The government is “discriminating” against citizenship teachers and harming social mobility, the chief executive of the Association for Citizenship Teaching will tell the House of Lords this week.
The ACT claims current policy is creating “significant barriers” for both potential and existing citizenship teachers, and will present research to the Lords committee on citizenship and civic engagement on October 18.
Citizenship is a statutory national curriculum subject at key stages three and four, and includes lessons on democracy, politics, equalities and anti-extremist education. AQA, Edexcel and OCR provide a GCSE in citizenship studies, but the subject is not included in Ofsted subject reports.
Trainee teachers have no access to bursaries to help pay fees, and existing teachers are not included on key government programmes such as specialist leaders in education, run by the National College.
Liz Moorse, ACT’s chief executive, said citizenship teachers were “nationally important assets to be valued”, but they are given less curriculum time and fewer resources than those in other subjects.
She said the cumulative effect of government policies had been to “marginalise” citizenship teachers, and this is affecting their life chances and the quality of teaching in schools.
“The government needs to take urgent action to remove the barriers which are stopping existing citizenship teachers from furthering their careers and discouraging people, including underrepresented groups, from joining the teaching profession,” she said. “If we are serious about social mobility and equality then this needs to apply in teaching as well.”
According to ACT, would-be trainees are dissuaded from training because of high fees and living costs, and a reduction in the number of PGCE courses around the country.
Citizenship attracts trainee teachers from more economic and socially disadvantaged parts of the country than other subjects and has more black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) recruits.
Government figures show that 15 per cent of those on graduate teacher-training courses are from BAME communities, while the current PGCE courses for citizenship in London at UCL, the Institute of Education and Kingston University have more than 70 per cent BAME trainees.
ACT said the lack of training bursaries means that PGCE course tutors are reporting difficulties in recruiting for citizenship courses, and potential trainees are switching to subjects that do offer bursaries, or pulling out altogether for financial reasons.
“Without trained subject specialists and ongoing professional development, the quality of citizenship teaching suffers and the amount of curriculum provision reduces or disappears in schools,” she added. “And of course, all of this affects the quality of outcomes for pupils.”
As a result, ACT is calling on the government, Ofsted and the National College to take “urgent action” to ensure policies are changed so they are “inclusive, not exclusive, of citizenship and citizenship teachers”.