Democratic Life writes to Michael Gove: Why isn’t citizenship a ‘priority subject’?

Molly Kearney
Tuesday 15 November 2011

Democratic Life has written to the Secretary of State, Michael Gove MP and the Chief Executive of the Training and Development Agency to clarify the plans for Initial Teaching Training for Citizenship.

The plans, published on 8 November 2011, leave Citizenship as a ‘non priority’ subject and without any bursaries to help attract the best quality graduates to teach the subject. Democratic Life has called for a change in policy to align Citizenship with all other National Curriculum subjects, which have been designated ‘priority subjects’ and which attract bursaries.

Our letter to the Secretary of State is copied below.

Dear Secretary of State,

Initial Teacher Training and Citizenship

We are writing to you today to seek clarification about the plans for Initial Teacher Training and Citizenship. The announcement this week by the TDA shows that the government is committed to investing in the best quality graduates as trainee teachers. We support this approach. However, we are extremely disappointed to see that this commitment does not appear to extend to the National Curriculum subject of Citizenship.

The published ITT allocations for some reason does not list Citizenship separately but within ‘Social Studies’. According to the information in the ITT plan, Citizenship is ‘a non priority’ subject and therefore Citizenship trainees would not be eligible for a bursary. Future trainees will in effect be penalised for choosing Citizenship, as they will need to find up to £9000 for fees on top of living expenses in order to train.

The evidence from Ofsted inspection of Citizenship in our schools and from NFER’s Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study (CELS) highlights a clear correlation between trained specialist Citizenship teachers and the quality of teaching and learning in the subject. Citizenship is delivered best where it is planned and taught by trained specialist teachers. Despite the small numbers of available places, the role of PGCE in Citizenship has been crucial to improving the quality of Citizenship teaching in many schools across the country. It is therefore essential that PGCE Citizenship courses are able to attract high calibre trainees to ensure improvements in the subject continue.

Citizenship is the only National Curriculum subject not to have been designated a priority subject and therefore attract a bursary. We are unclear as to why this is the case, especially at a time when the National Curriculum is under review and having received assurances from you during a meeting in January this year that no decisions would be taken affecting the status of Citizenship until the review had run its course. We are also uncertain why some optional non National Curriculum subjects, including Classics and Economics, have been designated ‘priority’ subjects when Citizenship, which remains statutory, has not. There is a danger that the non designation of Citizenship as a priority subject, combined with a lack of a bursary for those looking to train, may be interpreted in some quarters as a lack of Government support for Citizenship ahead of the publication of the National Curriculum review proposals.

Through high quality Citizenship teaching students learn about politics, the law and the economy and essential skills to contribute to our economy and to take part responsibly in our society and shared democratic life. This is particularly important at this time of considerable change in society, with concerns about the impact of the economy on social and political life in the UK. Children and young people in this country deserve the best quality Citizenship education and the best quality Citizenship teachers. We urge you to reconsider this policy and demonstrate the government believes this is important too.

We look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Democratic Life

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