history and diversity
28. On 15 May 2006, Bill Rammell, Minister of State
for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, announced that the
DfES was commissioning a review of National Curriculum citizenship's
coverage of diversity issues and how modern British cultural and
social history might be incorporated into the citizenship curriculum.
At the same time, he also announced a review of university teaching
of Islam. These announcements were made during a speech to London
South Bank University about action the Government was planning
to take based on the review of the events leading up to the July
2005 London terrorist attacks.
29. The Minister subsequently announced that he had
invited Keith Ajegbo, then head of Deptford Green School, to carry
out the review, which would look at:
] how the National Curriculum is covering
diversity issues to meet the needs of all pupils. It will also look
at how we can incorporate modern British cultural and
social history into the citizenship curriculum within our
The review group's report was published on 25 January
2007. It made a range of recommendations relating to the teaching
of diversity across the curriculum. Specifically with regard to
the proposals to incorporate more British social and cultural
history into the curriculum, it concluded that:
"A fourth "strand" should be explicitly
developed, entitled Identity and Diversity: Living Together
in the UK. This strand will bring together three conceptual
- Critical thinking about ethnicity,
religion and race.
- An explicit link to political issues and values.
- The use of contemporary history in teachers'
pedagogy to illuminate thinking about contemporary issues relating
30. We took evidence throughout our inquiry, which
ran concurrently with the Ajegbo review, on the proposals as we
understood themnamely, that the citizenship curriculum
may be augmented to include more elements of British cultural
and social history, in the context of a concern to strengthen
a shared sense of belonging; and that diversity issues may need
to be covered more adequately in the school curriculum, including
in citizenship education. Broadly speaking, our findings support
those of Sir Keith Ajegbo.
31. Witnesses often expressed passionate views when
we asked them whether they would support changing the curriculum
so that it had more of a focus on British cultural and social
historyparticularly if this was used as means of engendering
a sense of national belonging. Raji Hunjan of Carnegie Young People
Initiative, argued that a focus on Britishness per se may
be misplaced and unhelpful, risked isolating some young people
who may not define themselves principally as "British",
and would also obfuscate the current worthwhile focus on experiential
learning and participation:
"It is then more experiential learning, which
I completely agree with, it is about ensuring that the views of
young people can positively feed into decision-making. I think
that the Government would be better off supporting that and supporting
young people to understand their rights and responsibilities as
active citizens, rather than forcing them to think about issues
of Britishness, which conflicts with other ways in which they
might see themselves."
Others stressed practical concerns as well as ideological
ones. For example, the Association for Citizenship Teaching wrote
to us after the announcement by the Secretary of State, saying
that adding a "fourth pillar" of British social and
cultural history was unnecessary and risked overburdening teachers:
"Careful study of the Citizenship Programme
of Study at Key Stages 3 and 4 and also the Crick report would
support the contention that there is already enough flexibility
in the current curriculum to address the concerns of ministers.
The current curriculum was clearly designed to address matters
of justice, human rights, fairness and also to enable discussion
about identity, rights, respect and responsibility. As such an
additional leg is not requiredespecially one that would
require another set of complex and as yet undefined information
to be learned by the citizenship teacher and imparted to the pupil.
Things are not as simple as Bill Rammell implied in his speech
] in terms of diversity and identity ACT would contend
that Citizenship is already enabling discussion about being a
citizen in Britain without imposing definitions of Britishness".
32. Some took a more positive view on the proposal
to focus more closely on British social and cultural history in
the curriculum but showed variation in respect of whether they
thought the citizenship curriculum in particular was the correct
place for this. Also, they differed in respect of what they saw
as the ultimate aims of such a move. Professor Linda Colley of
Princeton University told us:
"It seems to me that what we are dealing with
is not just a matter for schools. People in all societies, at
all times, tend to need a narrative, I think, a story to tell
themselves which puts their short, individual life in a wider,
more meaningful context, and the need for such a narrative is
enhanced if you come from a disruptive background, or if you live
in a time of immense change. In the past, in this country, we
had a very strong narrative [
]. A lot of these modes of
implanting a narrative in the people of these islands either no
longer work or they do not operate very powerfully, if at all.
] if we do not think about tailoring a [new] narrative
that works, that can encompass the many different peoples that
live in these islands then the danger is, of course, that they
may go out and find their own narrative which is not one we will
find very happy."
Professor David Conway of Civitas told us he was
in favour of reintroducing a strong, narrative version of history
into the school curriculum, which did not shy away from emphasising
the historical achievements of Britain and which would provide
a common source of identity for all students:
"[T]here is a deeper commonality, a commonality
of interest, and a nation, a political society, [it] is one where
the common ground and the common good and the common interest
take primacy. This is what needs to be purveyed by means of citizenship
education. This historically was what was done through British
narrative history until it got deconstructed and swept aside in
the 1960s through progressive education. I am glad to see that
the Government has woken up to the need to remarry its concerns
about civics and civility and citizenship with the teaching, and
proper teaching, of British narrative history."
