Under-18s are to be encouraged to do voluntary work. Sarah Cassidy reports.
ALL young people under the age of 18 will be encouraged to do voluntary work for community groups, under plans given the go-ahead by Education Secretary David Blunkett.
Mr Blunkett believes that many of the benefits of his new school citizenship lessons will be lost unless they are followed up with a range of practical activities for 16 to 18-year-olds.
The programme will initially be voluntary and will give young people an opportunity to put what they learnt at school into practice, Mr Blunkett said.
He has already championed the introduction of citizenship lessons into the curriculum and hopes it will be seen as one of his lasting achievements. The lessons will be compulsory for all 11 to 16-year-olds from 2002, while primary schools will be expected to tackle the subject using a voluntary framework.
He has now asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to investigate how a new citizenship programme could be created for 16 to 18-year-olds whether they are at school, college or work.
Mr Blunkett has accepted the main findings of a new report on citizenship by his former university tutor Professor Bernard Crick which is due to be published shortly. Professor Crick recommends that all 16 to 18-year-olds be entitled to a practical citizenship programme, whatever their circumstances.
It acknowledges that a single post-16 model will not be appropriate, because of the wide variety of education and training that young people are involved in.
Instead it advocates a framework which sets out the skills which make a good itizen that schools, colleges and employers could develop.
In a letter to QCA chairman Sir William Stubbs, David Blunkett said: "It is clear to me that our efforts to develop citizenship among young people during compulsory schooling should not end there. That would be unsound educationally; and it would fail to build on the fact that in the crucial years immediately after 16 young people begin actively to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizens - to vote, to take part in voluntary activities, to work etc, for which the national curriculum prepares them."
The programme will be introduced gradually and will involve the new Learning and Skills Council, which will also help interested organisations and community groups to get involved.
The involvement of these groups is crucial, Mr Blunkett believes, to ensure that the programme is relevant and enables young people to use their skills to help the community.
The development of the programme will identify how links can be forged with charities and community groups, how young people can be persuaded to get involved and how the groups' staff can be trained to implement the post-16 citizenship programme.
Mr Blunkett has asked the QCA to develop proposals for the providers of post 16 education and training who wish to take part in the scheme. They must give him their advice by January 2001.
Nick Brown, principal of Oldham sixth-form college, said: "If it can be contextualised within the curriculum it will work. It chimes with the broader curriculum 2000 and can be enriching for students, and especially useful for university applications."