Last week we heard a lot of noise about citizenship education. We now have to wait and see if it meant anything.
On Thursday morning, The Prince of Wales launched the new Campaign for Social Action. This campaign brings together the business, education and voluntary sectors ‘to transform our society by encouraging, recognising and valuing the contribution young people make, and supporting those who can galvanise a new culture of participation’.
All good stuff, providing the participants have already had the chance to learn the necessary skills and knowledge.
But what’s this? That very afternoon, education minister Lord Nash had to reassure Peers of the Government’s commitment to citizenship education in schools.
‘We have made our commitment to citizenship abundantly clear,’ he told them, ‘by retaining the statutory status of citizenship in secondary schools as part of the review of the National Curriculum.’
Of course, one could argue that choosing not to have a haircut does not make it ‘abundantly clear’ that one is committed to growing a mullet. But at least the Government thinks it’s committed to something; quite what, we won’t know until the new National Curriculum is finally published.
It had better be good though, because young people themselves want better life skills education in school.
On Friday morning, the Youth Select Committee – comprised entirely of 15-18 year-olds – heard the first oral evidence in its inquiry into education for life skills. I was at the opening session, which heard evidence on behalf of both citizenship and PSHE (personal, social and health education).
What was it told? That both subjects need better support and trained teachers. You wouldn’t expect maths to be dumped on a teacher with no training in it, so why is it okay for life skills such as political literacy, legal awareness and sex education?
Young people want it, we think it’s needed, the Government says it’s committed to it: let’s make sure schools can actually deliver it.