Teachers call for little citizens

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The Independent Online
The overwhelming majority of primary school teachers believe they should be teaching citizenship skills to their pupils, according to a new survey.

The study shows that 67 per cent of primary teachers regard citizenship as "very important" or "essential" in the development of the moral, cultural and social education of children aged nine to 11. But while they see citizenship as a priority, they complain of a lack of guidance from the authorities.

Useful resources for teaching the subject, they say, are virtually non- existent and they are not properly trained. The study of 144 primary schools, to be released later this week, was carried out by Leicester University for The Institute of Citizenship, founded by the former Commons speaker Lord Weatherill.

Coming so soon in the wake of last week's call from Frances Lawrence, wife of the murdered head teacher, Philip Lawrence, for a moral crusade, which includes the teaching of citizenship, the teachers' complaints will add to pressure on the Government to respond positively to her cause.

Critics claim the Government's education policy is too slanted towards exam results, rather than ensuring children know the difference between right and wrong.

Unlike other subjects in schools, moral issues do not have an overall co-ordinator to ensure staff are following each other and are achieving a consistent standard. Often this is left to outside visitors, typically local clergy and religious leaders. Teachers said they would like to see this broadened, to include politicians, civil dignitaries and business leaders.

Over 80 per cent of those responding said they had either not seen or used any of the classroom material supplied by the Government or other official agencies for the teaching of citizenship. These included manuals from the Home Office on combating crime.

Teachers said they did not have the time to teach citizenship and that core curriculum subjects always came first. Several linked it to good parenting.

"Our curriculum is so overcrowded ... it is difficult to release time for much of this work. The nation and its parents and other citizens must set a good example too, and not leave it to schools to sort out the nation's problems," said one teacher.