Too hard to teach political literacy?

This morning I attended the launch event of the Youth Citizenship Commission’s final report, no doubt lost in the press amongst the ‘jacko mania’.

The usual suspects were all there eager to hear the outcomes on effective participation and the engagement of young people in politics – with most of us wondering if they would back or oppose lowering the voting age (the latter being avoided with a resounding ‘we aren’t sure either way’).

The key recommendation was for better and more effective training to improve the delivery of citizenship lessons – something which our lot here have been campaigning for, for years and which we are glad to see placed firmly at number one on the list of recommendations. A lot of schools do amazing things within the flexible format of the citizenship curriculum, but likewise a lot of schools struggle with how to make it relevant and interesting for their students.

The biggest focus of the morning for me however was a highlight on political literacy with the recognition that it is a massive challenge for teachers to teach despite it being a major component of the citizenship curriculum. One of the responses to this was a recommendation for parliament to fund and sponsor UK Youth Parliament.

Whilst I completely agree that UKYP do a fantastic job in helping young people understand political systems and processes, there are a number of organisations who also are extremely effective in delivering innovative and exciting programmes with a focus on political literacy.  Youth Act, the Hansard Society, Envision, National Youth Parliament Competition, HeadsUp are a just a few of the many inspirational projects / orgs which develop young people’s political literacy both within and outside the classroom. What we need is for the relevant departments and the commission to support and endorse these programmes as a whole within the sector . In doing that, political literacy won’t be the neglected part of the citizenship curriculum, but instead will be the flagship component of it.

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

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