Education for citizenship, diversity and 'Britishness' 1997 – 2007

Education for citizenship, diversity and 'Britishness' 1997 – 2007

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  Starkey, H. (2008) Education for Citizenship, Diversity and 'Britishness' 1997 - 2007, in: T. Whitton (Ed) Le New Labour et l'identité britannique  (Clermont Ferrand, Observatoire de la Société Britannique N o . 5). Hugh Starkey Citizenship Education and Britishness 1 Education for citizenship, diversity and 'Britishness' 1997  –  2007 Hugh Starkey  Abstract  Alongside sweeping constitutional reforms the first New Labour government introduced compulsory education for citizenship. The preparatory Crick Report (1998) proposed a model that would explore rather than define national identity. Following the 1999 Macpherson Report, that identified institutional racism in public services, citizenship education was intended to ensure the curriculum reflects a diverse British society. However there has been little pressure from inspectors for schools implement this. Post 9/11 and 7/7 the government’s security agenda expects citizenship education to promote ‘community cohesion’. Gordon Brown articulated concerns to create common unde rstandings of ‘Britishness’ which led to a curriculum review Diversity and Citizenship (2007) proposing a new theme ‘Identity and Diversity: Living Together in the UK’ to be included from 2008. Whilst this is uncontroversial, there are still political struggles around how it may be conceived and implemented. Keywords: citizenship, citizenship education, national identity, Britishness, constitutional reform, education, Parekh report, Crick report, multiculturalism, institutionalised racism, human rights, Stephen Lawrence, national curriculum, asylum seekers.  Starkey, H. (2008) Education for Citizenship, Diversity and 'Britishness' 1997 - 2007, in: T. Whitton (Ed) Le New Labour et l'identité britannique  (Clermont Ferrand, Observatoire de la Société Britannique N o . 5). Hugh Starkey Citizenship Education and Britishness 2 Citizenship education and constitutional reform Creative ambiguity is a diplomatic term that frequently characterises a British approach to achieving a political consensus. The British system of governance seems to operate without the need to define its core principles. The unwritten British constitution relies on a system of ‘hidden wiring’ leaving much space for interpretation and also for implicit understandings. 1  The assertion of tradition and precedent are powerfully authoritative arguments in many British contexts. There is no official source of definitions of citizenship (other than entitlement to nationality) or ‘Britishness’. However the programme of constitutional reform started in 1997 has led to a concern to make understandings of citizenship and national identity more explicit.  A new programme of citizenship education for England was introduced during a period when the New Labour government, elected in May 1997, was engaging in intensive constitutional reform. Legislation included the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998, incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law and the establishment of a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly. The settlement in Northern Ireland also provided for devolved government. Further devolution to regional level was prefigured in the creation of an assembly and elected mayor for London. Other levels of local government may now choose a directly elected mayor. The upper chamber of parliament was significantly reformed. Following the House of Lords Act of 1999, most hereditary peers are no longer entitled to participate in legislation.  The Human Rights Act may be considered to be a constitutional document in the sense that the judiciary and the administration are required to refer to it when making judgements and decisions. Failure to guarantee the basic legal and political rights promoted and protected in the ECHR can be challenged in the courts of the UK.  These constitutional developments, perhaps particularly those associated with devolution, encouraged public debate about the meanings of nationality, national identity and citizenship and the extent to which individuals and groups from both majority and minority communities feel a sense of belonging to the United Kingdom and/or its constituent countries of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Citizenship education, like the constitutional reforms, was introduced partly in order to counteract a feeling of disinterest in formal political processes, as expressed by record levels of voter abstentions. Its aim is to bolster support for democracy by rendering the system more transparent and explicit.  The programme of citizenship education for England was developed by an  Advisory Gro up on Citizenship, chaired by Bernard Crick. The Group’s report, commonly known as the Crick report, claims that: “ There are worrying levels of apathy, ignorance and cynicism about public life  ”. 2  The apparent apathy of the young is seen as a threat to demo cracy itself, with the report quoting the Lord Chancellor as saying: “ Unless we become a nation of engaged citizens, our democracy is not secure  ”. 