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3 July, 2003

Too early to criticise Citizenship

Critics who see the recent Ofsted report 'National Curriculum Citizenship, planning and implementation', launched 2 July as damning citizenship education in schools are rushing to judgement.

Whilst the report identifies much that remains to be done, it is clear that already citizenship has become very widely accepted as an important element of the whole curriculum and an essential preparation for living in a complex modern society for many young people. No quick fix The development of good quality citizenship education will not be achieved overnight. We must get away from a culture in which new initiatives are expected to bring instant results. Along with this new subject schools have also been grappling with major innovations around literacy and numeracy. Delivering citizenship through PSHE When the guidance for citizenship was first published schools were told to make their own decisions about how to introduce it into the curriculum. Now Ofsted says that the strategy chosen by many schools to adjust the PSHE curriculum is not delivering high enough standards. Much of the teaching under this arrangement is still being done by form tutors with no specialist knowledge and little training. This kind of criticism was predictable and might have been avoided if the initial guidance had been clearer about the need for dedicated time and for teaching to be carried out by committed, enthusiastic and knowledgeable teachers. More specialist training needed Ofsted noted that many teachers are operating at a high level, but more specialists are needed. The government has made a start by creating a number of new training courses for citizenship teachers, but every school needs to have at least one or more citizenship specialists in order to create centres of excellence and curriculum leadership. At the present rate of less than 200 new specialists per year it could take a long time to achieve this target. The Citizenship Foundation calls for an increase in the number of citizenship training places, which are over-subscribed at present. It makes sense, in these days of teacher shortages, to welcome, rather than reject, new recruits to the profession. Ofsted noted in its report that some training was ill-informed and had had little effect. With small numbers of citizenship teachers in each school, providing training can be a problem. The government should make high quality training available as an entitlement for every teacher who wants it, exploiting the possibilities of using distance learning and the internet, and not leave them dependent on the vagaries of whatever in-service training is available in the local area. Share

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