Today, David Blunkett MP writes in the TES, ‘We need a curriculum that is truly national’. Citizenship must be included and is ‘essential for democracy’.
Mr Blunkett, former Secretary of State for Education argues the Government’s curriculum review is a contradiction. First because schools with academy or free school status are not required to follow the National Curriculum, and second because the Expert Panel in its advice, argued for breadth but recommended downgrading National Curriculum subjects which provide breadth including citizenship, to the basic curriculum.
‘Leaving it to the individual teachers is a recipe for something akin to the postcode lottery’ with schools left to ‘muddle along’ without clear expectations or outcomes for learners. He goes on ’The idea that the citizenship curriculum does not contain core elements that describe “socially valued” aspects of life, or that “powerful knowledge” is not inherent in preparing young people for adult life, is clearly errant nonsense.’
Mr Blunkett’s article follows several weeks of growing support for the retention of citizenship amongst senior politicans. At the end of January following his attendance at the NFER research launch of ‘Citizens in Transition’ , Stephen Twigg MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Education said
‘Even with citizenship in the National Curriculum there are huge variations between different schools and different parts of the country,’. He continued ‘So I think we need to press for the outcome of the Curriculum Review to make citizenship more central rather than less central to schools’ curriculums.’
He added the focus on citizenship should extend to primary as well as secondary schools.
Just ten days ago the Government appeared to take a more positive public stance on the future of citizenship when Lord Hill, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, responding to education questions in parliament said
‘I agree with the noble and right reverend Lord about the importance of citizenship. Although the expert panel that reported to us in December suggests that citizenship should form part of the basic curriculum rather than the national curriculum, the first sentence in its report emphasises the importance of citizenship and I very much share that view. The issue – and this is true of a number of subjects that are subject to the national curriculum review – is the extent to which we need to be prescriptive around programmes of study. We will reflect upon what the expert panel has said and take other representations into account, and then bring forward our proposals in due course in the light of that.’
While this seems to endorse the position of the Expert Panel that citizenship is an important subject and one that every school must teach, the key question is as yet unanswered. Will the subject stay within the National Curriculum with a statutory programme of study, or not? Now is a key time for decision making about the future of the National Curriculum and the future of citizenship. The Government plans for the next stage of the curriculum review are expected to be announced anytime soon.