Citizenship is here to stay! Reactions to the DFE final National Curriculum for 2014

Wednesday 18 September 2013

After three years of campaigning and uncertainty, Government has published a revised National Curriculum for secondary schools in England. Citizenship has a clear and important role and remains a statutory subject for 11-16 year olds. Citizenship is here to stay!

Michael Gove

Michael Gove

Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove MP launched the revised National Curriculum in a statement to Parliament last week.

‘The new national curriculum that we published yesterday has been developed with due regard to the views of subject experts and teachers and to the findings of international best practice comparisons. In response to representations made during the recent consultation period, changes have been made to improve clarity, precision and consistency of the content.

The new national curriculum will provide a rigorous basis for teaching, a benchmark for all schools to improve their performance, and will give children and parents a better guarantee that every student will acquire the knowledge and skills to succeed in the modern world.’

Reactions to the revised National Curriculum from Democratic Life supporters have been arriving thick and fast.

Former Secretary of State for Education and Democratic Life supporter, David Blunkett MP said,

‘The purpose of Citizenship is to educate our young people about democracy.  To ensure that they have the knowledge and skills to debate political questions and get actively involved together in solving problems in their own communities as well as their interest in global issues. Michael Gove’s decision to first retain and now strengthen Citizenship with these revisions sends a very clear message to Heads and governors. This is an important curriculum subject for which they are accountable. This means setting high expectations of all pupils, providing rigorous Citizenship teaching and proper subject resourcing.  I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to turn this around, against all the odds.’

The final version of the National Curriculum published on 11 September 2013 is a significant improvement on consultation drafts and represents a clear strengthening of the subject by Ministers.

Liz Moorse, Chair of Democratic Life said, ‘We are delighted that the hard work of Democratic Life supporters has paid off – to all of you we say a huge thank you. We kept going until the last moment to seek improvements and ensure the revised curriculum more closely reflects the spirit and principles of the subject first articulated by Bernard Crick. Now we have to work to ensure all schools re-engage with Citizenship and provide the high quality teaching that children deserve .’

Democractic Life’s founding organisations have also been speaking out about the revised Citizenship curriculum.

Andy Thornton, CEO of the Citizenship Foundation said, ‘The National Curriculum is the way we decide what’s important for the next generation to know. Despite his reputation as an old-fashioned thinker, Michael Gove’s curriculum isn’t about ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ Britain. It is about giving teachers the responsibility of opening students eyes to the politics that is everywhere around them. Not only has he flagged up the importance of citizenship education, he’s nailed his party’s colours to the mast.’

Chris Waller of the Association for Citizenship Teaching said ‘ACT is delighted that at last we have the new National Curriculum for Citizenship in Secondary education. The aims, purpose and programme of study for the subject have been clearly set out. This provides a firm baseline for teachers to develop new and exciting teaching and learning for pupils in schools.  ACT will be working hard to support teachers and schools provide the highest quality citizenship.’

Brandon Block at Amnesty International said, ‘We are delighted that Citizenship’s place in the curriculum has been secured.  We now have a strong programme of study that will support young people in learning about human rights and the fundamental roles that these play in democracy and international law.  The curriculum also provides opportunities for young people to explore the key role that citizens have in shaping their democracy, and how they can work together to improve their local, national and global communities. This belief in the importance of people standing up for what they believe in rests at the heart of Amnesty International’s vision and history.  We are committed to offering teachers professional training and high quality educational resources and projects to engage young people with human rights and effectively deliver this new curriculum to all.’

The extensive campaigning by Democratic Life has secured cross-party political support for Citizenship. Citizenship was introduced to the National Curriculum by a Labour administration and has now been endorsed by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

You can read the full revised National Curriculum for 2014 here and the programmes of study for Citizenship here.

Democratic Life is delighted that the concerns we raised have almost all been addressed in the revised statutory programmes of study for Citizenship which now include:

  • a focus on teaching about democracy
  • explicit teaching about human rights and the United Nations
  • an additional requirement to teach about the role of public institutions, voluntary groups and the ways citizens work together to improve their communities
  • expanded requirements on justice and how the law helps society deal with complex problems
  • a broadening of financial education to incorporate how public money is raised and spent

Key to the improvements are the inclusion of citizenship skills alongside knowledge, including critical thinking about political questions, research, interrogating evidence, debate and reasoned argument, as well as active participation different forms of informed and responsible action to improve communities.

