View all news

Citizenship education – what does it mean?

30 July 2002

All maintained secondary schools in England are required to include 'citizenship' as part of the National Curriculum from August 2002. But what does that really mean?

In 1998, under the chairmanship of Professor Sir Bernard Crick, the Advisory Group on Citizenship published a report that identified ‘three strands which should run through all education for citizenship’:

  •  Social and moral responsibility
  •  Community involvement
  •  Political literacy

One can see two distinct spurs to this new focus on values. The first lies within the development of the National Curriculum itself, and particularly in what many people saw as an excessive preoccupation with national tests which were exclusively concerned with cognitive achievement. The second spur resides in the profound impact of tragic events such as the Jamie Bulger and Stephen Lawrence murders; concern about levels of participation in local and national democracy, and anxiety about youth alienation, attitudes and sub-cultures in general. These and other influences have led to a growing commitment to put values at the centre of educational endeavour, and to encourage teachers to ‘address themselves to the minds, bodies and souls of their students, in an attempt not only to help them learn, but also to enlarge their humanity’.

For the University, this is both a great opportunity and evidence of its partnership with the wider community

A great deal of work has gone into preparing for the statutory implementation of citizenship in August 2002 and the first group of teachers with specialist training in the subject will enter schools at the same time as citizenship becomes statutory. Since September 2001, the University’s Graduate School of Education has been at the forefront of this teacher education work, as one of four universities providing training in citizenship in their Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE). Alongside the PGCE programme, and both informing and drawing from it, the Graduate School of Education has been promoting and engaging in research, professional development and consultancy on a much wider front in what has become known as ‘values education’.

Under the guidance of an Advisory Board for Citizenship Education, the University’s PGCE Citizenship programme has adopted an approach which deliberately seeks to go well beyond the basic minima required by the National Curriculum orders for citizenship. Central to this has been the contribution of Dr Chris Sunderland of the Graduate School of Education, in the form of a conceptualisation of citizenship education based on the key concepts of Story,Trust, Power and Success.

Story is concerned with the role of narrative in human community, its part in the formation of personal identity and community solidarity, and its role in seeking truth and vision for our lives. Trust is concerned with the structures of human society as systems of trust, with the gains achieved by co-operation, and the role of internal moral disciplines as well as external policing and law. Power and Success introduce the political, demonstrating the presence of power in every human group, allowing an exploration of peer pressure and status, and deliberately inviting enquiry into the purpose of life. This model is attracting considerable attention from educators, principally for its effectiveness as a way of orchestrating the contributions to citizenship and values education which virtually all of the ‘traditional’ subject divisions of the curriculum have potential to make.

The response of educators in the local community has already been demonstrated by their keen interest in participating with the University in developing values-based whole-school approaches to institutional development. For the University, this is both a great opportunity and evidence of its partnership with the wider community.

Malcolm Lewis

Edit this page