A long overdue change on citizenship education;Letter

10th April 1998 at 01:00
The current debate over the place of citizenship and the promotion of moral values in the school curriculum has clearly missed one vital point: virtually every government endorsed curriculum reform since the mid-1970s has ignored or marginalised the social curriculum.

"There is no such thing as society," claimed Margaret Thatcher a decade or so ago. Whatever the intended irony, her reforms and those that have followed since seem to endorse such a viewpoint. The establishment of Bernard Crick's advisory group on citizenship education signals a welcome and long overdue change.

The challenge, as Crick says (TES, March 27) is to "create a genuine citizenship culture in our country".

Moreover, Crick's recommendation that the citizenship component be judged by tightly focused learning outcomes rather than prescribed in fixed content does more than reduce fears around the imposition or indoctrination of certain civic or political values. It marks the beginning of a return to commonsense in curriculum design, allowing schools to respond to the contexts in which they find themselves while holding them accountable for what they do.

Further, in refusing to enter a contest for time with religious education or any other subject, Crick points the way to a collaboratively developed, objectives-based curriculum.

Common sense, in terms of curriculum design, must be combined with rigour in terms of delivery. Political literacy, economic understanding and sociological awareness - key components at the core of any citizenship programme - require an expertise as strong and as subtle as any "conventional" subject.

With citizenship not just in, but at the heart of a new curriculum, the Government will need to remove the barriers to teaching faced by those from social science backgrounds; tackle the shortage of PGCE places in this area and encourage schools and local authorities to appoint appropriately qualified coordinators and advisers.

Tony Breslin Joint co-ordinator Citizenship 2000 36 Brambling Close Bushey Hall Drive Bushey, Hertfordshire

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