I left teaching in 1998 and, after a short and strange posting with a trade union, I joined the then-tiny ranks at the Institute for Public Policy Research. Here my first job was to help my new boss Nick Pearce edit a collection of papers on citizenship education. Thanks to the Crick Report, Citizenship had just been introduced to the national curriculum. On the publication of Tomorrow's Citizens in 2000, our TES article asked "will the class of 2007 be true citizens?". The Class of 2014 has, in theory, now experienced citizenship education as a statutory entitlement throughout their compulsory schooling. Although there are some ongoing longitudinal studies, it is difficult to tell whether the statutory place of citizenship in the national curriculum has made any difference to young people's outcomes, attitudes and actions.
Since 2000 the IPPR has, to its credit, retained an ongoing interest in citizenship education, in and out of school. Their most recent project on Citizen Schools, led by Clore Social Leadership Fellow and RSA Fellow Jamie Audsley, features the RSA Academy in Tipton as an example of excellent practice. With all of our Academy teachers focused on turning their shiny new Year 7's into shiny new citizens, I was asked to represent the school at the House of Commons launch, featuring presentations from all case studies schools, and a student-led question time panel.
Does the RSA Academy deserve recognition as a 'citizen school'? I am probably not the best person to judge this, but if their practice is in any way exemplary, I'd offer four reasons why:
1) Our curriculum includes the Opening Minds competencies, allowing citizenship to be embedded throughout the curriculum, through both subject-based and cross curricular approaches, especially at Key Stage Three.
2) Our assessment for post-16 students (and most students stay on to our sixth form) uses the International Baccalaureate and the new career-related IBCC (for which we are a proud pilot school). These enable a strong service and citizenship element to sustain and be assessed throughout young people's schooling.
3) Our student leadership approaches are holistic, innovative, and challenging, engaging all students, and now influence practice in all our family of academies through a student-led peer review process.
4) Our behaviour policies also enable active citizenship, through restorative practices and student tribunals.
The report has a different, but equally positive take on the RSA Academy, and I am hoping that teachers from the Academy will add their thoughts through comments on this blog. From my still-evolving knowledge about the Academy, I'd also mention three areas where, if we are to sustain and improve our citizenship focus, we could make even more progress:
1) An alignment of our citizenship goals with our ambitions around enterprise, and also around the improvement of our arts provision. The arts, in all their forms, are terrific and often under-utilised vehicles for citizenship education.
2) A refreshed approach to the way we engage our parental community, especially those 'not yet reached' parents, as citizens.
3) A democratic approach to curriculum design, making the most of the opportunity that a slimmed down national curriculum (which, as an Academy, we are not obliged to teach anyway) offers at Key Stage Three to involve parents, pupils and the wider community in determining the content of our curriculum.
The IPPR report and the Guardian article deserve to be read by anyone who is trying to build new, strategic approaches to citizenship education in schools. From reading the report and hearing the inspiring contributions from other schools, I'm left with a question about the next thirteen years. Will changes to education policy, the economy and broader society make it more or less likely for our Academy and all schools to become citizen schools? Will the class of 2026 be true citizens?
Joe Hallgarten, Director of Education @joehallg
Contact the report's main author at @JamieAudsley