It was with great disappointment and regret that the Citizenship Foundation learned that the Department for Education, which funds The Youth of Today, would be cutting the schools part of the programme, which we have been delivering.
All we know about the Government’s decision is that they are taking ‘a different approach to schools’, which necessitates concluding the Citizenship Foundation’s work as part of The Youth of Today consortium.
The programme, which began in February 2009 and is to be completed in March 2011, aims to improve the quality and quantity of youth leadership opportunities for disadvantaged 13 to 19 year olds.
There are a number of amazing opportunities on offer that can equip young people with the skills to become active leaders of change in their community, with all the strands reaching out to young people who normally would not have access to opportunities like these.
However, in line with many recent cuts, the school based strand we were leading on has been cut, with little guidance as to the reasoning behind it.
This is a real disappointment for the Citizenship Foundation and follows 17 months of hard work (and only six months left to go). We achieved 220 schools engaging with the programme – they shared best practice around youth leadership and used our interactive leadership and active citizenship educational resources.
What is particularly disconcerting with regards to many of the recent cuts is the impact they are having on the school environment, as well as on individual children and young people. In getting rid of programmes like this, and like V Schools, the schools could become solely focused on academic achievement, neglecting to equip pupils with the skills needed for all aspects of their future.
Pupils become attainment driven, grade focussed and inevitably will loose some of those social skills that many of these programmes aim to achieve (and that also contribute to the employability) such as campaigning skills, leadership, and community action as well as harder and more traditional skills such as debating, communication , advocacy skills and decision making.
So, as we approach the spending review in September and as we prepare for more cuts to social projects, I can’t help but think it is not me who got the roughest deal in loosing out on a project I feel hugely passionate about.
Instead, it is teachers and pupils who now aren’t going to receive the support they have had in the past in implementing social action and citizenship projects in their schools.
After all, aren’t these the very projects that will equip both students and teachers with the skills to create the Big Society we are hearing so much about?