Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this important issue, even at the end of a long day, and to noble Lords who have indicated that they would like to take part in the debate.
This began for me in this House when we were recalled in August 2011 following those deeply disturbing riots. I raised the point then that we should perhaps consider some form of national service, or community service, for our young people, and look at the idea of a citizenship ceremony in which they recognised their rights and responsibilities. As a result of that, colleagues on both sides of the House contacted me and we had a series of meetings. The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, who cannot be here today, and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, were among Cross-Benchers who took part in the discussions. We were helped, too, by the advice that we received on the recommendation of the noble Baroness, Lady King of Bow, from Professor Ted Cantle. Those meetings inspired me to seek this debate.
There is a very serious and pressing case for formally marking the transition of our young people to full citizenship at the age of 18. It is a sad fact that young people are far less likely to take part in the democratic process these days, or even register, than used to be the case. Perhaps that is not surprising when we do so little to suggest that coming of age matters. Citizenship is about far more than voting. I do not suggest that there are not hundreds of thousands of young people in the country who are proud to be members of their local communities and give real service to them. This is not a critical speech but one that seeks to move forward. Although many make real and important contributions, the idea and the ideal of public service are not as fashionable as they once were.
We need to provide for all 16 to 18 year-olds the opportunity to engage in some form of structured community service, working with civic and voluntary organisations. This should culminate in a citizenship ceremony that could be a real occasion, not only for the young people concerned but for their friends and families. We already have a positive process for migrants and longer-standing residents who wish to become UK citizens, but there is nothing to acknowledge that our 18 year-olds have suddenly acquired new rights and responsibilities. When, for those who wish to become UK citizens, a citizenship ceremony was first mooted, many said that it was a jingoistic, flag-waving and pointless exercise. That has not proved to be the case. Many people in our country have taken part in these ceremonies, accompanied by their families and friends, with a real sense of pride and commitment. Anyone in your Lordships’ House who is fortunate enough to be a deputy lieutenant of a county might have experienced such ceremonies. I suggest to your Lordships that the sceptics have indeed been confounded, because those who come appreciate that they are being formally and publicly welcomed into the fold. They are very happy to take an oath of allegiance in front of the Queen’s representative.
I know the Government—this also applies to the previous Government, because there is common concern in all parties—have developed what the previous Government did and have begun to recognise the need to engage younger people with the idea of citizenship. The National Citizen Service is aimed at 16 and 17 year-olds. It introduces young people to volunteering in blocks of several weeks across the summer. Up to 30,000 youngsters take part. It is no doubt a very good scheme, and I warmly commend it, but I propose a scheme that is, first, much simpler and, secondly, made available to every young person. Around 700,000 young people come of age each year. The formal marking of the 18th birthday—of course, not necessarily on the exact day—with a ceremony supported by a short school or community-based programme would incur minimal costs and would have a great impact. I referred to the role of the lord-lieutenancy a moment or two ago. Every county has a lord-lieutenant who is supported by deputy lieutenants, often several dozen of them, who would be able to support such an extended role conducting ceremonies in the name of Her Majesty the Queen independent of government and political party and at minimal cost.
It would be possible to augment the citizenship process with a more tangible programme of citizenship, perhaps leading to a certificate, and there are many voluntary organisations that I have reason to suppose would willingly take part. One thinks of the National Trust, the RSPB and Age UK; one could go on. There are many such organisations. I envisage a voluntary programme supported by an expectation that all young people would participate in a community-based programme supported by existing citizenship work in schools.
It is crucial that schools and the community come together in this. There is no time to develop at length a series of examples, but noble Lords will know of environmental and heritage problems, and programmes in their areas, of the need to develop greater awareness of the importance of parenting and child development and of community cohesion and integration, and the need for young people fully to recognise their legal responsibilities, the damage that anti-social behaviour can cause and the damage that alcohol and drug abuse can cause.
I emphasise that this is all about service. It is about recognising, of course, the rights that one obtains at the age of 18 but also, and much more important in a sense, the responsibilities to help to build through this recognition communities that are more united, more integrated and more cohesive than many of our communities. Of course, I do not know the answer to this question, but I wonder whether, if we had had such a highly developed programme, those riots would have taken place two years ago. Whether they would or not, I suggest to your Lordships that this sort of developed approach has many benefits and few dangers, and I very warmly commend it to the Government because they are recognising in the curriculum and through the programme to which I referred the importance of developing awareness and responsibility in our young people as they mature and become part of the adult community. They recognise this as being vital. We all recognise this as being vital, and I very much hope that the ideas that I have briefly sketched this afternoon will commend themselves not only to your Lordships in all parts of the House but in particular to the Minister who will be replying from the Front Bench.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I congratulate, and thank, him not only on securing this debate but on introducing it with such commitment and wisdom.
The noble Lord has spoken about a citizenship programme. I will talk about that in a moment, but I begin by talking about citizenship education as it exists in our schools and where I think it can be improved. I am delighted that the Government have made sure that citizenship education remains a compulsory national curriculum subject at key stages 3 and 4. I am also delighted that it continues to include such subjects as our parliamentary system of democracy, the making of laws, the evolution of constitutional monarchy and the way in which it functions, national, ethnic, religious and other identities and the variety of electoral systems through which people can be represented. This is greatly welcomed.
However, I am slightly uneasy about three areas. The first is what is being taught in the name of citizenship education, how it is taught and within what framework. I put these three together because they are closely related. It is very striking that citizenship education concentrates simply on providing information about institutions. It has very little to say about political ideologies: about conservatism, socialism, liberalism, fascism—the variety of spectra through which people have perceived and tried to organise political arrangements. It is very important that our students know what these ideas and ideologies stand for and how to arbitrate between them. That is my first area of concern.
