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Citizenship Education

Volume 448: debated on Thursday 29 June 2006

Citizenship remains an important part of the national curriculum. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is currently reviewing the key stage 3 curriculum, which includes citizenship. We have recently announced a review, led by Keith Ajegbo, to explore the possibility of including British social and cultural history in the citizenship curriculum. Any changes will come into effect from September 2008.

I am extremely grateful to the Minister for that most helpful and comprehensive reply. Would he accept from me that citizenship should include the teaching of tolerance, freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, civil and community responsibilities and an understanding of democracy, and also, more than ever perhaps, an understanding of the history of the United Kingdom and the huge achievements of the British people over the centuries throughout the whole world?

I am in danger of agreeing with the hon. Gentleman. The framework for key stage 4 of the citizenship curriculum specifically refers to students being taught about the legal and human rights and responsibilities underpinning society. It does not mention the European Union and the value that that has brought to British cultural and social history, but I am sure that he would agree that that should form part of that curriculum, as well.

May I welcome what the Minister has said? I hope that, in any citizenship course, there will be reference to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) as being an essential part of British history. Has the Minister seen a leaflet produced by the Children’s Legal Centre that sets out the rights and responsibilities of young people from the age of 13 onwards? In discussing citizenship, is it not important to look also at the rights and responsibilities of young people? Will he ensure that that is included in any discussion of citizenship?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The citizenship curriculum covers issues relating to social and moral responsibility, political literacy and community involvement. Within all of that, the rights and responsibilities of every citizen in this country, what they are and how they can be exercised, and how young people have rights and responsibilities and can exercise them, must form a key part of what goes on in the classroom across the whole of school curriculum, as we generate an ethos of understanding and encouraging active citizenship by all our young people.

I am sure that the Minister would agree that education in global citizenship and sustainable development is vital. What financial arrangements are in place to support the development of curriculum materials and teacher training in that?

Some £600,000 is being invested to provide continuous professional development over the next two years for some 1,200 teachers who teach citizenship in one shape or another in our schools. Within that continuous professional development, there will be opportunities for teachers to examine a variety of ways of engaging young people in that topic in the classroom and to do so in ways that involve young people in an active process to explore the role they play locally in their communities, nationally, in Europe, and, of course, across the planet in terms of global citizenship education. There are great opportunities to improve and deepen the quality of the citizenship education that young people experience.

May I agree with the Minister that it is the delivery of a high-class, high-quality curriculum across the piece that will best develop the ideas of citizenship, both as a national of Britain and a citizen of the world? He might wish to pay a compliment to Oxley primary school, which, on every standard, has been found to be outstanding in every aspect of the curriculum. The children who arrive at that diverse, inner-city school have many problems, but they have none the less achieved magnificently. The contribution that the school makes to the idea of citizenship is far in excess of any narrow understanding of what may be put forward elsewhere.

I am more than happy to celebrate along with my hon. Friend the achievements of Oxley primary school in his constituency. It is important to recognise that citizenship starts at the primary level in our school system and runs right through the secondary curriculum. In key stages 1 and 2, for primary school children, PSHE—personal, social and health education—and citizenship education are combined to give young people the kind of experience that my hon. Friend describes. Most importantly of all, as well as being taught in discrete lessons, the subject features right across the curriculum—in maths, English, history and geography classes—so that young people can see and experience the values and ethos of active citizenship and we can bed in the spirit and attitude of becoming positively engaged in local communities.