This week the Secretary of State, Michael Gove MP announced his proposals for a new primary curriculum with a focus on high expectations for all subjects. Details of the proposed secondary curriculum have not yet been announced but are expected soon.
In a letter to Tim Oates – who has led the Expert Panel advising government on the curriculum – Mr Gove emphasized a focus on ‘the essential subjects of mathematics, science and English’ and on ‘intelligent accountability’ for schools. Draft programmes of study for these subjects set out what must be achieved by particular ages and have been published for informal discussion with full public consultation planned for later in the year. Level descriptions are to be replaced with a new mechanism for grading pupil attainment.
The announcement confirmed that the aims of the whole curriculum will be defined by setting ‘ambitious goals for our progress as a nation’. Mr Gove recognised the importance of maintaining breadth in the primary curriculum. Along with maths, science and English the existing statutory National Curriculum subjects – art and design, design and technology, geography, history, ICT, music and physical education – will all continue in primary schools.
However, the statement did not mention the subject of Citizenship. Democratic Life has written to Mr Gove seeking clarification about Citizenship in the primary curriculum and will raise this in a meeting with the Secretary of State expected in the next few weeks.
The primary National Curriculum was last updated in 2001 when a non-statutory Programme of Study for PSHE and Citizenship was introduced. Primary Citizenship includes teaching children about:
different kinds of responsibilities, rights and duties at home, school and in the community;
fairness, justice, right and wrong;
why we need rules and laws;
what democracy is and the basic institutions that support it;
decision making and how to resolve differences;
economic choices, the environment and sustainability;
and the consequences of anti-social behaviour, bullying and racism.
The current position of Citizenship in the primary curriculum is ambivalent. Being optional does not provide a secure foundation for developing Citizenship learning in secondary education, where the subject is currently statutory to age 16. Ofsted subject inspections show that some primary schools teach Citizenship, but not all do.
This curriculum review offers an excellent opportunity to clarify the importance of Citizenship and its position in the National Curriculum for England. A goal for any new curriculum should be to promote understanding of and sustain our democratic society. This is recognised internationally, with Citizenship and education for democracy featuring in the curricular of the highest performing countries and in every European nation. Mr Gove is right – we should have high expectations of learning in all subjects in our National Curriculum, and all includes Citizenship.