My second concern is that we live in a multicultural society and that it is therefore important that its citizens are able to relate to each other and to form a cohesive community by developing what I call multicultural literacy or multicultural competence. By that, I mean the capacity to recognise and live with differences and to uncover the commonalities that underpin those differences. It is important to be able to relate to people across cultural boundaries and to be able to recognise them as one’s fellow humans and fellow citizens despite those differences. Multicultural literacy is absolutely vital if a society as diverse as ours is to be cohesive.
The third important thing that is badly needed is more directly connected with the way in which we teach. We teach via bits of information, relying on very fine books, such as those written by my dear friend the noble Lord, Lord Norton. I admire those books. However, it is important to take concrete issues and to show how different ideas and agencies play out within them. For example, if I were teaching politics to 16, 17 and 18 year-olds, I would consider it vital to take a real situation, such as the Holocaust, the partition of India or a situation of ethnic genocide, and to use this as an opportunity to see how different forces come to play so that people who have lived together as good neighbours—as brothers—and helped each other out in times of sickness and tragedy can change so suddenly, apparently overnight, to being at each other’s throats. How does this happen? What are the preconditions? If we do not understand these people, we demonise them, saying that they have all gone mad. Have they become fanatics overnight? In five minutes? That is impossible. There must be a culture or climate within which certain forces are already at work. These forces are kept under control in certain situations but may be released from control when the situation changes.
If we want our students to appreciate what it is to live politically, what political life is all about, we have to discuss not merely bodies of information but concrete issues. If we do not want to concentrate on big issues such as the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide—a fortnight or a month can be devoted to the study of those—another thing that can be done is to ask pupils to bring in headlines from newspapers about important issues that happen to interest them and, starting from there, help them to understand through a range of issues the day-to-day reality of what is going on in the world at large.
While all this is being taught, it is important to stress that citizenship is a lived reality and should be practised. The ethos and practices of the school must therefore reflect the principles that the school wants to impress on its pupils. Pupils can be involved in taking certain decisions within the school so that they can learn that citizenship does not begin once they leave school; it is practised within the school. Decisions are taken on delinquent children, all kinds of acts of indiscipline and managing the school. Pupils can also put forth their views on how the school’s resources should be allocated.
I turn now to the very important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, on having a specific citizenship programme rather than just education. We must realise the following important point. Having lived here for almost 58 years, having arrived as a student, becoming a professor, and all the things that followed, I wonder why the great public institutions of which we were proud and which we cherished have one by one declined in their legitimacy and people have begun to lose faith in them. We used to be extremely proud of our police service. In India, the British police service was always held up as a model. Of course, it can still be held up in that way when compared to the Indians’. Nevertheless, there are problems. We used to be proud of our print journalism and the quality, variety and depth of our newspapers. We used to be proud of our Civil Service, and of the integrity of the NHS. As one looks at all the cover-ups and so on, one begins to ask what is going on. Citizenship should be understood not simply in terms of serving people but in terms of taking custody of our collective life. If there are qualities that we value, I should have thought that a citizenship programme would help to ensure that citizens take responsibility for their society and cultivate the virtues and competencies that are necessary to have the healthy society that we once had and that was the basis of our great reputation.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for giving us the opportunity to debate this hugely important issue. I was much taken with his suggestion, which is worthy of consideration. But, of course, before that we must get citizenship education taught properly and correctly in our schools. I think that citizenship education is vital for ensuring that young people are an active and valued part of our society and, moreover, that they are involved in their communities. All too often, young people are seen in a negative way.
Let us reflect for a moment on some figures that were collected by the Hansard Society. We know for a fact that in the 2010 general election, only 44% of 18 to 24 year-olds voted, although the good news was that that was an increase of 7% on the previous general election, but still well below the average turnout of 65%. Moreover, the Hansard Society research suggests that only one-third of 18 to 24 year-olds claim to know anything about politics while, rather alarmingly, 90% of young people do not know who their MP is or how to contact them.
In my view, citizenship is not about reaching for a syllabus, dusting it down, teaching it and giving students a body of facts. It is about creating an ethos in the school and ensuring that pervades everything that young people do. It has to be about the ethos of the school, whether that is schools having school councils and young people knowing about them, electing their councillors and debating issues; whether it is doing voluntary work in the community—at my school we would go to the local care centre and sing Christmas carols or work at the local Jaguar Land Rover factory; whether it is doing charity appeals; whether it is shadowing people; whether it is bringing speakers in from the local GP to the local midwife; or whether it is having a rolling programme of pupils observing school governing bodies, as we had in my school.
The good news is that citizenship as a programme of study will continue in key stages 3 and 4. We are out to consultation on that but the first draft, as good as it is, is very factually orientated with no real indication of the sort of things that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, was talking about, so no real voluntary or community engagement. I was interested to see that our Prime Minister last year asked Dame Julia Cleverdon and Amanda Jordan to review how we can increase the quality and quantity of social action and engagement by young people between the ages of 10 and 20. There were some interesting facts in their interim report. They found that although there is a wide range of social activity in the UK, much of it takes place in the voluntary sector and very little within schools and businesses. They also found a lack of knowledge and understanding about social action and opportunities and their value in the education sector was very limited. Finally, they found that young people have no facility to develop social action over time. I hope the Minister when replying might suggest it is important that we recognise that fact in the curriculum.
It is also interesting to see what young people think citizenship is about. The National Foundation for Educational Research looked at young people. What did they think being a good citizen meant? Well, 43% thought it was about people having access to their rights—education, health and housing. Interestingly, 39% thought it meant working together to make sure that all members of society are treated fairly. What a lovely result. Only 10% listed voting, politics and government. If we are going to get citizenship right, it must be about the quality of the teaching as well as the quality of the syllabus. Far too often citizenship is seen as a Cinderella subject. I can remember my wife who teaches PE and French—a strange combination—sometimes as a chore being sent in to teach citizenship, never having had any training in it or understanding of it. So we have to get that right and we also have to make sure that from time to time we actually inspect the subject as well.
