The hints that the Government is thinking about removing citizenship from the curriculum are becoming a little louder. It would be yet another mistake by Michael Gove, at a time the government is developing a reputation not just for cuts but for problems with competence. Just as Mr Gove had to backtrack on the full scale of cuts he wanted to make to school sport, so we should campaign vociferously to force a shift of position on citizenship.
Whether we call it citizenship, democracy or politics, there is a need for more education in this area, not less. That’s why I am supporting the Democratic Life campaign to keep citizenship in the National Curriculum.
When my tenure at Jamie Oliver’s Dream School began, most of the students started out by saying they found politics boring. Some may have felt the same at the end of our course. But many of them didn’t, and I think viewers will see that they are not only bright, and in some cases naturally very political, but they also have some very good ideas.
I have always felt that just as we teach our kids from an early age that family life is important, and sport is good for them, and healthy eating is good for them, so we should do more to teach youngsters from primary school onwards – positively – that politics is a fundamental part of their lives.
We should also do more to encourage an interest in world and current affairs. But of course most of the media spends much of its energies giving people reasons to be cynical rather than hopeful about the power of politics to make change for the better. That might be why citizenship education comes in for so much criticism.
But while some schools struggle with the subject, there are many more who embrace citizenship and who are inspiring young people to get into politics and to campaign on issues that are important to them in their communities.
To ensure that this keeps happening, we need to take some political action ourselves. For a start, it’s important that we tell positive stories about young people, about what a difference they can make when they are inspired and informed. Viewers of Dream School will have seen plenty of incidents of the students being loud, difficult and sometimes plain disruptive. But however the final edit comes out, they are far outnumbered by the times these young people, who got next to no GCSEs between them, show a real hunger for learning, including about politics. I hope they, and everyone else, get involved in the Democratic Life campaign and respond to the Government’s National Curriculum review.
Michael Gove has always struck me as someone who has a respect for politics and political life. Why he wants to prevent youngsters from hearing and seeing the reasons why is frankly beyond me. In this era of disengagement from and cynicism about politics, we have to look to the next and future generations, and their education in the positive role politics can play in our lives should start when they’re young.