The new subject of citizenship includes law and order and taking an active part in society. But many people are still confused as to its true meaning.
Nurturing young people's social morals is best done by experience rather than "chalk and talk". But often there is precious little on offer for them to experience. Nottingham's Galleries of Justice visitors centre has a promising answer. The Galleries, inside the old Shire Hall and law courts in the historic Lace Market area, range between 'museum' and 'education centre'. Visitors experience an 18th century law court and discover what it is like to languish in a 300-year-old prison.
During the past few months, the Galleries of Justice has dedicated a large part of its facilities to areas called the Citizens' Zone. Original programmes use the full resources of the historic building and specialist staff, enabling artefact handling, lively debate, mock trials and voting.
School materials include The Trial of Goldilocks, a course for 5 to 11 year olds. Goldilocks is charged with breaking and entering. The children wear the characters' costumes and act out the trial in a "friendly and supportive environment".
Robbie Hood is for 11 to 16 year olds, who weigh up the pros and cons of a young offender's case and learn about the consequences of breaking the law. It provokes thought, and over 2,000 Nottinghamshire pupils have taken part in the programme.
Galleries chief executive Peter Armstrong says their approach is unique:
"We believe we are the first visitor experience that features a centre for citizenship studies."
Experts in citizenship studies are enthusiastic. David Barrs, chairman of the Association of Citizenship Training, says: "The Galleries' mock trials provide excellent opportunities for children to participate and reflect on their participation. The Galleries shed light on what it is to be a 'citizen'. " The British legal and penal system is the backdrop for the Citizens' Zone. Mr Armstrong says: "It provides students with facilities which are right up-to-date, including areas concerning modern-day civil and human rights and how to make your voice heard if you want to change laws. There is no other current facility that students could visit, learn from and, we hope, enjoy."
Sue Mann is deputy head of a large comprehensive school in Leicester. She says: "After the initial excitement of the day out, the children became engrossed." Contact Jim Grevatte, National Centre of Citizenship and the Law, Shire Hall, High Pavement, Nottingham NG1 1HN. Tel: 0115 952 0555. Web: www.galleriesofjustice.org.uk Cost: pound;3.50 half day, pound;6.00 full day.