Ten Years after Crick Report
The Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) in partnership with the Hansard Society, Institute for Citizenship and Parliament's Education Service, held an event in Portcullis House on November 19, 2008 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Crick Report.
The conference discussed what had been achieved over the last 10 years and the future of citizenship education.
The first keynote speaker was NfER research director David Kerr. He reckoned that there had been a steady but uneven improvement in Citizenship education over the last 10 years and established four main drivers of how citizenship was being delivered:
- Student efficacy driven
- Curriculum driven
- Participation driven
The main challenges for delivering citizenship lessons in school were pressures on curriculum time, assessment, the status of citizenship education and staff enthusiasm. Students considered the social and moral aspects of citizenship (such as obeying the law) to be more meaningful than political literacy or being active in the community. Mr Kerr argued that a reappraisal of citizenship education was due and that pupils were participating ‘horizontally' (i.e. taking part in political debates) but weren't really participating ‘vertically' (i.e. challenging political power structures).
The second keynote speaker was Chief Executive of the Institute of Citizenship Zandria Pauncefort. The main focus of Ms Pauncefort's talk was around the ‘Young Citizens' Say' survey that they conducted with support from the BBC, Parliament's Education Service and others. She argued that citizenship education was at risk of being ‘lost' in the curriculum and that there was too little emphasis on political literacy. When taught as a single subject, citizenship greatly improves understanding. The survey showed that 66% of young people thought they were treated unfairly by the media and 50% thought the media would blame politicians if a young person committed a crime. A further 75% thought politics was interesting but 51% felt they didn't have any influence.Ms Pauncefort concluded by suggesting that we needed to politicise the nation rather than just a generation and a debate needs to take place on what it means to be a 21st century citizen.
The next speaker was Labour MP Tony Wright who co-chairs the Constitution, Parliament and Citizenship Associate Parliamentary Group. He explained that citizenship in schools cannot do the job by itself and that there was something deeply amiss in our public life. Tabloid newspapers were feeding cynicism and ignorance of the political process. He also argued that politicians need to do more to get people involved in formal politics using the example of Barack Obama in the US.
Tim Loughton, Conservative MP and Shadow Cabinet member for Children, suggested that young people were interested in campaigning on political issues using the examples of Friends of the Earth and the RSPB. He felt that PSHE encompassed too many subjects and extended schools would give more focus to these issues. Volunteering is an important method in engaging young people with civic life and setting up Youth Cabinets and Youth Mayors was very useful in enabling young people to feel a part of the political process.
Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat MP and Shadow Cabinet member for Innovation, Universities and Skills, emphasised that citizenship should have its own place in the curriculum and young people were more politically literate than we give them credit for. He argued citizenship can be delivered informally through the UK Youth Parliament, School Councils and young people having a say on school policies such as bullying.
The speeches were followed by a Q & A panel discussion chaired by Mark Easton (BBC). The panel comprised Tony Wright MP, Tim Loughton MP, Stephen Williams MP, Sir William Atkinson the Head teacher of Phoenix High School in Hammersmith and Fulham and Audrey Osler, Founding Director of the Centre for Citizenship and Human Rights Education at University of Leeds
Both Tony Wright and Stephen Williams argued that we shouldn't try to hide this material. Instead we should expose it!
Sir William Atkinson maintained that young people needed to feel a sense of ‘ownership' when it came to citizenship education and that it needs to be ‘lived' and integrated into school life. Other panellists felt that citizenship was not taken seriously enough, teachers needed more training and there should be some kind of statutory framework for citizenship.
One panellist thought the media were very positive when it came to the American election and that they should show more enthusiasm about the British political process. It was argued Obama made people feel like they could enact change and this needed to be replicated in this country so young people could influence their local communities.