Instituted in England and Wales in 1988, the National Curriculum is nearing the end of its shelf-life. Since the election of the New Labour government in 1997, 1 a new core curriculum has been designed to take effect in September 2000. Citizenship education from August 2002 will be a compulsory part of the core curriculum at Key Stages 3 and 4, and there will be a non-statutory element in the form of Personal, Social and Health Education and Citizenship at Key Stages 1 and 2. As a result, equality, equal opportunities and human rights are about to become firmly on the educational agenda. 2 In Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools (QCA, 1998), the Crick Report, 3 it is recommended that ‘Citizenship Education’ take up to 5 per cent of curriculum time across all stages. ‘Equality’ and ‘human rights’ are two of the essential key concepts to be reached by the end of compulsory schooling, with a ‘belief in human dignity and equality’, a ‘commitment to equal opportunities’ and a ‘concern for human rights’ being ‘essential values’. Essential knowledge includes ‘human rights charters and issues’ (ibid., p. 44).
With respect to the key stages: at KS 1, pupils should be able to ‘reflect on issues of social and moral concern’ and ‘recognise how the concept of fairness can be applied…to their personal and social life’ (ibid., p. 46); and at KS 2, they should ‘know about…ethnic cultures’ and ‘understand the meaning of ‘fairness, justice …and human rights’ (ibid., p. 48).
At KS 3, students should ‘understand the meaning of…human rights’ (ibid., p. 50) and should ‘understand, at a basic level, the legal rights of young people with particular reference to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child’ (see below). They should ‘also understand the meaning of…discrimination [and] equal opportunities’ and ‘understand…rights and responsibilities…with particular reference to the European Convention on Human Rights’ and ‘know about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ (ibid., p. 49; see below). Finally, at KS 4, students should ‘understand the significant aspects of topical and contemporary issues and events’ and ‘the meaning of terms such as civil rights 4 [and] natural justice’, along with an understanding of the ‘world as a global community, including issues such as…heavily indebted countries, and the work of the United Nations organisations’ (ibid., p. 52). 5
As currently formulated, the concept of ‘human rights’ is a comparatively recent phenomenon. The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Dr E.H.