3    The concern to encourage ‘a nation of engaged citizens’ raises issues of national identity. Citizens are more likely to engage with the nation if they identify with it and feel a sense of belonging. A national programme of citizenship education might be expected to have as an aim the intention to demonstrate that all, irrespective of religious, political 1  Hennessy, P., 1995. 2  Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 1998, p.8. 3   Ibid  .  Starkey, H. (2008) Education for Citizenship, Diversity and 'Britishness' 1997 - 2007, in: T. Whitton (Ed) Le New Labour et l'identité britannique  (Clermont Ferrand, Observatoire de la Société Britannique N o . 5). Hugh Starkey Citizenship Education and Britishness 3 or cultural affiliation have their place in the nation. In France this is achieved through the concept of a theoretical Republican citizenship firmly grounded in the universal principles defined in human rights instruments that underpin liberal democracy (Best, 1991). 4  Since all are entitled to equal human rights, all are equal as citizens. However, a colour and gender-blind approach to citizenship does not necessarily lead to equality in practice. As the official  Equalities Review noted: it may take some decades to achieve parity in employment or education for some groups; over 75 years in the case of women’s political representation and equal pay, half a century in the case of educational attainment of some ethnic minority children. 5    The difference between rhetoric and reality can lead to disillusionment and a feeling of exclusion rather than inclusion in the nation. As a leading specialist on multicultural education in the USA has noted: “ a citizen’s racial, cultural, language and religious characteristics often significantly influence whether she is viewed as a citizen within her society  ”. 6   This issue was directly addressed with the publication of The Future of Multiethnic Britain   (the Parekh report). 7  This early contribution to debates on Britishness also made recommendations about citizenship education, namely that in the interests of building a ‘community of communities’ the programme of study should include specifically “ human rights principles; stress on skills of deliberation, advocacy and campaigning; understanding of equality legislation; and opposition to racist beliefs and behaviour  ”. 8  However, the influence of the Crick report on the implementation of citizenship education in schools was so strong that the Parekh report had no discernable impact on the curriculum. This is likely to be attributable in part to very hostile press coverage of the Parekh report. 9   Attempts by academics to raise the issue of diversity and human rights in relation to citizenship received scant attention at the time when citizenship education was introduced to schools. A government-funded seminar series put diversity, identity and equality onto the agenda but it was left to individual university training courses for citizenship teachers to determine the extent to which these dimensions were emphasised. 10   Subsequent calls for ‘the re -  visioning of citizenship education’ to incorporate the insights of the Parekh report 11   and for ‘changing citizenship’ so as to reformulate it as ‘democracy and inclusion in education’ 12  provided an academic rationale for reviewing the programme of study for citizenship. By late 2006 this coincided with a government agenda on security that paved the way for a review of citizenship education intended to address the missing dimensions of unity and diversity within the national democracy.  The Crick report and national identity 4  Best, F., 1991. 5  Phillips, T., 2007, p.5. 6  Banks, J.A., (ed.) 2004, p.5. 7  Parekh, B., 2000. 8   Ibid  ., p.149. 9  Richardson, R., 2000. 10  Osler, A., 2000a. 11  Olssen, M., 2004. 12  Osler A., & Starkey H., 2005.  Starkey, H. (2008) Education for Citizenship, Diversity and 'Britishness' 1997 - 2007, in: T. Whitton (Ed) Le New Labour et l'identité britannique  (Clermont Ferrand, Observatoire de la Société Britannique N o . 5). Hugh Starkey Citizenship Education and Britishness 4  The programme of study for citizenship education in England consists of a brief formal list of skills, knowledge and understanding to be achieved and attainment targets to be met. 13  The Crick report made references to the changing constitutional context in which citizenship education was introduced, arguing that by the end of compulsory schooling at age 16 pupils should: know about the changing constitution of the UK, including the relationship between the two Houses of Parliament, the changing role of the monarchy, shifting relationships between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and Britain’s relationship with the European Union and the Commonwealth  . 14  British citizenship is presented as inclusive of national differences between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The general intention is clearly to be inclusive: [A]  main aim for the whole community should be to find or restore a sense of common citizenship, including a national identity that is secure enough to find a place in the  plurality of nations, cultures, ethnic identities and religions long found in the United Kingdom. Citizenship education creates a common ground between different ethnic and religious identities  . 