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8 March, 2005

Cautious welcome to 14-19 White Paper

In a Joint response to the 14-19 White Paper, the Citizenship Foundation and the Association for Citizenship Teaching cautiously welcome the announcement that all existing Key Stage 3 and 4 Foundation Subjects, including Citizenship, will remain in the National Curriculum.

A welcome must also go to the White Paper’s commitment to providing training and guidance for teaching staff to develop assessment skills and produce materials to help the accurate assessment of student performance. This is vital if Citizenship is to continue to evolve and develop its status as a subject.

Indeed, in many areas, poor CPD (continuing professional development) access for teachers and a lack of clarity about issues around assessment and progression have been, and still are, a key constraint on the development of best practice in Citizenship.

We urge the government to send out clear expectations to schools as to what practices are most likely to deliver the necessary teaching and learning outcomes to ensure that standards in Citizenship are at least as high as in other Foundation Subjects.

In particular, we would urge the government to move as quickly as possibly towards a situation in which Citizenship teachers are either specialist trained or have easy access to high quality CPD, wherever they are in the country.

We believe that unless schools are discouraged from asking reluctant form tutors to teach Citizenship as a matter of course, standards across the board will not rise to meet either our aspirations or Ofsted’s requirements.

While the White Paper’s focus on the importance of developing learners’ personal and social skills during the course of their secondary schooling is to be commended, we are concerned that the call for a “coordinated approach to the preparation for life in society” may blur the vital but distinct contributions that subjects such as Citizenship, RE, PSHE and PE make to a young person’s development.

In particular, we worry that such an approach might, once again, marginalize the knowledge and skills vital to active and effective citizenship, and allow schools and colleges to adopt broad curricular aims that, in effect, lack rigour for any of these curriculum strands.

We also have a broader concern: we want to see a curriculum that doesn’t just have a place for Citizenship on the timetable but a curriculum model that enables good Citizenship Education to prosper. Tomlinson’s key proposal around an over-arching diploma framework, within which different standards of performance and types of activity are credited, offered the prospect of such a model: we urge policymakers to revisit this in due course.

In this context, we are disappointed that the White Paper misses the opportunity to establish citizenship education as a core entitlement for all post 16 learners, wherever this can reasonably be provided. Such an entitlement should be the norm, with the onus placed on providers - schools, colleges and training agencies - to justify why they cannot offer Citizenship experiences in particular circumstances.

We welcome the findings of the LSDA funded post 16 pilots that have found a wealth of positive benefits accruing from Citizenship Education programmes, that embrace both traditional and non-traditional approaches to teaching and learning in various assessment and curriculum settings.

We must move towards a situation where 14-19 provision meets the needs of all learners, bridges the academic-vocational divide and opens up the kind of curriculum space in which effective Citizenship Education can flourish, both pre and post 16.

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