I will make two further quick observations. First, there is a marvellous organisation run by and for young people called “Bite the Ballot”. Members of all parts of the House might have been involved in it. It is about encouraging young people to understand democracy in all its forms and giving young people a voice in the issues. I was invited to one meeting in the Jubilee Room, packed with young people, and I was astounded by their ability to communicate issues, to listen and to reason. If we can get that happening with this organisation, why can we not get it happening in our schools as well?
I end on a bit of a sad note, and this might seem a bit carping, but we talk about a national curriculum and we laud the fact that we are going to have citizenship in our national curriculum for key stages 3 and 4. The fact is that it is not a national curriculum because half our secondary schools can choose not to teach it. I was sad to see an announcement by Stephen Twigg, who I admire greatly, saying that the Labour Party was going to hand over those responsibilities to all our schools. So in a sense it is only this party which believes that a national curriculum should be, as it says on the label, for all children—slimmed down, yes, but all children should be taught those important things, including citizenship.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for calling this debate. Citizenship education is an important subject and I will speak mainly about it as it is lived in, through and around what happens in schools rather than necessarily what happens after those school years; although what the noble Lord spoke about is important.
Citizenship education prepares young people for life in a complex, modern society where we all need to take our political, legal and economic responsibilities seriously, within the context of a sustaining moral framework. I want just to draw attention to a particular partnership which should exist in this whole field of citizenship education, which is the one with religious education. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education held a meeting last week where a whole number of young people, from different schools, spoke movingly about how important RE has been to them as the only opportunity they have at the moment to examine how they can live respectfully with difference, how they can understand people who have a very different world view and how they can live together in a harmonious community when they are encouraged to be in an adversarial relationship.
It is undoubtedly the case that you cannot understand the modern world without understanding religion, which has become more, not less, important in the past 20 years. Some of that religion of course, as we know, has been unhealthy; but most of it is of huge value, especially when it is realised that religious faith is the driving force behind the lives of over 70% of the world’s population.
Good RE encourages respect, tolerance, participation, community building, charitable activity, social engagement—all the things that we believe are part of citizenship education as well. Good RE creates active, informed and responsible citizens. The trouble is that RE is under severe strain at present, not through the intentional actions of the DfE, but through the unintended consequences of several key decisions. The English baccalaureate excludes RE; the reform of the so-called national curriculum excludes RE; RE is way down the list for GCSE reform; RE teacher training places have been halved in the last three years; bursaries for teacher training in RE have been removed; and so on. This has resulted in a reduction in staff, in classroom time, in resources and in exam entries and a deep fall in teacher morale. The British Humanist Association is as concerned about this as the RE council of which it is a part.
I mention this because RE is a natural handmaid for citizenship education and this malaise in RE is deeply damaging to the long-term health of society. WB Yeats said that the purpose of education is not to fill a bucket but to light a fire. The fire here is that of young people believing in a healthy, participative, respectful, values-based democracy. Citizenship education and RE are the best tools we have to shape such a society and to rescue it from utilitarian ideology. The noble Lord’s Question concerning citizenship education is therefore deeply important and I am very pleased to take part in this discussion.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for giving us this opportunity to debate an important subject and for introducing the debate so powerfully. Like others, I would like to concentrate on the educational issues raised by the topic and to widen the meaning of citizenship education.
I think we all recognise that education is more than academic subjects. Parents in the wider society expect more than subject learning. Schools must play their part in helping pupils to develop moral and spiritual values, to foster an understanding of good and healthy relationships and to grow the character which will enable them to become contributors to,
“the publick wealth, peace and tranquillity of the Realm”,
as our daily prayer puts it. I can think of few phrases that better describe what citizenship education should achieve.
We face enormous challenges in our society. This Government have commendably identified the so-called problem families who are at the root of many social difficulties, and who all too often pass on their problems through several generations. Programmes and money to address these difficulties and break the cycle are being put in place, but education, too, must play its part in instilling solid values and integrity of character in every young person to help break that cycle.
There are aspects of the curriculum which aim to offer special skills and understanding relevant to these non-academic parts of the curriculum. PSHE deals with some of the aspects, notably health and relationships, and makes an important contribution when well taught. Citizenship education, which is a statutory requirement at secondary stage and available as a GCSE short course examination, deals with the framework of democracy: Parliament, the electoral system and the importance of the rule of law. It also deals with aspects of personal financial management and social responsibility through volunteering.
The citizenship syllabus can, if well taught, play its part. Learning about how our precious system of democracy works and why it should be protected and valued, is an essential element in any young person’s education. Understanding about why there is taxation and how that relates to the democratic process is also essential, as is the role of law and human rights. The skills needed to manage money, which are so sadly lacking in many young adults who become trapped by payday loans, could make a big contribution to their future well-being.
These are challenging areas for any teacher. They are not solely dealing with facts or with identifiable skills. The slow building-up of character happens over years, and the acquisition of solid values takes place over the whole period from a four year-old entering school to a 19 year-old leaving. No single subject or single teacher should be expected to shoulder the responsibility for that alone.
Evidence from Ofsted implies that the teaching of both PSHE and citizenship and the value placed on them, though improving, varies between schools depending on the leadership in the school. It therefore cannot be assumed that any young person that has been taught PSHE and citizenship will have acquired all those values and will develop the character that we need for a good citizen. Much more is needed for the development of internalised individual responsibility to family, friends, community and nation.
No doubt many noble Lords will have their own wish list of what could be added to the national curriculum. It may be because I was once an academic philosopher that I would like to ensure that all young people, not just the lucky ones with good teaching in PSHE and citizenship, have the opportunity to wrestle with some of the leading moral and ethical issues of our age. In so doing they should learn the skills of argument, weighing both sides of an issue, not taking one side instantly and relying on evidence where it is available. I would like to think that we could bring about a generation which understood what is meant by a just war, the right to die and human rights. I would like this generation particularly to understand the importance of free speech and why it should be protected, and to have at least the tools to debate the ethics of capitalism and socialism.