15  However, the makeup of the Advisory Group meant that no one challenged a now notorious sentence that implied that minorities cannot necessarily be relied upon to conform to the laws, standards, customs and conventions of British society: [M] inorities must learn and respect the laws, codes and conventions as much as the majority - not merely because it is useful to do so, but because this process helps foster common citizenship . 16   The Crick report implied that visible minorities need to change in order to become part of the nation. No similar demand is placed on the majority white community, who are simply required to ‘tolerate’ minorities. There is no recognition that minorities also exercise tolerance as part of the everyday experience of living together in a multicultural society.  There is an implicit recognition of the multiple identities held by British citizens. Yet there is also the hint that ‘national identity’ and ‘common citizenship’ may, in fact, be fragile. The report’s language suggests that some British citizens, presumably those who are not white, cannot really call Britain home: these matters of national identity in a pluralist society are complex and should never be taken for granted. We all need to learn more about each other. This should entail learning not only about the United Kingdom - including all four of its component  parts - but also about the European, Commonwealth and the global dimensions of citizenship, with due regard being given to the homelands of our minority communities and to the main countries of British emigration  . 17   13  Department for Education and Employment & Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 1999. 14  QCA, op. cit. , 1998, p.51. 15    Ibid  ., p.17. 16    Ibid  ., p.18. 17    Ibid  .  Starkey, H. (2008) Education for Citizenship, Diversity and 'Britishness' 1997 - 2007, in: T. Whitton (Ed) Le New Labour et l'identité britannique  (Clermont Ferrand, Observatoire de la Société Britannique N o . 5). Hugh Starkey Citizenship Education and Britishness 5 Ironically the report itself reflects rather than challenges institutionalized racism in Britain. 18   The Crick report contains few references to documents or symbols that might reinforce a national identity. In fact the only documents cited are the international human rights texts. The institutions referred to in the programs of study include parliament, the criminal and civil justice systems, the European Union, the Commonwealth and the United Nations. T he Crick report also included “the changing role of the monarchy” but along with other national institutions which retain a powerful role in British society, such as the Established Church and the armed forces, the monarchy is omitted from the programmes of study. There is no reference to national symbols such as the national flag or the national anthem. In this sense, neither the Crick report nor the programmes of study are prescriptive of a national identity. 19  Recent research reveals that some members of the Advisory Group felt multiculturalism was ‘overdone’ in schools. 20  The composition of the Group was defined by one member as those ‘likely to contribute to a sensible discussion’. 21  This implicit consensus about the limits of debate was a serious weakness of the Group as Bernard Crick acknowledged. 22  Many members of the Group were reluctant to engage with issues of equalities, feeling that ‘the issue of diversity was not something of relevance to them’. 23   To address diversity would have taken the Group beyond its comfort zone and into the political arena. The prominent discourse of members of the Group has been summarised as: ‘there was absolutely nothing political about Citizenship Education’. 24   Diversity and security as a challenge to citizenship education  The first challenges to the initial programme of citizenship education as developed in the Crick report came even before the implementation in the 2002/3 school year of citizenship education as a statutory subject in secondary schools. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report highlighted the institutional racism pervading the police force and other aspects of British life, including the education service. 25  The report identified the key role that schools can play in challenging racism. The Government responded by acknowledging institutional racism and identifying citizenship education as the key curriculum area which would contribute to challenging and eliminating racism. 26  The recommendation was accepted in principle by the education ministry (DfEE), but initially stubbornly opposed by the inspection service OFSTED. It was this refusal that caused the resignation of the chief inspector of schools, following his appearance before the Education and Employment select committee. 27  In introducing citizenship education it was certainly the intention of some in government that it should promote cultural diversity and address the institutional racism. 18  Osler,A., 2000b. 19  Osler, A., & Starkey H., 2001 & 2004. 20  Pykett, J., 2007, p.311. 21  Kiwan, D., 2007, p.36. 22    Ibid  . 23    Ibid  ., p.35. 24  Pykett, op. cit. , p.307. 25  Macpherson, W., 1999. 26  Home Office, 1999. 27  Osler, A., & Morrison, M., 2000.
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