Citizenship Lessons Must Teach Diversity Not British History and Values, Say MPs

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Byline: STEVE DOUGHTY

BRITISH culture and history should come second to human rights and diversity in the classroom, MPs said yesterday.

They declared that compulsory citizenship lessons must not endorse British values or history but instead concentrate on universal themes.

Pupils should be taught to ' acknowledge and accept' homosexuality and abortion, according to a report by the Labour- dominated education and skills committee.

It urged teachers not to dwell on monarchy, British freedoms, military successes or the empire.

Citizenship education became compulsory in secondary schools five years ago.

Topics include politics, voting, the Human Rights Act and the importance of diversity.

The committee, headed by Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman, said the quality of citizenship education was patchy, especially in primary schools.

'Ministers need to demonstrate they are firmly behind this agenda,' said Mr Sheerman.

The report said that social and cultural lessons should 'touch on what is distinctive in the inheritance and experience of contemporary Britain and the values of our society today'.

But this 'should not be taken to imply an endorsement of any single explanation of British values or history'.

The report added: 'It should emphasise the way in which those values connect to universal human rights, and recognise that critical and divergent perspectives, as well as the potential to have alternative and different layers of identity, are a central part of what contemporary Britishness is.

'Currently there is little concrete evidence about the consistency or scale of teaching on issues such as homosexuality or abortion which are considered problematic or controversial by some.

'Schools should be positively encouraged and supported in looking at ways to incorporate such discussion as part of the acknowledgement and acceptance of diversity and difference. …