Citizenship education is in all aspects more than a single element in the curriculum. As the noble Lord, Lord Storey, has said, it is everything that a school does to develop the citizen of the future. It is the responsibility of every teacher and, above all, of the head and senior staff to ensure that the whole school is imbued with the values of good citizenship. That means that every pupil is valued. The relationship between teacher and pupil is one of mutual respect, but where the authority of the teacher is recognised and established. It means that bullying, cruelty, lying and cheating are never tolerated, and courage, honesty and loyalty are manifestly rewarded.
Such attitudes should permeate everything about how a school conducts its business; they are not the responsibility of one or two areas of the curriculum. Indeed, my fear about both PSHE and citizenship education is that they may encourage other teachers, and even the head, to feel that the provision of these subjects relieves all other members of staff from any concern with the wider issues of citizenship.
Good citizens contribute to society, recognising their responsibilities not just their rights. This means that every young person should be capable of earning a living, well-educated, literate, numerate and fluent in their own language at least. The core task of a school is to ensure that every pupil achieves those basic skills.
As one who has conducted perhaps over a thousand interviews, I would add that an essential ingredient in presenting for a job is also confidence and a realistic sense of one’s own worth. Again, that is not something that appears in the syllabus of any one subject, but which is developed through the total experience of growing up, in which school plays a significant part. Of course, loving parents are the best guarantors of self-worth, but sadly not all young people are blessed with loving parents, and a good school and sensitive teachers can help to fill that enormous gap.
Schools face a huge task in attempting to meet the expectations of society. However, this responsibility is recognised and accepted by the good teachers and heads I have been privileged to meet over the years. We cannot succeed with every child. Sadly there will always be some whose background of deprivation of love is too strong for a school to make a difference. But with professional skill and humanity, I know that many schools and teachers work daily to improve the skills, values, character and attitudes of their pupils in ways which will ensure that they will be the citizens of a future society of which we and they can be proud.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Cormack for instituting this debate, which is of the greatest importance. I also thank the House of Lords staff for a very useful briefing, and Democratic Life, a coalition of about 40 charities that are interested in citizenship education.
I declare a double interest: first, as founder of the Citizenship Foundation, which was established in the 1980s and now works with more than half of state secondary schools in citizenship teaching; secondly, the unyielding passion I have had for this subject since as a young bloke I started as office boy in a country solicitor’s office in 1957. My principal dragged me round the country courts—all of them closed now, of course—and I was instantly aware, as anyone would have been unless they were made of stone, that even then the law was formidably complicated. In juvenile courts in particular, one often sensed that the young offenders were completely mystified. I then got a local headmaster to let me loose on a class of 16 year-olds for a year to try to interest them in the law. Most people said it was impossible but it was not merely possible but actually very easy because the law is an extremely interesting subject when it deals with issues of current public concern.
I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lord Cormack’s idea about a ceremony. I think that would be very telling. But I would like to start with a rather basic fact that we are supposed to give credence to; namely, equality before the law, which is, after all, the great boast of our court system and has been from Magna Carta onwards. One does not need to be cynical to think that to claim equality before the law in the present age is really not possible—as an ambition, yes; as a reality, absolutely not. Equality before the law presupposes that those going before the law have some knowledge and understanding of what they are dealing with when before a court and that they have, where necessary, legal aid to enable them to conduct their cases.
We are legislating now at an average rate of 15,000 pages of new statute law a year, with repeals of 3,000 or 4,000, so there is a net increase in statute law of more than 10,000 pages a year—most of it so complex that it is noticeable how the numbers engaging in debates on Bills are declining year by year. Indeed, at lunch today I met an extremely able and distinguished Peer who said that he was not going to take part in debate on the Energy Bill, in which he is deeply interested, because he could not make head or tail of it and it rumbles on for tens of pages. That is not good enough. It is rather like expecting a Christian to be a Christian without having some knowledge of the New Testament, or a soldier to be put into battle without arms or protective equipment, or indeed a driver to go on the roads without having had tuition. That, frankly, is the crude analogy with the young people we send forth from our schools today into the big, wide world. Our society is intensely complex in every dimension and manifestation. To allow our young people to enter the so-called adult world with no training and no understanding of that world is self-defeating to a degree that really beggars description.
The old maxim, ignorantia legis neminem excusat—no one is excused by their ignorance of the law—is of course a grand maxim. Frankly, however, for us as a Parliament knowingly to deny the young people of this country the knowledge to escape that ignorance seems to me to be inexcusable—indeed, to be a derogation from our parliamentary and democratic duty. To go on as we do, legislating as we do, paying little or no attention to that is something that I suggest to the House—particularly to the people who are not here—we absolutely as a matter of deep moral necessity need to address.
I am aware of how difficult it is if you are Secretary of State to deal with all the competing claims on curriculum time. I am aware of the expense of these things. Nothing but nothing, however, is doing more damage to our democracy than the state of affairs we are debating today. My noble friend Lord Storey gave some of the statistics. One could give so many more.
I am absolutely of the view that we have to fight to achieve an acceptable level of school-leaving knowledge, understanding and competence in order for young people to become active, engaged citizens. I know from long experience with the Citizenship Foundation that if you give them half a chance, they take it—with alacrity and with keenness.
We have a mock trial competition in magistrates’ courts and Crown Courts right across the country. Thousands upon thousands of young people take part in it every year. They are thrilled by it. They are astonished to find that the court system is as it is; that there are lay magistrates giving of their time and substance and judging as they do, where they do, and how they do. We have to give them a chance.
I would like very quickly to run through just a few points. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, said in February that he was going to reject the advice of his experts’ panels to take citizenship out of the national curriculum. God bless him for that. I am sure that David Blunkett and Bernard Crick, if he were still alive, would have cheered him to the rafters.
There are, however, certain things we need to address—and I hope the Minister will. First, teacher training is in decline. Secondly, the curriculum does not do enough on skills; in the draft curriculum there is no reference to the European Union or to the United Nations. We need more statistics and we need better funding, because, frankly, schools are falling out of citizenship education at a great and dangerous rate. It cannot continue.