Other important points to note about the new requirements include:

  • The revised National Curriculum must be taught in all maintained schools from September 2014.
  • The whole of the programmes of study for Citizenship are statutory including the purpose of the study, aims, subject content and attainment target.
  • From September 2013 programmes of study and attainment targets for each National Curriculum subject are ‘disapplied’ for one year. However the DFE has made clear schools are still required to teach each subject including Citizenship and are expected to report on children’s progress to parents.
  • GCSE Citizenship Studies continues and counts as one of the DFE’s ‘best 8’ measure of attainment in secondary school performance tables
  • The revised framework for Ofsted inspection includes the school’s provision for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development as part of the leadership and management of the school. Citizenship is seen as central to meeting this requirement.

More comments and reactions from organisations and individual Democratic Life supporters are below.

Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the UNA-UK, ‘We are delighted that teaching about the United Nations will continue under the new National Curriculum. Learning about the UN is integral to understanding the UK’s relations with the rest of the world, including on complex issues such as the crisis in Syria. This has been a long campaign for us and our partners in the Democratic Life coalition, beginning with our efforts to maintain Citizenship as a foundation subject and help students to understand what it means to be active and responsible members of their local, national and international communities.We firmly believe that this decision will enrich young people’s knowledge of global affairs and enhance their ability to tackle the challenges their generation will face.’

David Kerr, Senior Teaching Fellow (Citizenship), University of Bristol, ‘The new Citizenship National Curriculum underlines that the subject has true cross-party support. Launched under a Labour Government in 2002 it has now been endorsed by a Coalition (Conservative/Liberal Democrat) Government 10 years later. This confirms that it is here to stay in the curriculum and provides the security and confidence for schools to develop effective citizenship education for all pupils. It also underlines the need for better training of Citizenship teachers, both those already in post as well as those in initial teacher education. The Crick vision for citizenship education lives on.’

Gavin Baldwin, PGCE course leader, University of Middlesex, ‘This iteration of the curriculum now represents a sensible distillation of good citizenship practice. Teachers will be able to focus their efforts on developing pupils learning to equip them with the skills and knowledge to enable them to the foundation of an effective and democratic society’

Anna Liddle, CND Peace Education, ‘I am delighted to see that the skills to ‘think critically and debate political questions’ are still included in the programme of study. This will allow young people to explore important and controversial issues in the classroom.’

Helen Blachford, Curriculum Leader Citizenship Teacher, Portsmouth,‘It is fantastic that Citizenship remains as a statutory subject and more importantly continues to develop both skills and knowledge young people need in order to become active members of society.’

Anne Nelson, Former Inspector and Chair ACT North East, ‘I am so pleased that Citizenship continues to be a statutory National Curriculum subject at key stages 3 and 4. The latest version of the Citizenship programmes of study is much improved and more realistic than the February version.’

Denise Howe Independent Consultant,‘The emphasis upon Citizenship as a statutory subject in key stages 3 and 4 is a clear message to all how important it is that all our students understand their place in society and will be empowered to make informed decisions as adults.’

Karl Sweeney, Chair ACT Council, ‘We now have a programme of study that is fit for purpose – one that encourages schools to re-engage with Citizenship education and most importantly cause children and young people to think critically about their society, their democracy and their roles within it. I am particularly pleased to see public finances and economic awareness included, as both are critical to engaging young people in a global world.’

One Response to “Citizenship is here to stay! Reactions to the DFE final National Curriculum for 2014”

  1. Dr John Lloyd says:

    I think Bernard would have been proud indeed that ‘we’ have kept Citizenship alive and underpinned by the key tenets of social and moral responsibility, community involvement and participation, and developing political literacy. We need to ensure that current topical and controversial issues are still managed in classrooms and continue to strive for an entitlement in primary schools.Well done ACT for being at the forefront of this along with Democratic Life, your leadership has been so important.

    Dr John Lloyd President Institute for Health Promotion and Education

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