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29 March, 2007

It's time for Primary Citizenship to be Statutory

Citizenship Education is under-recognised and under-developed in the primary phase says the Citizenship Foundation.

'Citizenship Education is essential to individual empowerment. Not only should it be statutory, it should be a core element of the primary curriculum, integrating taught and experiential learning in a coherent way leading towards a full understanding of what it means to be a member of the community with rights and responsibilities,' says the Citizenship Foundation's submission to the Primary Review.

The submission states that the teaching Citizenship in the primary phase presents an important opportunity for children to make sense of our changing society and failure to do so results in developmental delay in this area.

With the age of criminal responsibility lowered to ten, the earlier onset of adolescence and the recent findings from the UNICEF report on children's wellbeing, the submission states that it is now more important than ever for children to be given the opportunity to develop the necessary skills, language and confidence to enable them to participate fully in decision making processes and develop a clearer understanding of their legal and moral responsibilities.

The submission also states that Citizenship education provides an opportunity for broadening cultural, social and political horizons, particularly in respect to developing a sense of identity and an appreciation of diversity in our society. By offering a context through which children can develop critical thinking skills and emotional literacy in a coherent and integrated way, children are given the chance to develop understanding and foster empathy before attitudes become entrenched.

As author Marguerite Heath explains, 'Children are more likely to recall matters that are important to them. Citizenship education tackles real issues of relevance and value to them, such as fairness, bullying and responsibility for the environment. Indeed Citizenship can provide a meaningful context for much of the primary curriculum'.

Making Citizenship education statutory in the primary phase would also providing a sound foundation for Key Stages 3 and 4, which are already statutory.

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