Fundamentally British, or just democratic?
June 28, 2020
Whilst the fortunes of citizenship education have been troubled in recent years, we have seen the rise in prominence of fundamental British values (FBV) embedded in schools’ responses to the Prevent duty and the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) guidance for schools.
This frames the following issues as values to be promoted:
The rule of law;
Mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith.
At face value this seems perfectly reasonable – most teachers would probably be happy to sign up to these values, but on reflection they present more of a problem to a profession dedicated to ‘education’ and the development of knowledge, rather than simply to indoctrination or the unthinking transmission of moral messages.
Let’s start with some obvious questions:
What is democracy? At some level it involves people having a vote to choose their government, but it also includes a series of particular freedoms (belief, media, speech, action etc). But almost all countries have some of these to some extent, so where do we draw the line between a real democracy and sham democracy? Could it be having an elected leader who lies brazenly to the public, in which case is the USA still a democracy? Could it be having elections with some element of choice, in which case is North Korea a democracy? Could it be having all legislators elected (and therefore replaceable), in which case does the House of Lords preclude the UK from being democratic?
The rule of law is a good thing, and good citizens should generally follow the law. But what about laws that are harmful or discriminatory? How do we square teaching about the rule of law whilst celebrating the suffragettes, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and others? They all broke the law, but in retrospect we applaud them for it. What criteria do we use to justify this, and how do we then interpret the rule of law if it’s actually conditional on other things?
Individual liberty is clearly wonderful, but we can’t all be free to do what we want all the time. This is particularly obvious to children who are compelled by law to attend school, with no freedom to opt out. But the rest of us are not free to say anything (no hate speech, incitement to violence, libel etc), do anything (no harm to others, breaking the law etc), go anywhere (no trespassing, no travel without visas etc). So how free are we, really? And who decides, if not us?
Mutual respect and toleration is also a great value for schools to promote, but do we really expect schools to tolerate everything? Religious beliefs that children are possessed by evil spirits? The rejection of people’s rights to be LGBT? The right to ‘defend’ English culture against immigration? Clearly, we do not expect schools to equally respect every different view, and clearly some beliefs are actually intolerable, many others are very difficult to tolerate.
It turns out that these great ideas are actually not values at all, but incredibly important concepts and principles that underpin our attempts to build a plural democratic society. At the heart of this list are fundamental questions about what it means to live together with people with whom we have profound differences. We have different ideas about what makes a good life worth living, about the way we and others should live, and about the reasons why. But somehow, we have to find a way to govern ourselves, with enough common rules to keep the show on the road, and enough shared views to enable us to resolve problems and make difficult policy decisions – how much money should we contribute to government and how should it be spent on pensions, healthcare, welfare? How do we tackle climate change, who pays and who has to change how they do things? How do we reconcile freedom with security in a time when we’re all afraid or terrorism?
The only educational answer is to take a long hard look at the curriculum and to think seriously about how we build children’s understanding of these concepts and the difficult debates in which these ideas play out. This is about two things: teachers being prepared to consistently engage in controversial issues (exactly those areas where these concepts find no easy resolution); and teachers coherently building children’s understanding of these ideas, so they have the knowledge to really understand how all of these issues relate to one another, and ultimately how they relate back to us as citizens.
I’m really pleased to be making a small contribution to that challenging educational project, through a collaborative project with the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) and the English Speaking Union (ESU). For more details and some free resources look for the Deliberative Classroom project here:
. I am also leading a research project to explore how children talk about these issues – what knowledge do they draw on, and how do they build their understanding through discussion.
Lee Jerome is Associate Professor of Education at Middlesex University and editor of Teaching Citizenship. Back copies of the journal are available here: www.teachingcitizenship.org.uk/journals
Citizenship a Super Hero subject! -
June 28, 2020
In the past decade or so, there have been huge strides forward in ensuring that all students receive additional educational input that provides them with the skills and knowledge to be active and responsible citizens in communities, countries and the planet they inhabit.
Sounds great, right?
