Citizenship Education… What’s it all about? - Emily Mitchell
Brexit, gender inequality, fake news, Trump these are all words I just have to say at the start of a lesson and a cacophony of noise erupts. Opinions are flying all over the place, disagreements and arguments are being formed. These are all signs of a well-informed Citizenship class, ready to discuss, listen and challenge each other (respectfully I might add) on the varied views and opinions any one of these topics can create. When students realise they have a voice and are empowered to use it, great things can happen. I have taught Citizenship for 11 years now and I truly love the subject, I don’t always love the job of being Head of Citizenship but I love the subject and passionately believe in it’s value and worth within the curriculum.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always a subject that is high on a school’s agenda. The department and subject are often squeezed into drop-down days, misunderstood by staff and politicians alike, squished together with PSHE and with Citizenship specialist teacher training numbers falling year on year the picture isn’t all rosy. However, I believe things are starting to change. Citizenship teachers are a passionate interesting breed of teacher. They often have had to fight for their subject and their place in the school and work extra hard to resource non-specialist teachers and raise the profile of this much needed underdog of a national curriculum subject. With government interest in teaching young people the topics of British Values, the prevent strategy and creating actively engaged citizens, now is the time when we need Citizenship more than ever.
Within my own setting Citizenship is taught alongside PSHE. I make it very clear to the students the differences between the two subjects and teach Citizenship for the first half of the year and PSHE in the second half. I am truly fortunate in the fact that I have discrete lessons for Citizenship and run an optional GCSE course which is proving more and more popular. Opening the eyes of parents and students to the value of Citizenship has been a challenge, however year on year I hear parents comment, “I wish we had done this subject when I was at school.” I enjoy developing a vast programme of extracurricular activities for my school as well as ensuring that students have access to lots of expert speakers and educational visits. Some examples of this include Model United Nations, visits to Manchester Crown Courts, the People’s History Museum and of course the legendary annual visit to the Houses of Parliament Educational Centre. I really do believe that it is this broadening of students’ horizon’s and opening their eyes to how relevant the subject is that helps to make Citizenship so unique and a true privilege to teach.
More recently I have begun to work with ACT, the Association of Citizenship Teaching, which has linked me with other passionate teachers from across the country. I cannot recommend this organisation enough to those who may have just started teaching Citizenship or found it on their timetable, they have so many great resources and networking opportunities. The opportunities and the networks that have opened up to me as a Citizenship teacher have been incredible and I would never have imagined my journey would have taken some of the paths it has.
A typical day for a Citizenship teacher is always varied, can be exhausting and at times isolating, but it is always worth the effort. I have found the more passion we share with our students the more inspired they become to fight their own causes and make a difference within their communities. So, if ever it all seems too much, reach out; there are other Citizenship teachers to hand and, because of the very nature of what we teach, we want to talk, we want to share resources and we want to help.
My top 5 people to follow on Twitter would be:
ACT - Association of Citizenship Teaching
Parliament Education - Your UK Parliament
Citizenship Educat - @cps_tweet
Emily Mitchell Bio:
I have taught Citizenship & PSHE (plus a variety of other subjects) for 11 years. I have been Head of Department for 10 years at two very different schools. I am an SLE for Citizenship & PSHE, lead the Greater Manchester Citizenship & PSHE Hub and am an ACT Ambassador teacher for the North West. I have a passion for sustainable and vintage fashion and I am a keen (but very much a beginner) learner of dancing and French.
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