Beware firms bearing gifts

Karen Gold

The inspectors are unhappy at the way citizenship has been introduced - unlike those with a message, or product, to push. Karen Gold reports

Dogs, birds, banking, leaky taps and bioethics are jostling for places on the citizenship curriculum, adding to the confusion surrounding the new subject highlighted this week by inspectors.

The introduction of citizenship was unsatisfactorily managed in more than half of 25 schools inspected, according to the Office for Standards in Education Many of the schools were confused about the national curriculum requirements of the subject and complacently believed they covered them, said inspectors.

Most of the schools taught citizenship through personal, social and health education lessons - an approach inspectors said was almost always unsatisfactory.

"In most of the sample of schools, it is not obvious to the visitor, parent or inspector that citizenship has arrived in the school's curriculum," their report said.

It has arrived, however, for the businesses, charities and campaigning groups that are vying to convince teachers they can help them cover citizenship. Materials have been produced by banks, water companies, the Canine Defence League, the Young Women's Christian Association, Amnesty International, the Wellcome Trust, and the RSPCA and RSPB.

"Resources are hitting the mat in schools every day, from groups and companies linking what they do to the programme of study," said Sarah Jones, citizenship adviser for South Gloucestershire.

But teachers need to be wary of these free offers, said Dr David Kerr, citizenship consultant to the Department for Education and Skills: "There's an awful lot of stuff out there and the quality is variable. Some of it isn't worth the paper it's written on.

"A lot of people are trying to get the word citizenship into what they do in the hope that it will open up markets in schools. Fortunately, some of the material is very good."

The RSPCA, for example, mails free curriculum materials twice a year to 45,000 teachers. It also works with teacher trainers using its own key stage 3 and 4 citizenship modules on issues such as responsible pet ownership, food labelling and animal welfare.

This autumn its focus will be animals and the law, according to RSPCA adviser Gill Watson: "We are looking at things like how the law protects dogs, what cruelty is, how laws are made. We have taken the hunting Bill as an example."

Teacher magazine, 28

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Karen Gold

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