The need to evidence British Values, Prevent, SMSC and Student Voice alongside the 101 other things going on within a school at any one time can seem a monumental task. How’s it going to be delivered? Who will deliver it? Is there a budget? How will it be tracked? How will it be assessed? Who will lead on it?
There is a national curriculum subject, which, if taught well (and to all students) meets the vast majority of the agendas previously mentioned. Its unique design ensures that students can explore democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and tolerance as outlined in the British Values framework. It allows students to examine radicalisation and extremism from both a national and global context as recommended by the Prevent duty for schools. Learning about community cohesion, moral rights, multi-faith Britain and cultural diversity as highlighted allows students to naturally build upon their SMSC development and finally, an in-depth study of our parliamentary process. This not only teaches students about leadership, it actively encourages them to play a role in the democratic process of the UK and beyond.
The name of this superhero subject…? Citizenship!
As a Citizenship specialist, I’ve always been surprised that more schools don’t teach the subject as a discreet timetabled lesson across both key stages. Of course, I’m biased; I adore the subject and am at my happiest when debating a political issue, examining global inequality or evaluating the British legal system. However, my surprise also comes from the knowledge that it does not have to be an uphill challenge for schools to meet the requirements of yet more agendas.
Rather than spinning plates and inevitably waiting for one to drop and smash to the floor, schools can rest in the knowledge that a robust citizenship curriculum has got their back! It’s like the swiss army knife of social education; with each new topic that’s introduced, students become more knowledgeable about life in modern Britain, thus developing tolerance and understanding along the way.
When I look back at my PGCE application, the reasoning for choosing Citizenship was simple. I wanted to make a difference to the lives of young people. I wanted them to vote, know their rights, fight for injustice and be culturally aware. To be informed and active citizens.
If schools can see the value of this subject, timetable it, staff it with specialists and reach out to the many amazing organisations that are ready and waiting to support schools in its delivery, they will find not only do they have a subject that meets the requirements of British Values, Prevent, SMSC and Student Voice, they also have a subject that encourages the students in their care to be responsible and respectful citizens…
…And isn’t that one of the main reasons we all got into teaching in the first place?
Kelly Allchin Bio
An experienced middle leader with vast teaching and learning experience. Highly skilled and knowledgeable within the field of SMSC, Prevent, British Values and Citizenship
Resources to support
and citizenship delivery, check out
The Other 16 Hours - Sophie McPhee
June 28, 2020
Academic subjects teach you how to deal with eight hours of each day. And PSHE? The other sixteen hours.
Last year, I decided to join the thousands of other teachers who have taken to Twitter to share views, ideas and resources, to expand my professional reach out of my school with a view to eventually moving (at least part-time) into outreach and consultancy work, and writing under my own personal brand. After some deliberation as to what my brand should be called, I remembered a phrase from a whole-school assembly I had given the previous year on the importance of PSHE and immediately, it felt exactly right.
So what does ‘The Other 16 Hours’ mean? I work at a school where many pupils aspire to become lawyers, doctors, or engineers, and for some, there is immense pressure from parents for them to have the kind of status that these professions bring. The pupils themselves cite a high salary as a main reason for wanting their chosen career, and can be narrow-minded when it comes to the importance of certain subjects. I want to be a doctor; music is not important. I want to be an engineer; I don’t need history. This has contributed, in my view, to the decline of arts and languages within our secondary schools, as the goal of education is increasingly seen to be to leading to a certain job, not to stretch and challenge our intellect for its own sake.
And yet, we are often told that we are not our job. Indeed, for the vast majority of us (I assume), working hours do not take up the greatest proportion of our day. Therefore, if our academic subjects prepare young people for a third of the 24-hour cycle, what will prepare them for the remaining two-thirds? Good parenting and life experience, yes. But which subject can provide a support mechanism when either of those are deficient? Personal, social and health education.