33. The Government has indicated that it accepts
Sir Keith Ajegbo's recommendation for the development of a fourth
strand of the citizenship curriculum. We support his proposals
that many different aspects of British social, cultural and indeed
political history should be used as points of entry in the citizenship
curriculum to engage students in discussing the nature of citizenship
and its responsibility in 21st century Britain.
34. Such coverage should rightly touch on what
is distinctive in the inheritance and experience of contemporary
Britain and the values of our society today. But it should not
be taken to imply an endorsement of any single explanation of
British values or history. Indeed, it should emphasise the way
in which those values connect to universal human rights, and recognise
that critical and divergent perspectives, as well as the potential
to have alternative and different layers of identity, are a central
part of what contemporary Britishness is.
35. If such changes are to work in practice, Government
must recognise its responsibilities to resource teachers and school
leaders and to clarify the curriculum. Citizenship is still a
young subject very much in the process of "bedding down"
and gaining support among teachers and school leaders. We agree
with Sir Keith Ajegbo that it will be crucially important for
the Government to communicate clearly with the teaching profession
about what it is doing and why, and about how any new material
fits with what is already there. Care also needs to be taken that
the introduction of more knowledge-based content does not reduce
space for active learning and the 'participative' strand of citizenship
education. The proper resourcing of ITT and CPD in citizenship
for teachers will be central to the success of these new elements.
We recommend that the National College of School Leadership
be more closely involved in engaging with these changes and in
incorporating the challenges of citizenship education in its training
programmes and other initiatives.
36. The question of strengthening the curriculum's
focus on diversityof allegiances, identifications and opinionsis
of course intimately linked to the debate above about British
history and belonging. As both Sir Keith Ajegbo's report and the
DfES note, the citizenship curriculum already provides some scope
for teaching about the cultural diversity of the UK; however,
it is unclear to what extent this is translated into practice
in schools. Scott Harrison of Ofsted told us:
"What we are finding is more teaching of what
you might perceive as the central political literacy/government/voting/law
area than, for example, the diversity of the UK, the EU, the Commonwealth,
which are somewhat neglected, I think, because some of them are
perceived to be dull and some of them are particularly sensitive
areas that some teachers go to with great reluctance. I am talking
about, for example, the diversity of the UK, which in the Order
says, the 'regional, national, religious, ethnic diversity of
Britain'. Some people find that difficult to teach."
This accords with the findings of the Ajegbo review,
"Issues of identity and diversity are more often
than not neglected in citizenship education. When these issues
are referred to, coverage is often unsatisfactory and lacks contextual
37. Bernadette Joslin, of the Learning and Skills
Network said that in order to discuss difficult or sensitive issues
related to identity, religious and ethnic diversity, staff needed
support on how to manage those discussions: "that is a priority,
I am sure, for pre-16 colleagues as well as post-16 colleagues.
Staff feel quite anxious about it and lacking in confidence."
Similarly, Chris Waller, Association for Citizenship Teaching,
argued that he thought "Citizenship [provided] an opportunity
to think about lots of different issues, controversial issues,
the grey areas in life, but these require the right skills and
time for the teacher to explore them in a meaningful way".
 Tom Wylie
of the National Youth Agency echoed these concerns:
"I do raise the question, do we think that
in the most challenging circumstances we have sufficient teachers
with sufficient competence to handle those issues of identity
and value, and to do so in such a way as protects what may be,
in some circumstances, a pretty small minority of children in
that particular classroom, who, for whatever reason, may not be
part of the majority? That was why I paused, about how far one
should push some of these things into our system."
38. The issue of identities and belonging can
be challenging and sensitive for students and teachers alike;
meaningful and productive discussions are more likely to take
place if teachers have appropriate training in this area. As the
Government takes forward the recommendations of the Ajegbo report,
it will be crucial that it develops concrete plans as to how it
will equip those teachers and lecturers to deal with the teaching
of these often challenging issues on the ground.
39. Teachers in training spend a large proportion
of their time in schools. If there is not good practice in those
particular schools, there may be little opportunity to develop
the skills and confidence needed to lead constructive discussions
about identity and difference. Teaching diversity,
belonging and place in society without relating it to the daily
life experiences or observations of students risks at best apathy
and at worse a rejection of those key elements of the curriculum.
We recommend that far more use is made of the opportunities
provided by activities outside the classroomas well as
discrete events such as Holocaust Memorial Day or this year's
commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the
slave tradeto stimulate this.