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18 January, 1999

House of Lords Debate on Citizenship and Democracy

Lord Phillips of Sudbury, Chairman of the Citizenship Foundation, introduced a debate on the Government's response to the recommendations of the Crick Advisory Group on Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools.

Lord Phillips referred to the findings of a 1998 MORI poll, which revealed overwhelming public support for the provision of citizenship education in schools. In a fast-changing, pressurised and more insecure world there are few opportunities for citizenship to be learned, shared and developed. Enabling young people to contribute was the goal of the Crick Committee but in order to contribute, young people need knowledge, skill and the will. Those excluded must be given the opportunity to be included. Good citizenship pays dividends. Learning outcomes had been identified but the routes towards them should not be prescriptive.

At Primary Level citizenship should be integrated into the teaching of related subjects whilst at Secondary Level, designated curriculum time would need to be identified. Careful planning, resources and training were essential.

Urging the Government to support the Report\'s recommendations Lord Phillips said that The certainty is that unless we really grasp the thistle of citizenship now, the dry rot of disassociation and disillusionment in our society will spread and spread rapidly.

Before Baroness Blackstone responded for the Government, 11 other Peers spoke in support of the motion. The only dissent came from Baroness Blatch who found the prospect of citizenship becoming a compulsory part of the curriculum to be disturbing whilst knowledge of democratic structures was crucial. However the Crick report had revealed no clear consensus among schools about exactly what citizenship entailed.

Baroness Blackstone started by stating:

\'The Government sees citizenship education as central to our drive to create a modern and inclusive society where everyone has a stake in its future and the opportunity to contribute.\'

Citizenship education would enable young people to develop a fuller appreciation of the rights, responsibilities and opportunities provided by democratic structures. She regretted the low turnout in many elections, lack of interest in public issues revealed in a number of studies and the detachment from the mainstream of many young people.

The Government welcomed Crick\'s recommendation that citizenship education should be viewed as comprising three intertwined strands social and moral responsibility, community involvement and political literacy and that it should be an entitlement. She made it clear that citizenship would not replace existing areas of the curriculum. Rather, it should complement them in a coherent fashion. Citizenship would be introduced in a way that supports our drive to raise overall standards and does not cause unnecessary disruption in schools. New opportunities beyond schools - such as the millennium volunteers - needed to be grasped. Young people\'s horizons could be widened by understanding global interdependence.

Schools were not starting with a blank sheet. The new framework would build upon current good practice. She concluded by reiterating that:

\'The Government will give education for citizenship and democracy a high profile in the reshaped curriculum from the year 2000.\' Share

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