Citizenship report is a sham

28th January 2011 at 00:00

"Garbage in, garbage out" is the phrase that came to mind after reading the two pages your publication devoted to the views of Stephanie Farquhar (TESS, January 14).

The probationer teacher's "research" portrayed teachers paying lip service to Curriculum for Excellence's citizenship agenda, in bureaucratic and undemocratic schools where arguing with a teacher about school rules merited punishment. Is this really an accurate picture of citizenship in Scottish schools?

Miss Farquhar's conclusions seem to have been based on interviews with six history and modern studies teachers in one Aberdeenshire school. Does she not realise that citizenship is not a taught subject in Scotland and is the responsibility of all, not just the humanities staff? Does she really think that valid conclusions can ever be made using such a small and unrepresentative sample of teachers (five male, one female)?

My amazement turned to incredulity when I read that this half-baked effort was overseen by a Stirling University lecturer. In my book, the dissertation is "no award"; Dr Priestley would have been better advised to have spent time teaching his pupils about how to design a research project rather than himself adding to the folly by attempting to generalise from dodgy data. I am also disappointed with TESS's sensationalist and inaccurate promotion of this story.

As a history and modern studies teacher in Aberdeenshire (not the one Miss Farquhar worked in), I have a different experience of citizenship. My school is currently taking part in the Aberdeenshire-wide schools elections. Pupils are involved in an authentic replication of the upcoming Scottish Parliament and UK referendum elections, down to the last detail of the adult experience (no tokenism here).

Last year, we came second in the Scottish Education Awards for global citizenship. Our S6 pupils are involved in the youth philanthropy project. A former pupil is a prospective parliamentary candidate; another is currently a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP); two pupils are preparing to put themselves forward for this March's SYP elections.

So, one Aberdeenshire school is damned by research for its minimalist approach to citizenship; another is praised by the anecdotal evidence of one of its own teachers. Who do you believe? Let's vote on it.

Donald Morrison, principal teacher, humanities, Ellon Academy.

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