we are to tackle the problems of climate change and sustainability on a global scale a sense of belonging to a global society is really important. Citizenship is a vital subject in engaging students with global issues, helping them understand about a fair, equal and just society for all, and how theri behaviour and values are important. It needs to continue to be included in mainstream education if we truely believe in the importance of such a society. We need to think ‘Big Global Society’ not just ‘Big Society’

  2. jamie says:

    I agree with Ms Pollard, the importance of a Citizenship education is made all the more obvious when we consider issues such as climate change, food and water wars, mass migrations, rapid depletion of resources etc. Issues with consequences that teachers and politicians will not live through but which young people will be forced to.

    Lord Norton is right to use the turn of phrase ‘small society’. That’s what an education without Cit Ed will create.

    A generation of informed, politically engaged and able young people. What government wouldn’t want that?

    Yet again, we have people who wouldn’t last five minutes in a classroom and who haven’t a clue about how the vast majority of teenagers live, telling us teachers what education should be all about.

    And I, for one, am not a lefty teacher but nor am I a tory supporting teacher. In fact, I have been deeply disenchanted by UK politics completely (So how do you think teenagers feel?) I am just a teacher of over twenty years experience yet again horrified at politicians who haven’t got a clue about the realities of the classroom, trying to ‘make their mark’ on education, more interested in making a mark than making a useful and positive difference.

    Yes indeed, we do need a Big Global society and yes indeed, we do need to facilitate young people with the tools to deal politically with the more challenging issues that we have come to face.

    All power to Democratic Life and congratulations on an excellent event!

Leave a Reply