Lords challenge government over resourcing for Citizenship; Minister says our commitment is 'abundantly clear'!

Monday 1 July 2013

Peers from all political parties raised tough questions for Government last week about the resourcing to support Citizenship education in schools. However, Education Minister Lord Nash said Government’s commitment to Citizenship has been made ‘abundantly clear by retaining the subject in the statutory National Curriculum.

The debate in the House of Lords on Thursday 27 June 2013 was initiated by Lord Cormack (Conservative), who wants to see all 18 year olds take part in a graduation style ‘citizenship ceremony’. Many Peers spoke out strongly in support of the decision to retain Citizenship as a National Curriculum subject but raised concerns about the status of the subject and quality of teaching in schools and the limited places and resourcing for specialist Citizenship teacher training.

Lord Philips (Liberal democrat) challenged the Minister to explain why the subject was not inspected fully by Ofsted in regular school inspections and questioned whether Ofsted subject monitoring visits are enough to hold  Head Teachers to account for the quality of provision and teaching in their schools.

Later in the debate, Lord Norton (Conservative) questioned the level of government resources for the subject saying,

I welcome the Government’s decision to retain it as a statutory national curriculum subject. However, the commitment to having it has not been matched by the resources to make it a success, and three years of uncertainty about its future have not helped in ensuring that schools devote sufficient resources to it.

He also said,

Too often, as my noble friend Lord Storey noted, citizenship teaching is left to those who are not trained in its delivery. There are too few trained citizenship teachers. They are also vulnerable. If school budgets are under pressure, they are likely to be the first ones to be let go. Since 2010, the Department for Education has withdrawn funding for citizenship continuing professional development, and citizenship is the only subject where trainee teachers do not receive a bursary to help pay their fees.

In his response to the debate, the Parliament Under Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Nash confirmed the government is committed to Citizenship as demonstrated by the fact that the subject will be retained in the National Curriculum.

We have revised the citizenship programmes of study to ensure that they direct teaching towards the core knowledge of citizenship: namely, teaching about the way our society is governed and its laws, including those that protect human rights….The new programmes of study are not just focused on the UK; they provide opportunities for pupils to learn about other systems and forms of government in other countries as well as our relations with Europe, the Commonwealth and the wider world….

Our proposed changes to the citizenship curriculum include having a stronger emphasis on teaching about our political system, our democracy and the nature of our laws, so that many more of our young people engage with the political process, as my noble friends Lord Norton and Lord Storey and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said.

Lord Nash continued,

My noble friend asked what the Government were doing to enhance the delivery of citizenship and ensure that head teachers take the subject seriously. We have made our commitment to citizenship abundantly clear by retaining the statutory status of citizenship in secondary schools as part of the review of the National Curriculum. Citizenship is one of only six subjects in the new national curriculum to be compulsory at key stage 4. A GCSE in citizenship currently receives credit in the school accountability system through the school performance tables, and will continue to count as part of our proposed – Citizenship is part of the best eight. [Ebacc measure]

Democratic Life provided a background briefing to support Peers contributing to the debate which highlighted some of the key issues raised.

The debate can be watched online via the BBC democracy live website or read in full on Hansard.

House of Lords debate on Government programme for Citizenship

Leave a Reply