Education for effective citizens: has it ever been more important?

With increased uncertainty around our place in Europe and continued economic instability, Citizenship as a secondary school subject has never been so important.

I have just retired from a large secondary school after a long teaching career. My final position was as Faculty lead for Citizenship and PHSE, where I thoroughly enjoyed the challenges the role brought me.

I often had to make the case for the inclusion of the subject on the school curriculum to young people, senior managers and fellow teachers. It was essential to lead by example and continually show how it was relevant to the lives of young people both now, and in the future.

Citizenship is the only way that young people can learn about our democracy and their legal rights. It also helps them question the relevance of voting today, giving them a chance to debate political issues such as brexit in a safe classroom environment. The current government also has an important role, and should make it clear to schools, parents, teachers and young people why Citizenship is essential to a good education. They need to ensure staff are fully-equipped and trained to lead and deliver the subject to pupils, as it is simply not good enough to hope it will be picked up by informed teachers who will take it on with enthusiasm and passion.

The issues explored in citizenship are more relevant than ever. Pupils need to understand the complexities of the law around social media, issues of consent, along with how to contribute to their community. In my own personal experience, what works best is where citizenship is delivered as a discrete curriculum subject, this can lead to coherent schemes of learning, in-depth analysis, passionate debate as well as appropriate assessment. In my school, I saw these factors raise the profile of the subject, as well as contributing towards its success with teachers and students. In addition, it enabled many external speakers to result in enhancing learning for young people.

By becoming a trustee of Young Citizens, I hope to use my enthusiasm and passion for the subject in contributing to planning the relevant actions needed to meet its strategic goals. It has never been more essential that we support future generations. Many feel let down by older generations. Many feel worn down by student debt and low wage jobs and are demoralised by the lack of true leadership at the present time. It is therefore essential that we help give young people a voice. We build their skills of critical engagement, their sense of social justice and we encourage them to remain inside the current debates about the future of our country.

Jacquie Ayre

Trustee appointed, August 2018