Department for Education And Skills (National) (UK), Jan. 25, 2007
This independent review, led by Sir Keith Ajegbo, makes a series of recommendations aimed at promoting diversity across the schools curriculum and the content of the curriculum for Citizenship Education.
The key proposal is that the secondary curriculum for Citizenship Education should include a new element entitled ‘Identity and Diversity: Living Together in the UK’. This will mean that all pupils, as part of compulsory secondary Citizenship Education, would be taught about shared values and life in the UK. This will be informed by an understanding of contemporary issues and relevant historical context which gave rise to them.
This approach should be supported by a range of measures to ensure that all curriculum subjects adequately reflect the diversity of modern Britain, and that schools are appropriately supported in delivery of this education for diversity.
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[Editor’s Note: Read more about this story here.]
Teenagers will learn British history in new-style classes which put understanding core British values at the heart of Citizenship teaching.
Education Secretary Alan Johnson today said he accepted the key recommendation of a major independent report that a strong focus on understanding our history was essential to building community cohesion.
He believes it is vital that children learn about events and themes which have shaped the country we are today, including Commonwealth, Empire and universal suffrage. It is vital that in today’s diverse society children also need to be able to discuss their own identity and respect that of others.
Mr Johnson said:
“I welcome Sir Keith’s report and want schools to play a leading role in creating greater community cohesion. By helping children continue to understand difference, schools can make a difference.
“Young people need to be engaged in this important debate because the values our children learn at school will shape the kind of country Britain becomes.
“I think that this report marks the coming of age of Citizenship as an important part of the national curriculum.”
Following Sir Keith’s findings, Mr Johnson proposed a new strand to Citizenship classes that pupils take between 11 and 16. He accepts Sir Keith’s key recommendation that there should be a new theme of ‘Identity and Diversity: Living together in the UK’, with a focus on the historical understanding of issues that shaped British life today and discussing shared values.
The main new elements in Citizenship will be:
* encouraging critical thinking about ethnicity, religion and race, with an explicit link to political issues and values;
* using contemporary history to illustrate thinking on contemporary issues related to citizenship; and
* an understanding of the make-up of the UK, immigration, Commonwealth and Empire, the European Union and extending the franchise.
Mr Johnson will ask the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to include this extra element in Citizenship Education in the revised secondary curriculum proposals they are due to publish and consult on.
Sir Keith’s review group believe that children can be taught core British values such as tolerance, freedom of speech and justice. Their report includes a series of recommendation s aimed at improving community cohesion and helping children understand both diversity and their own identity in today’s Britain.
The report says all schools should be actively involved in helping pupils get the skills they need to take part in an active, inclusive democracy within five years.
Sir Keith Ajegbo, a respected former headteacher, said:
“It is the duty of all schools to address issues of ‘how we live together’ and ‘dealing with difference’, however difficult and controversial they may seem.
“This report affects schools across the country, regardless of their ethnic make-up and issues have to be dealt with in the context of the school and its neighbourhood. It is important they consider issues that have shaped UK society today and understand them through the lens of history.”
The report gives examples of good practice found by the review team and makes recommendations on improvements to teacher training and the curriculum which will aid the way diversity and citizenship are taught.
Mr Johnson also accepted the following key recommendations:
* that pupils should be able to take a full two-year GCSE in Citizenship and also an A level in the subject (Citizenship is the fastest growing GCSE with numbers of pupils taking it increasing by 42%);
* there should be a national “Who we think we are” week which will be the starting point for schools to launch local projects, cultural celebration, debates on identity and values—this would be an annual ongoing event; and
* that schools should be active in “twinning” with other schools of different ethnic, cultural, social and religious backgrounds so children can meet and work together on various activities.
The review group found some trailblazing examples of good practice on diversity. Sir Keith’s team wants schools across the country to follow the good example of communities in Oldham and Bradford following the 2001 riots. Primary schools forged links by twinning between schools representative of different communities. For example a rural mainly white school linked up with an urban mainly Asian school and they shared experiences through meeting and joint curriculum studies.
Royton and Crompton School in Oldham contributed to community cohesion by working with the Spirit of Enniskillen in Northern Ireland and using their expertise to set up a Shared Futures programme involving young people giving workshops in local schools on dealing with difference.
The report also found that many white working class boys and girls have a negative perception of their British identity and can feel as disenfranchised as non-white pupils. It says as much thought and resources needs to be put into providing diversity education to white pupils as to ethnic minority groups.
The report was commissioned after concern about growing extremism and division in society after the London terrorist bombings. The review consisted of interviews with more than 100 stakeholder groups (including Trades Unions, the CRE, the Refugee Council) and visits to dozens of schools in communities up and down the country. Children from a range of ethnic groups were interviewed about what they thought of the citizenship lessons. Keith Ajegbo was headteacher at Deptford Green School, located in a deprived London borough with a large African community.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The review group includes: Sir Keith Ajegbo, who retired in July 2006 as Headteacher of Deptford Green School, a multi-ethnic school with a strong reputation for Citizenship education; Dr Dina Kiwan, lecturer in Citizenship Education at Birkbeck College, University of London; Seema Sharma, Assistant Headteacher at Deptford Green School.
2. A copy of the Diversity and Citizenship Curriculum report is available from 11.30am on Thursday, 25 January, on http://publications.teachernet.gov.uk/default.aspx?PageFunction=productdetails&PageMode=publications&ProductId=DFES-00045-2007
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