‘The Citizenship Teacher’s Handbook’ is an important new contribution to the training of teachers of Citizenship Education. As leading authorities on the subject of Citizenship Education, Bradford College Lecturer, Stephen Fairbrass, and his co-author Kate Brown, were approached by the publishers Continuum and invited to write the book.
Concern about the future of democratic society is not new. However the commitment to equip young citizens with the knowledge and skills to enable them to contribute to the continuance and development of just and democratic societies is. In September 2002, Citizenship education became a statutory subject for young people aged 11 to 16 in England, making this book essential reading for all those involved in Citizenship Education in secondary schools. The book explains the vital elements of teaching Citizenship effectively in the classroom.
Outlining in more detail why he and Kate were approached by publishers Continuum to write the book, Stephen explained: “Continuum knew we were both involved in Citizenship Education, and both of us had previously published work in this field, so they asked us if we’d be interested in writing a book.” Stephen is a Senior Lecturer and Course Leader on Citizenship Education at the University Centre, Bradford College. He conducted research into Citizenship Education at the University of East Anglia and is an external examiner for the Institute of Education in London, a leading centre for education and social research. He has contributed to many publications, including magazine and journal articles and has worked with Channel 4 and Oxfam on the subject of Citizenship.
Agreeing to write the book, Stephen remarked: “It was exciting to be asked.” Modestly Stephen added: “At first I thought ‘I’m not sure if I can actually do this’, but then I thought I’d give it a go. Continuum gave us some guidelines, as the book is part of a series of handbooks for teachers of different subjects. They said, ‘we’ve got a basic format – it needs to be roughly 50,000 words and 8 chapters.’ Kate and I then got together and sketched out a plan of how we were going to go about it, and from then on it was remarkably easy to do.”
Explaining how his role within the College has helped to inform the book, Stephen explained: “The job I have here, is training Citizenship Teachers. For the last six years we’ve run a PGCE course. We recruit graduates that have degrees in Politics, Economics, Law, Sociology, or subjects that are quite closely related to these, who want to teach Citizenship in schools. Citizenship is a fairly new subject in schools, it only became a statutory subject at Key Stage 3 and 4, in September 2002. Barry Miller persuaded TDA to let us set the PGCE course up in September 2003, to teach people how to teach the subject specifically. We’ve been running the course now for six years, taking on 14/15 students a year. It’s a very successful course with the vast majority of our graduates taking up jobs as Citizenship teachers afterwards, and many of those being promoted to Citizenship Co-ordinator posts in their first few years of teaching.
The book is really aimed at those people training to become Citizenship Teachers, or people who are in their first year of teaching Citizenship, to give them some ideas. As we’ve run the course (and learnt a bit more about it ourselves) then we’ve kind of tried to spread some of those ideas out to future generations.”
Stephen added: “When we were putting the book together we wrote a draft version of the first chapter. I sent it out at that stage to some of my current students at the time. We asked them for honest feedback and the response was really positive. For example my student, Harsharan Tung, said: ‘Overall I was engaged and interested throughout… it left me feeling empowered as a new Citizenship Teacher.’ So generally it has been really well received with people thinking it’s really useful.”
When asked what sets this book apart from other publications, Stephen replied: “There are other books that have been written for Citizenship Teachers. The difference with this book is that lots of the other books have been written by academics in universities and some of them obviously don’t have much current contact with teachers in schools. I think what distinguishes this book from the others is that most of the people who have contributed to this book are currently people who teach in schools. Some of them are two or three years into their careers, working as Citizenship Teachers. Nine of my ex students and half a dozen of Kate’s contemporaries have contributed. They’re in touch with what is really going on in the classroom. I think that’s what makes it a much more practical and realistic book, rather than being abstract and remote.”
The book has been honestly written, allowing the reader to engage with the essential elements of teaching Citizenship effectively. The book is highly practical and covers topics such as: Teaching and learning Citizenship, Planning to teach Citizenship, Implementing whole school initiatives and Assessment in Citizenship Education. Stephen explained: “What we’ve deliberately set out to achieve and create is a book that is really down to earth and readable. There are jokes in this book – it’s not dry, I actually think it is fun to read. You can pick it up, enjoy reading it and connect with it. The skill of teaching is about taking quite complex things and making them simple and easy to understand and I think the book does this.”
The purpose of Citizenship Education is ultimately to contribute to the continuance and development of just and democratic societies, with vibrant and active engagement. Citizenship Education is education about democracy, but more importantly it is education for democracy. Through this book, Stephen Fairbrass and Kate Brown have achieved just that. Inspiring teachers and empowering them to teach Citizenship effectively in the classroom. Stephen concluded: “This is a new subject, and specialists in this subject are actually quite scarce, there aren’t enough Citizenship teachers to go around. I think we do a really good job here at Bradford College; we’ve trained some excellent Citizenship Teachers that have made rapid progress and become heads of department or taken on more senior roles.” This book captures the magic that Stephen and Kate have created in the classroom, distilling it into a format that is accessible for all. Essential reading for Citizenship Teachers – equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to teach and excel!