My Lords, I spoke in April in a short debate on personal, social and health education—PSHE— in schools, arguing that first aid and emergency life-saving skills should be made mandatory in schools, possibly as an element of the PSHE curriculum. So my case today essentially boils down to, “If not PSHE, why not citizenship?”. The citizenship curriculum would be at least as appropriate a home for emergency first aid training. The Department for Education’s draft programmes of study for citizenship at key stages 3 and 4, included in the Library’s helpful briefing pack, are intended,
“to provide pupils with knowledge, skills and understanding to prepare them to play a full and active part in society”
and include the aim of developing,
“an interest in, and commitment to, volunteering that they will take with them into adulthood”.
“contribution to the improvement of their community”
could there be than developing practical skills to help fellow citizens in emergency situations, even to the extent of saving their lives?
I declare an interest as a trustee of St John Cymru-Wales, the leading first aid, youth and volunteering charity in Wales. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, on obtaining this debate and introducing it with his characteristic eloquence and persuasiveness.
My case for mandatory first aid training in schools is, like Gaul, in three parts: first, there is a real need for it; secondly, it works; and, thirdly, it is eminently doable. Every year in the UK, up to 140,000 people die in situations where first aid might have given them a chance to live. Some 60,000 people suffer cardiac arrests outside hospital, two-thirds at home and the other third in a public setting. Almost half of those which occur in public are witnessed by other people, quite often children. With every minute that passes, the chances of survival decrease by about 10%, so it can be literally a matter of life and death whether there is someone on the scene trained in the necessary skills; for example, to get the person into the recovery position, or to provide CPR, or to control bleeding, at least until professional help can arrive. That is why there is a need for first aid training.
There is also clear evidence that it works. Such training is already compulsory in many countries, including Norway, Denmark, France and 36 US states. The survival rate in Norway from shockable cardiac arrest is 52%; in the UK it varies between 2% and 12% depending on where the heart attack occurs. In Seattle, where 50% of the population is trained in emergency lifesaving, the survival rate is two and a half times ours.
It makes sense to teach these skills in schools. The basic training can take as little as two hours, and several organisations offer well designed teaching packages to deliver it, including the British Heart Foundation—BHF—and the Red Cross, as well as St John itself. St John Cymru-Wales’s Young Lifesaver scheme offers training covering 11 different aspects of first aid, including choking, asthma, bleeding, fractures, burns, poisoning, heart attacks and others. The whole course takes about eight hours, and is offered at both primary and secondary school levels, from age seven upwards. There are numerous examples of young people putting their skills into practice to save lives. The BHF estimates the annual cost of offering such training as no more than about £2,200 per school, or even less after the first year.
The argument for making training mandatory in schools rests principally on the lives that could be saved as a result, but there are other valuable benefits to be gained. Students enjoy and value their training. A review of BHF’s Heartstart programme in Northern Ireland found that 98% of students had enjoyed it, and 68% had shared their learning with family and friends. It provides a pathway towards continued volunteering. Emergency life-saving can provide a first step for young people to go on to volunteer roles, such as becoming community responders later on.
Teachers report improved confidence among students receiving first aid training. A typical quote from a teacher is:
“They have gained in confidence and are certainly a better team, as well as having vital knowledge. This is their favourite aspect of the citizenship course, as it is practically based and obviously progressive. They also talk to their parents about the scenarios”.
There is a real need to teach first aid in schools. It would produce significant results and it is realistically achievable. Although I share the view frequently stated by the Minister that schools should have as much control as possible over their own curriculum, in the case of first aid skills this is not working. Only 13% of students leave school with any life-saving training, even though a BHF survey in 2011 found that 78% of children want it, as do 86% of teachers and 70% of parents. I certainly had no such training at school, but I have now remedied this by completing just this week the training programme organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on First Aid, of which I confess to being an officer and recommend to any of your Lordships who may be interested, in partnership with St John Ambulance.
We should ensure that our younger citizens acquire these skills as a matter of course at school. I urge the Minister to look at how to make this happen and to recognise that the citizenship programme would be a good place—if not necessarily the only place—to include it, but as a mandatory element.
I should like to add a brief post-script. I received this morning, as, evidently, did the noble Lord, Lord Storey, a briefing from the Cabinet Office about the campaign for youth social action which is being launched today by the Prince of Wales and which was based on work done by Dame Julia Cleverdon and Amanda Jordan. This has strong cross-party support and aims to increase volunteering by 10 to 20 year-olds from 29% to 50% by 2020. Trial programmes will be funded in four areas from October. From my own experience of running social action programmes with schools in Southwark some years ago, I believe that this is a splendid initiative deserving of strong support, especially, of course, if community and school first-aid programmes are among those funded.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Cormack on initiating this debate. The fact that it comes at the end of proceedings on a Thursday should not mask the fact that it is of enormous importance to the future well-being of the British polity. We face a serious problem in terms of political knowledge and engagement. At the beginning of the 1950s, those who failed to vote in a general election were a tiny minority. Political parties played an important role, not just in electoral and parliamentary politics but in serving as conduits for civic engagement. We are now heading for a situation where those who take part in general elections may be the exception and not the norm.
The latest Hansard Society report, Audit of Political Engagement, shows that only 41% of those questioned say that in the event of an immediate general election they would be certain to vote. Among young people, only 12% are certain to vote, down from 30% two years ago. As the audit also notes, of significant concern are the low levels of understanding of how our political system works. Political parties have witnessed declines—sometimes precipitant declines—in their membership, and, as we know, raising money to sustain parties is a major challenge.
As has already been stressed, getting people to engage in civic society is crucial to the health of democracy. If we are to get people engaged, we need to ensure that they know the value to them of being engaged. Telling people that it is a civic duty to participate will influence primarily those who already participate. We have to make others aware of how they will benefit from engagement.
