1.On 29 October and 5 November, we held ‘digital surgeries’, organised with the Politics Project. Our first surgery took place with pupils and the second with teachers involved in the provision of digital literacy.
2.On 29 October, we held a videocall with Year 10 pupils from Oasis MediaCity Academy in Salford and sixth form pupils from Queen Elizabeth’s School in Devon.
3.We discussed how pupils used social media and how they learned about current issues and politics online. Pupils from both schools told us that they tend to use news websites and apps such as Sky News and BBC News to access their news. They also supplemented this with news on Instagram and Snapchat. They said that they would cross reference between websites to discern whether a news item seen on social media was true. They agreed that social media sites encouraged people to share their opinions about current issues and that this had both positive and negative implications.
4.We asked where pupils’ digital literacy education fell within the curriculum. Pupils from both schools agreed that the subject fell within Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education. Some pupils told us they had learnt about digital literacy within media studies at GCSE and A-level. Pupils in both schools believed that teaching about the subject should start in primary school, as children have exposure to digital technologies from a young age.
5.The pupils demonstrated knowledge about how they would participate in community events to effect change if they were unhappy with something in their local area. When asked what the Government could do to help pupils feel more empowered, pupils suggested that they could engage more with social media to disseminate government initiatives and news amongst younger people. One suggestion was to create a Government-backed app from which people could get their news, with content tailored to young people in simpler language.
6.On 5 November, we held a videocall with six teachers from across the country who had responsibility for teaching political education at different educational levels.
7.We asked the teachers where political education sat within the curriculum. All the teachers agreed that Citizenship was the best place for political education and that this should go beyond just focussing on elections. They mentioned that Citizenship at Key Stage 3 and 4, used to be compulsory. One teacher explained that he incorporated political education into his Religious Studies classes, which he tried to make more like a general studies course. There was a concern amongst all the teachers that time for political education was diminishing. One teacher stated that it was a “grave assumption to think that political education can be taught in tutor time”, to the agreement of all. The teachers were also concerned that with diminishing time, it would be difficult to persuade non-specialist teachers, some of whom have little political understanding, to learn more about political education.
8.We discussed the teaching of misinformation and fake news. The teachers agreed that this was a necessary subject to teach and said that they used examples such as media reporting about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to help pupils compare information that was put across. This is content that is required at Citizenship GCSE, but the teachers said they would like more time on this, rather than simply preparing pupils for exams.
9.All the teachers stated they would want more time to teach political education and some said that timetabled curriculum lessons would be helpful. One of the teachers also told us that they would value media and sociology training, in order to teach political education from a wider perspective. One of the teachers had recently been on a trip to Washington to learn about media literacy and fact checking. They were impressed with the quality of teaching and with the focus on trying to separate news online from advertising that they observed and noted that lessons could be learnt from teaching practices elsewhere.