Citizenship: POLITICAL LITERACY - `Will a Visit to Parliament Put Us off Politics?' ; STEPHEN TWIGG Responds to Queries from Teachers and Students about the New Curriculum

By Twigg, Stephen | The Independent (London, England), September 27, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Citizenship: POLITICAL LITERACY - `Will a Visit to Parliament Put Us off Politics?' ; STEPHEN TWIGG Responds to Queries from Teachers and Students about the New Curriculum


Twigg, Stephen, The Independent (London, England)


Citizenship has been taught in PSHE lessons in my school for the last 15 years. Why has it been made compulsory when part of our role as teachers is to prepare our students to take their place in the community?

Jan Pugh, Head of PSHE and Head of Year 11, Hertfordshire

I am really encouraged to hear that you are already teaching citizenship in your school. Although it is recognised that it is crucial for young people to develop skills, knowledge and understanding necessary to play a full and active role in society, many schools are less sure about how to do it well. The National Curriculum programme of study will help to spread good practice and ensure that students learn the basics to play their part in society. I hope that the flexibility in the programme allows you to continue to develop and innovate, and to share your experience with other schools.

Citizenship is part of our school PSHE programme where I am able to express my views freely and learn from others. Why should this be assessed or tested? That will take away my ability to speak freely if I'm worried about how my thoughts and opinions might be assessed.

Tom Moore (15), Hertfordshire

You are right that citizenship lessons should encourage the active participation of students. There is no question that the new programme should in any way stifle free speech. This is crucial to ensuring that participants can express their views, beliefs and questions freely. Any assessment that takes place will reflect things like your debating and reasoning skills, as well as your ability to reflect on other people's point of view. Teachers value and respect hugely any student's ability to participate in an intelligent and balanced debate about any subject. This is a vital part of the learning process and assessment will reflect rather than stifle that.

We learn about government through videos, worksheets, and the internet . What we'd really like to do is see it in action. Can we visit the House of Commons or are you afraid that we will be put off by the MPs' bad behaviour?

Liz Sullivan(15) and Sam Kilbey (15), Hertfordshire

There is a danger that government and politics is seen as removed from the lives of real people and it is really important that we work hard to break down that perception. Schools and members of the public are welcome to visit the House of Commons to see how MPs work at first hand and your local MP will be only too willing to help you, and should be able to arrange a visit to the Houses of Parliament . The parliamentary education unit organises visits - more than 8,000 students visit every September. Visit www.parliament.uk/parliament/edunit. The debate in the House of Commons can certainly be lively, but I hope that this wouldn't put off either you or your friends from paying a visit. The House of Commons is the most important part of our democratic process and MPs, across all parties, would rather people visited than stayed away.

After the murders of Damilola Taylor and Stephen Lawrence, what can citizenship education do to tackle racism?

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