As a number of noble Lords have already stressed, citizenship education is essential. That means, first, enhancing it as a core part of the national curriculum, and, secondly, ensuring that in content and delivery it demonstrates the benefits to those being taught. Citizenship was introduced in 2002 as a statutory national curriculum subject for all pupils in key stages 3 and 4, as we have already heard, and must be taught at all maintained schools. I welcomed its introduction and, like others, I welcome the Government’s decision to retain it as a statutory national curriculum subject. However, the commitment to having it has not been matched by the resources to make it a success, and three years of uncertainty about its future have not helped in ensuring that schools devote sufficient resources to it.
Citizenship education is seen too much as a duty and not as something that will enrich students’ understanding and the reputation of the school. There is no incentive for schools to take it seriously. It is not a subject that contributes to a school’s standing in the league tables. Until there are incentives to take it seriously, it will remain a low priority for head teachers. Ofsted’s 2010 inspection report found that about half of schools provide good or better provision for citizenship. Students’ achievement was good or outstanding in citizenship in just over half of the secondary schools visited. Given the lack of incentive to put it on a par with other subjects, that may be seen as quite creditable but it still leaves about half of all our secondary schools falling short in the provision of good citizenship education.
Too often, as my noble friend Lord Storey noted, citizenship teaching is left to those who are not trained in its delivery. There are too few trained citizenship teachers. They are also vulnerable. If school budgets are under pressure, they are likely to be the first ones to be let go. Since 2010, the Department for Education has withdrawn funding for citizenship continuing professional development, and citizenship is the only subject where trainee teachers do not receive a bursary to help pay their fees.
My starting point is that we not only need citizenship education, but must also take it seriously. That entails ensuring that adequate resources are devoted to it and that schools have some incentive to take it seriously. Can the Minister say what the Government are doing to ensure that citizenship is enhanced and that head teachers have a reason to take it seriously?
My second point is that not only must head teachers have some incentive to take citizenship education seriously, but so must the pupils taking the subject. The citizenship programmes of study cover important topics. As my former colleague the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, has mentioned, at key stage 4 it is expected that pupils are taught about the role of Parliament in holding government to account and the different electoral systems used in and beyond the United Kingdom, as well as about other parts of the political system. That is all well and good—and in the light of the noble Lord, Lord Parekh’s comments, I declare an interest as someone who writes textbooks on those subjects—but it entails teaching students what we think is important.
Structures and processes by themselves do not always hold students’ attention, particularly when they have not chosen to study the subject. As the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, said, the programmes need to be constructed in such a way as to engage the interests of the student. That may entail ensuring that the teaching is issue-driven, looking at issues that engage students. There is a case for surveying young people to find out what are salient issues, then explaining how policies in those areas are developed and agreed and, fundamentally, how the students can make their views on the subject known to Parliament and to policymakers. When I speak in schools I raise issues and get students to vote on them to demonstrate that Parliament discusses issues that are of concern to them and on which they have views.
As we have heard, citizenship education is crucial and we must ensure that government remains committed to it. However, if it is to be taught, it needs to be taught well. That entails devoting resources to it, ensuring that schools have incentives to deliver it effectively, and that it is delivered in such a way that it engages the interest of students. I look forward to hearing my noble friend the Minister tell us how the Government intend to deliver on these goals. This is a serious matter and we need to ensure that we give it the attention it deserves.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cormack is to be congratulated: he has picked a perfect day for this short debate as it coincides with the launch today of the independent Campaign for Youth Social Action, to which other noble Lords have referred. I declare an interest as president of what was formerly known as the Leicestershire Clubs for Young People, which only 10 days ago became Young Leicestershire. This new organisation brings together many groups and voluntary organisations which all work with young people. We believe that joining together will give added strength and support to the various programmes.
The former Leicestershire Clubs for Young People has some 25 clubs that offer a range of activities to around 4,000 young people. We have proactive members who volunteer locally and nationally, and three very special carers’ clubs which give their members, who often have to cope with particular deprivation, a much-needed break from their home responsibilities. Most of the clubs have between 20 and 40 young people, but the recently opened centre in Hinckley will see anywhere between 200 and 400 people. The challenge for the success of Young Leicester will be dependent on identifying and obtaining funding needed to enable individuals to get special training to aid their work with young volunteers.
However, my noble friend’s question that we have been debating today asks about what plans the Government have to develop a citizenship programme in schools. What input, therefore, will schools have within the campaign which is being launched today? I also wonder how much schools will link in with their local community.
My noble friend, many other noble Lords and I take part in the Lord Speaker’s outreach programme, visiting schools to discuss the work of Parliament and in particular the work within this House. Only two weeks ago I had the pleasure of being with Danny Smith, the principal of the Dukeries Academy in Ollerton, which I know my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth visited some years ago. If one needed to be convinced about the advantages of the community working together across all ages, it was to be found there.
I will give a short insight into some of the facilities that it has. It was built in the 1960s as a comprehensive school, but in 1985 it was redesignated as a community college, with a broader reach within the Dukeries complex. This complex, under the leadership of the principal, rapidly became a federation of organisations providing education for all, recreation, youth work, information and library services, with care services for the young and the elderly. The theme is: a place for all the family. It is a quite remarkable place and, in a way, they are lucky to have the facilities to be able to do what I think the citizenship programme is trying to do in its broadest terms.
When I was there, we had the usual presentation of the outreach programme and questions afterwards. I always think that it is those questions which make one realise how important the Lord Speaker’s outreach programme is, because I was asked some very topical questions. On Syria, I was asked whether we should give extra resources to arm those fighting the Government. I was asked whether the voting age was right or whether it should be reduced to 14. I was asked about Parliament itself and how it works. It was very clear that there was little understanding of how Parliament works at all.
