The government must take urgent action to improve citizenship education after allowing it to “degrade to a parlous state”, peers have said.
A report published today calls on the government to “create a statutory entitlement to citizenship education” from primary school to the end of secondary school, which would influence whether schools get an "outstanding" Ofsted grade.
The House of Lords Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement’s report, The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century, follows a nine-month inquiry by peers.
It says: “The government has allowed citizenship education in England to degrade to a parlous state. The decline of the subject must be addressed in its totality as a matter of urgency.”
The report lays the blame for the subject’s “neglect” on the new national curriculum and the freedom of academies to not follow it, the “low esteem” the subject appears to be held in, and the fall in the number of trained citizenship teachers.
The committee calls for:
- A government target to have enough trained citizenship teachers to have a citizenship specialist in every secondary school.
- Government bursaries for people applying to train to teach citizenship.
- The National College for Teaching and Leadership (which was absorbed into the DfE this month) to allow citizenship teachers to apply to be specialist leaders of education.
- Ofsted should “undertake a review of the current provision and quality of citizenship education in schools and highlight best practice”.
- The government should review the citizenship curriculum and “formulate a new curriculum that includes the shared values of British citizenship, the National Citizen Service and active citizenship projects”.
The peers also criticise the government’s concept of “fundamental British values” as too closely associated with counter-terrorism policies.
It says the Department for Education should rethink its plan to put teaching material for fundamental British values on its Educate Against Hate counter-terrorism website for schoolchildren.
It should be clear that the main objective was "to encourage positive citizenship rather than solely aiming to counter terrorism", it says.
The report adds: "Our evidence suggests that many people see fundamental British values as part of the counter-terrorism agenda.
"Shared British values are fundamental to the life of the country and should be promoted in their own right, not simply as an adjunct of counter-extremism policy."
Committee chairperson Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts said: “Citizenship education is our best chance to engage with people at an early age and encourage them to participate actively in all that it means to be a British citizen.
"Young people being educated in citizenship brings advantages to society as a whole, and for individuals on a personal level by equipping them with skills needed for critical debate and public speaking.
“The decline of citizenship education has been to the detriment of society. People do not learn about government institutions through osmosis it must be taught and taught well. We are calling on the government to bring citizenship education back to a core offering of all schools across the country.”