PSHE teaches pupils how long they should sleep for, what they should eat, how they can be active citizens in their communities, how to conduct their relationships, how to be safe online. It teaches them how to look after not only their physical health, but their mental and financial health too, and encourages them to explore their own values and morals. The world needs doctors, lawyers, engineers and thousands of other kinds of people in other kinds of jobs in order to be able to function, but it needs those people to be healthy in every sense of the word in order to function well.
Therefore, to deny PSHE a place on the main curriculum is to deny an interest in cultivating the whole person, to deny the definition of a successful life as anything other than professional achievement. What we need is a passionate team of specialist teachers dedicated to their own continuing professional and personal development, in order to give our children and young people the information and skills they need so they can radiate this learning outwards and onwards to their colleagues, friends and their own families. The ideal curriculum cultivates the mind as well as the brain, teaching that both are of equal importance if we are to thrive in all aspects of our life, not just professionally. Academic subjects teach you how to deal with eight hours of each day. And PSHE? The other sixteen hours.
is a PSHE and MFL teacher at a grammar school in the West Midlands. Alongside teaching PSHE, French and German, she has devised and runs a primary school outreach programme called ‘Change Your Mind’, where Year 12 pupils plan and deliver mental health workshops to Year 6 classes across the local area, and coordinates a staff and pupil Wellbeing Group.
Active Citizenship Projects around the Globe - Ricardo Calçado
June 28, 2020
We believe in practical, stimulation and fun educational methods. One method which we believe in very much is learning through International Cultural Exchanges between children and young people. This could be through the exchange of letters, Skype meetings, visits, etc. We encourage our children and young people to connect with children and young people from other schools, communities, and countries, in this way we can learn with each other and discover a new world. Earlier this year we welcomed Cre8tive Resources teachers to our home in Brazil to deliver a bespoke set of citizenship lessons to our students in some of our projects. They particularly enjoyed learning about Brexit!
A member of Cre8tive Resources teaching citizenship in Brazil
One of the best ways to bound and to generate a “Wave of Solidarity” between our students is by doing active citizenship projects, showing them that by working together they can make a real difference in the World. After connecting different communities/schools/projects, the students from Brazil, the UK, and, other countries are very excited to learn more and do more things together.
By doing this we break many barriers; language, cultural and, social and show to students and teachers that by being active citizens we can really build a better world. At Onda Solidaria we have many examples where groups of students have fundraised, others did hands-on work, some promoted the project and in the end, we all achieved the same objective and made a positive impact.
By bringing students who study citizenship from different countries together they see further than their own community which inspires them to achieve great things in life, improve their knowledge, teamwork, self-esteem, basically gives them more reasons to do more and be a positive and active citizen. By doing good things you attract good things and can really make a difference in the world.
Students in Brazil receive letters from UK KS3 Citizenship students
About Onda Solidaria
Onda Solidaria is an Anglo Brazilian organization, which has made a difference thanks to great people and through this positive wave, Onda Solidária has been transforming and generating opportunities for many children and young people from many communities in Brazil and around the globe.
We develop social projects to children and young people between 6 and 18 years with the goal of generating opportunities and transformation through our projects.
Vila dos Sonhos
An Eco-Social center for children and young people, we develop opportunities through educational activities, to provide a better future perspective to them. Eco because it is situated in a place with lots of green space and built from a philosophy of ecology and sustainability. Location: Santana do Deserto-MG (near Três Rios), 2 hours from Rio de Janeiro.
Students at Vila dos Sonhos meet Cre8tive Resources
Is a project that aims to take children and young people out of idleness, with sport as the main tool to promote the social transformation of the participants, giving them a better perspective of the future, in order to contribute positively to the improvement of the environment in which they live. Location: São Cristóvão neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro - RJ.
We are very thankful to Cre8tive Resources for organising a huge charity football tournament back in the UK to raise further funds and this has helped us build our new sporting events arena.
You are very welcome to visit us here in Brazil and to be part of our dream.
For more information and details:
www.ondasolidaria.org / www.facebook.com/ondasolidaria.org/
Citizenship Education… What’s it all about? - Emily Mitchell
June 28, 2020
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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