Teachers and pupils agree on what makes a 'doss' lesson

21st September 2007 at 01:00

TEACHERS AND pupils see citizenship as a "doss subject", often failing to understand how it relates to their own lives.

Mary Richardson of Roehampton University interviewed 117 teachers and 218 pupils across England about their attitudes to citizenship lessons.

She found that pupils enjoyed the subject but believed that its less didactic format, including films and class debates, rendered it a "doss lesson".

This attitude was echoed in the staffroom. More than a quarter of teachers admitted that they had received no training at all in citizenship. As a result, they lacked confidence teaching the subject, and suspected that their pupils knew they were inexperienced.

Many also complained that their colleagues made derogatory comments about citizenship and did not understand why it was included in the timetable.

Dr Richardson said: "Negative feelings about the subject trickled down to classroom level, and pupils were more likely to consider citizenship inferior to other curriculum subjects."

Citizenship can only be taken as a short GCSE, equivalent to half a full-sized qualification. This also contributed to pupils' attitudes. One pupil said: "Who wants half a GCSE, when you can have a whole one?"

Nonetheless, pupils felt that a citizenship GCSE would be helpful for particular career options, such as care work, charity work and the law. But, Dr Richardson believes, this defeats the point of the subject.

"Citizenship was still viewed as just another subject," she said. "The pupils' comments identify citizenship as the `subject about being good'. They do not demonstrate an understanding of how citizenship is supposed to permeate all aspects of one's life."

* mary.richardson@roehampton.ac.uk

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