Coming of age?


 The SSAT recently arranged for twenty Headteachers to attend a conference in Mauritius to share views and insights, with their international peers, on Citizenship education.

The Telegraph used the visit as a stick with which to beat the SSAT portraying it as another quango distributing taxpayer’s money for freebies in the midst of a recession, like it was going out of fashion. Certainly if good citizenship has anything to do with protecting the environment, Heads leaving their large carbon footprints behind as they travel across the globe is probably not the best way, of getting the message across, on what responsible global citizenship is all about. It is, it seems ,not just politicians who have a keen sense of personal entitlement and an inability to see themselves as others see them or to understand how their actions are viewed outside their own bubble.

 But such conduct doesn’t detract from the importance of teaching values related to citizenship to pupils and making them more aware of the values that help bind our society and communities. Nor, the importance of seeking to identify best international practice.

We are in a materialistic age in which pursuit of self interest is too often not mitigated by a sense of community, a willingness to serve others, an awareness of others needs and yes, the virtue inherent in a modicum of self-denial.

The NFER has just published a report ‘Citizenship and values education to the rescue! A call to action by the Five Nations Network’. This was the result of a recent conference. The five nations involved are England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Key points for the Call to Action are: Ensuring that every young person across the Five Nations has a right and entitlement to high quality citizenship and values education Galvanising support in educating people to play an active and responsible part in democratic life and exercise their rights and responsibilities Getting politicians and policy makers to make a renewed commitment to Citizenship and Values Education to enable young people to engage with our increasingly complex, challenging and changing world The report acknowledges that Public outrage at ‘MPs expenses’, increased mistrust in politics and politicians, the rise of the far right parties and a meltdown in democratic participation have all highlighted the urgency for investment in Citizenship and Values Education. Despite differences in culture, history and approach to Citizenship and Values Education across the five education systems, the Five Nations Network has brought together policy-makers, teachers, practitioners, stakeholders, NGOs and young people for an annual conference .They are now determined to take joint action.

The overarching aim of the conference was to take stock of where education for values and citizenship has come from, where it is currently and where it should go and, in the light of dialogue and debate, to set the agenda by agreeing what needs to be done to move this area forward across the Five Nations. The conference report stresses the importance of educating people, particularly young people, to play an active and responsible part in democratic life and to exercise their rights and responsibilities in society. It also focuses on the need to prepare people with the knowledge, understanding, skills, attitudes and values needed to work together on issues, make decisions and take action and thereby making a major contribution to community cohesion and equity in society. Among the report’s conclusions was that the drive to educate young people for life in the 21st century, the move to more flexible curriculum and learning frameworks, and the emphasis on competence – and skills-based learning all strengthen the opportunities for citizenship and values education to get a firmer foothold in the curriculum and at whole-school and wider community levels. In schools – there is a need for increasing encouragement to school leaders and teachers to use their professional judgment in shaping curriculum and learning experiences, so that they fit the needs of their learners. School and local contexts, creates opportunities for citizenship and values education to be integral to how schools are organised, the values they promote and the learning experiences they encourage. Among young people – the increasing concern of young people about the society in which they are growing up, frustration at not having a voice on issues that matter to them, and boredom with traditional teaching and learning, create the opportunity to underline the relevance of citizenship and values education to the lives and concerns of young people.

 It does seem that the idea of Citizenship education has grown up over the last few years and is beginning to spawn some innovative joint approaches.


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