Diversity and Citizenship in the Curriculum: Research Review is a recent DfES research briefing that looks at the way in which citizenship and diversity is taught across the curriculum.

Particularly pertinent after the debates surrounding Celebrity Big Brother, the report advises that there needs to be greater consideration by schools of what is meant by cultural diversity, how it can be achieved through curriculum innovation and how it should be linked to teaching and learning.

In May 2006 the DfES established the Diversity and Citizenship Curriculum Review Group, headed by Keith Ajegbo, former headteacher of Deptford Green Secondary School, Lewisham. To aid the review group, the DfES commissioned a small-scale research project, based on a literature review and case study research. This led to the publication of Diversity and Citizenship in the Curriculum in January.

The aims of the research were to explore:

  • how diversity is promoted across the curriculum in both primary and secondary schools, and
  • whether/how to incorporate modern British cultural and social history (MBCSH) as a potential fourth pillar of the secondary citizenship programme.

The key findings included conclusions relating to the range of diversity education experienced by pupils in different schools across the country (pupils in multi-ethnic schools were more likely to experience an effective diversity-orientated curriculum and to learn more about different ethnic groups).

It was found that teachers tend to focus on minority ethnic groups in any reference to diversity and citizenship, rather than the broader perspective, and in relation to this there was some confusion as to whether minority ethnic groups could be considered to be British.

With regard to the development of MBCSH, the report found that there would need to be a lot of discussion with educational professionals as to how it could be incorporated and taught/learned effectively. It was felt that any definition of ‘Britishness’ would be controversial and could leave some pupils feeling that it did not fully include them.

Four factors leading to good practice were identified:

  • effective leadership in the area of diversity/identities in the curriculum
  • effective planning and guidance, especially in mainly white schools and to ensure that the same groups and religions were not studied repeatedly
  • the use of examples from pupils’ own experience, which could reduce stereotyping by teachers and pupils
  • the use of pupils’ idealism – pupils tended to have strong ideal images of what a multi-cultural Britain should look like.

The fact that there needs to be greater consideration of the myriad of topical and potential controversial issues surrounding diversity and citizenship education is probably not a surprise. However, when considering the area, it should be remembered that it is a contentious and difficult one to teach and offers all sorts of challenges for those who often do not have the training and skills with which to approach the topic.

The kaleidoscope of identities represented in modern Britain, including white British, need to be carefully considered with a teaching and learning eye, not just a political one, to make sure that any curriculum addresses these issues effectively.

For more information see the DfES website: www.dfes.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/RB819.pdf