However it is important that we recognise, as my noble friends have said, the influence that teaching staff have on their pupils. They inspire, encourage and enthuse those young people, which in turn helps them to help others. I pay great tribute to those teachers who have gone the extra mile to do just that. I suspect that all of us will remember somebody in our lives who made an impression on us. Making a difference and giving service to the community, knowing one’s rights and responsibilities, come from within the family or from our school days. From my point of view, I am still glad to see the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme going from strength to strength and that so many schools still have Armed Forces cadet groups as a focus of school life. Many go on to join our armed services and in this Armed Services Week we give thanks for those young people who have committed their lives to serving this country.
I believe that citizenship should not be thought of as “do-gooding” or, as a lot of young people say, “That is for other people; it could not possibly be for me”. Through school and these programmes we can help and inspire young people to believe in themselves and to take a broader look than perhaps they would do normally. They should not just come to the fact that it is something that they should do, but something that they actually enjoy doing. That is what will make volunteering in the future a greater success. My question for the Minister is this: will he tell us how the citizenship programme will fit in with community activities already going on out there? I am sure that we need a link between the two. Academic learning is one thing, but practical input on the ground is what it should be. Let us hope that this campaign launched today will have a successful future. I again thank my noble friend for giving me the opportunity to speak in this debate.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for initiating this debate. I know from previous experience that he speaks on education with considerable authority and, once again, he has raised some important and challenging issues. I very much agree with him that we could do more to mark the coming of age of young people when they leave school. I remember that I took my exams and left, and that was it. We all left on different days; we did not all leave on the same day. We could certainly do more to make more of a ceremony out of leaving school and going out into the world.
I should say at the outset that I share the relief expressed today that Michael Gove has belatedly been converted to the merits of citizenship education. Not so long ago, it faced being sidelined to the margins of the curriculum but, in another of his now famous U-turns, the latest consultation has reinstated it as a compulsory element of key stages 3 and 4. That has been widely welcomed across the political spectrum. While talking about the political spectrum, I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that a future Labour Government would, indeed, have a curriculum that was applied to all schools.
Since the subject was made compulsory in 2002, it has become an established part of the curriculum. I fear that we have slightly talked ourselves into a rather pessimistic place. Like other noble Lords around the Chamber I have visited many schools, and I have certainly seen citizenship being taught in a very positive and optimistic way which has even managed to enthuse young people about the House of Lords. We have heard examples of that this afternoon. Young people are curious, interested and want to learn. It is up to us to rise to that challenge and to present the issues to them in a way that will be life changing and life transforming when they go out into the world.
Indeed, a recent University of Essex report which studied the impact on those exposed to citizenship education found that it had a positive impact on their civic engagement, democratic participation and political knowledge compared with those who had not had that education. There is evidence that citizenship education is compulsory and valued in all the high-performing international comparators that are often quoted. Therefore, I am very glad that Michael Gove has belatedly converted to the cause. That puts behind us several years of uncertainty, and will, I hope, allow the subject to flourish in the future.
How can we raise the status and impact of the subject going forward? First, it has to develop a reputation for quality and rigour. Every child should study the subject at key stages 3 and 4 and be able to demonstrate a range of skills and knowledge. However, the subject needs to lose its reputation as a soft option for those who choose to sit it at GCSE and A-level. There is nothing soft about learning about political systems, law, rights and responsibilities. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Norton, argued, the rigour that we are demanding requires the training agency to ensure that teachers have the right knowledge and resources to deliver an effective citizenship programme in schools, and there are concerns that those resources are being cut. Ofqual also has a responsibility to ensure that the qualification is on a par, and is seen to be on a par, with equivalent subjects rather than being considered a soft option as it has been in the past.
Secondly, for this subject in particular, the Government need to demonstrate that they have engaged parents, teachers and young people in the development of the programme of study, as we all have an interest in the outcome. For example, the Government could do more to engage with the Youth Select Committee, set up by the British Youth Council and supported by the House of Commons, which is inquiring into whether the curriculum prepares young people for life after school, particularly with regard to political and cultural awareness, personal finance and life skills. All the evidence shows that young people want to learn how to make sense of the world and how to influence things that go on around them. However, we have to face facts. At the same time, they hold politicians in a fair degree of contempt, so it is in all our interests to find common levels of understanding and create a little more mutual respect. Therefore, perhaps the Minister could explain what steps are being taken to listen to the views of young people before the final programme of study is agreed.
Thirdly, we need to scrutinise the draft citizenship programme. We on these Benches welcome the intention to include financial literacy and skills in key stages 3 and 4. Although understanding individual financial services, choices and risk might not seem an essential feature of citizenship, they are crucial elements of being an active and successful citizen. We also welcome the commitment to teaching young people about the benefits and experience of volunteering. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Storey, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and others that this should be set in the clear context of the wider social and democratic involvement in schools and communities to make fully rounded and active citizens. There should be new opportunities for young people to participate in the National Citizen Service. Perhaps the Minister could update us on what is being done to support this initiative.
There are also concerns that the draft citizenship programme focuses too much on UK systems of government at the expense of a wider global understanding. I agree with my noble friend Lord Parekh that our multicultural heritage, combined with advanced media communications, means that the next generation of young people will inevitably be citizens of the world. Our young people need to be equipped with the tools to respect other cultures, to value human rights issues and to promote common international understanding. Perhaps the Minister can enlighten us on whether the revised curriculum will embrace these principles.
I wanted to make a few other comments but I can see that my time is running out. My final point is that the future of citizenship is much more than what goes on in schools. I do not think that we should burden the education system with all our society’s ills, but obviously we have an important role to play. It is crucial that we stop the flight of young people from our political institutions and engage with them to design more robust and respected democratic systems for the future. I hope that the new version of the curriculum will play its part in doing that, and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in response.
