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Incorporating citizenship

When citizenship take its place in the curriculum this September, how effective is it going to be? Is it going to consist of trivial consumer rights topics - who do you complain to if you find a caterpillar in your sandwich, as one examination board has it? This is surely not what David Blunkett and Bernard Crick intended when they set it all in motion. Or is it going to be context-free "citizenship studies" in PSHE time?

The citizenship curriculum starts off with "legal rights and the criminal justice system". What better way of opening up these potentially dry topics than through seeing how justice worked in the past? It is one of history's jobs to show that there are alternatives, and that current ideas such as curfews, zero tolerance and tagging all make more sense in the context of the eternal pendulum swing between retribution and reform.

The School History Project's "Development Study on Crime and Punishment", one of the success stories of GCSE, already does this.

A flexible resource for the course, (http:learningcurve.pro.gov.ukcandpdefault.htm) - a new exhibition on the Public Record Office's Learning Curve website - provides case studies, worksheets and games which could be lifted out to enliven the British Study units in key stage 3.

Item 1h in national curriculum citizenship requires pupils to be taught about the significance of the media in society. You could do the old exercises on the front pages of the Guardian and the Sun. Or you could tweak your existing KS3 history scheme of work to include some interesting enquiries on this theme: 1 Why did monks give King John (reigned 1199-1216) a bad name? (Kings who quarrelled with the Church were bound to receive a bad press from the literate clerics who wrote the chronicles which dominate the record of events from the time.) 2 Why did John Foxe's "Book of Martyrs" (1563) become a best seller? (Printing enables publicists to become opinionformers for a huge new audience, allowing Protestant reformers to challenge the Catholic monopoly of religion.) 3 Why was WH Russell expelled from the Crimea (1855)? (The Times correspondent reported corruption and inefficiency in the conduct of the Crimean War (1854-1856). Governments began to realise the importance of news management in wartime.) 4 Was there a Blitz Spirit in Britain in the Second World War during the Blitz (1940-41)? (Was it real or created? Can we ever answer that conclusively?) But I do things like this already, we hear you cry. Yes, of course, most history departments do; but how explicit are you about the citizenship issues which arise, not only on crime and the media, but about the vote, and resolving conflicts fairly? And can you show how similar ideas are addressed progressively through Years 7, 8 and 9, as in the example above?

And talking of being explicit, maybe the senior management team could do with being told explicitly just how much you can let them off the citizenship hook.

Chris Culpin is director of the Schools History Project and Andrew Wrenn is history adviser for Cambridgeshire LEA

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