Citizenship begins in playschool

THE Scottish Executive has finally cleared the way for schools to start equipping youngsters from as young as the age of three to become good citizens.

The report from a review group chaired by Professor Pamela Munn of Edinburgh University was unveiled today (Friday) and fanfared by a visit from Nicol Stephen, Deputy Education Minister, to Kingswells primary in Aberdeen.

The Executive is to commence a development programme which will give guidance and support to schools and early education centres on how citizenship education can be fitted into the curriculum. It has also pledged to provide resources to meet the training needs of staff.

Mr Stephen is expected to stress that this is not another "add-on" to the curriculum but an initiative which can be put into practice through existing subjects from English language and religious and moral education to history and modern studies. Today's announcement is described as forming the basis of a "national framework".

This point is also reinforced by Learning and Teaching Scotland, which has published the new plans. Education for Citizenship: A Paper for Discussion and Development aims to encourage young people "to be active citizens in their communities through opportunities to take on responsibilities and exercise choice while at school".

At the Aberdeen school visited by Mr Stephen, infant classes have been working on the importance of co-operation with each other, and children have developed links with the city council including a meeting with the Lord Provost and council members.

Professor Munn, professor of curricular research in Edinburgh University's education faculty, believes that for citizenship education to be successful schools will have to embrace a genuine "participative ethos" which is more than simply consulting pupils about the state of the toilets or the design of the playground.

The development of young people to be more participative, she suggests, can be achieved in four ways. The curriculum must be designed to encourage knowledge and understanding, skills and competencies, values and dispositions, and creativity and enterprise.

Successful schools will involve young people in "actively negotiating what they learn and how". There would have to be a move away from current "strait-jackets" into more cross-curricular work.

But she acknowledges that barriers could emerge in the form of lip-service being paid to issues of equality and inclusion and narrow measurements of performance. There was also the danger of "excellence in the curriculum being equated with subject expertise rather than a broad vision".

The final go-ahead for citizenship education is in line with one of the five national priorities - "to work with parents to teach pupils respect for self and one another and their interdependence with other members of their neighbourhood and society, and to teach them the duties and responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic society".

The full paper is available on the web at www.LTScotland.comcitizenship.

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