My Lords, I thank those who have taken part in this debate, particularly my noble friend Lord Cormack for raising this important issue. I know he is committed to ensuring that young people leave school as active and responsible citizens. I strongly agree with my noble friend that young people need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to prepare them to play a full and active part in society. This is why the Government intend to retain the statutory status of citizenship in secondary schools as part of the review of the national curriculum. The new draft citizenship programme of study includes a requirement that all pupils should be given opportunities to undertake voluntary work for the first time. I believe that that will support one of our key aims, which is to ensure that our young people are committed to volunteering and that they will take that with them into adulthood. All good schools have an active programme of engaging with voluntary organisations and charities, and we shall certainly be encouraging all schools to do that. The Cabinet Office announced a new campaign today, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, noted, to get young people involved in social action. This is in addition to our youth social action fund.
We have revised the citizenship programmes of study to ensure that they direct teaching towards the core knowledge of citizenship: namely, teaching about the way our society is governed and its laws, including those that protect human rights, rather than the more issues-based content that dominates the current programme of study. The shorter programmes of study give teachers greater freedom to define what is taught. However, they require teaching about laws, which my noble friend Lord Phillips said is so important, about rights and responsibilities and about the liberties enjoyed by citizens of the United Kingdom. The new programmes of study are not just focused on the UK; they provide opportunities for pupils to learn about other systems and forms of government in other countries as well as our relations with Europe, the Commonwealth and the wider world. However, I take note of the points made by him.
Our proposed changes to the citizenship curriculum include having a stronger emphasis on teaching about our political system, our democracy and the nature of our laws, so that many more of our young people engage with the political process, as my noble friends Lord Norton and Lord Storey and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, made a point about the importance of teaching political ideology and multicultural literacy and of reference to history and current events and about bringing all this and the teaching of our institutions to life. His speech was one of the best pieces of advocacy that I have heard for a rich cultural curriculum of the kind that this Government are determined to see in all schools for all pupils.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford about the importance of RE, which is compulsory as part of the basic curriculum. RE GCSE will count towards the “best eight” measure. I am delighted that the dioceses are engaging so actively in the academies programme.
A number of noble Lords, including my noble friends Lady Perry and Lord Storey, said that citizenship is a whole, across-school ethos, and that all good schools should embrace this approach. This is all part of a good education and not part of a prescriptive list. We trust teachers to deliver this.
I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, supports us in making financial education statutory for the first time at secondary level in the citizenship curriculum. Pupils will be taught about the functions and uses of money, the importance of personal budgeting, money management and a range of financial products and services. In addition, the mathematics curriculum has been strengthened to give pupils from the ages of five to 16 the necessary mathematics to prepare young people for making sound financial decisions, for example about mortgages and loan repayments.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked for an update on the National Citizen Service. As one of the original supporters of this programme when it was just an idea, I am delighted that it is becoming so successful. Our ambition is for this to become a universal programme—a rite of passage for all 16 and 17 year-olds. In 2011-12, 8,500 young people participated. This increased to 26,000 this year and we announced yesterday that we will be expanding the number of places to 150,000 in 2016.
My noble friend asked what the Government were doing to enhance the delivery of citizenship and ensure that head teachers take the subject seriously. We have made our commitment to citizenship abundantly clear by retaining the statutory status of citizenship in secondary schools as part of the review of the national curriculum. Citizenship is one of only six subjects in the new national curriculum to be compulsory at key stage 4. A GCSE in citizenship currently receives credit in the school accountability system through the school performance tables, and will continue to count as part of our proposed—
I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. Will he say something about the impact on the status of citizenship education as a subject which is not inspectable because it has been put into the second tier and is no longer compulsorily part of an Ofsted inspection? Does he not think that that has severe consequences for the subject’s status and standing?
My noble friend is perfectly right in what he says. Ofsted has to inspect on social, moral and cultural issues and carries out triennial reviews of all subjects, including citizenship. However, he is right and I will take his points back. Citizenship is part of the best eight.
I thank my noble friend Lady Byford for highlighting the excellent work that the House of Lords outreach programme does with young people. Almost 1,000 visits have been made to schools in every region of the UK, and House of Lords Chamber events have brought young people to Parliament to explore and debate a range of issues.
My noble friend Lady Byford also highlighted the fantastic work of the cadets programme. We know about the transformative effect that cadet units can have on schools by increasing attendance, engagement, participation at 16 to 18, self-confidence and discipline. The cadet expansion programme was a key strand of the Government’s Positive for Youth policy. Early work was based on a pilot of between 10 and 15 third-party funded units, but this number was increased following the announcement on Armed Forces Day last year by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, who challenged departments to deliver 100 new units by 2015, with a longer-term goal of meeting all school requests for a cadet unit by 2020.
The Government are also committed to promoting the voices of young people at both a national and local level. That is why we are extending the funding to the British Youth Council. This funding supports initiatives such as UK Youth and local youth councils, where youth-led forums represent young people’s views.
In addition to a demanding curriculum, good-quality teaching is fundamental, as my noble friend Lord Norton said. There is strong evidence that links teacher quality, above all other school factors, to pupils’ attainment. The Government’s reform of ITT demonstrates our commitment to recruiting the very best graduates and to giving teaching schools more of a role so that schools close to the needs of particular types of pupils can develop the appropriate training. Teachers have access to a wealth of continuing professional development material and support through their subject associations. There is support on financial education, for example, through specialist charities, such as the Personal Finance Education Group, which are well respected, and private sector experts, such as the banks. Organisations such as the Association for Citizenship Teaching and the Citizenship Foundation also offer a range of support to teachers.
The importance of emergency life-saving skills and first aid were highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. The provision of emergency life-saving skills is not compulsory and is a matter for local determination, but I will take back his observations.
I thank noble Lords for engaging in this debate. I believe our commitment to helping young people to develop as citizens is abundantly clear.
I undertake to do that. I was about to say that I know that our reforms do not go as far as my noble friend would like, but I listened carefully to what he said and I will take that back. We believe that our reforms of the national curriculum, together with the wider support I have outlined, will ensure that our young people have the support they need to take their place as active and responsible members of society.
House adjourned at 6.21 pm.