The research undertaken was an ethnographic study of a single junior school was founded on the premise that children have considerably more knowledge about ‘citizenship’ and democratic processes than their teachers appreciate or are willing to acknowledge. It was my contention that in developing a citizenship programme and scheme of work in school this should be taken account of to inform, not only the curriculum, but also teaching and learning. My concern was that without doing so, paradoxically, citizenship might have more to do with social control than the intended outcome of empowerment. A key finding of the study was that teachers taught social and moral responsibility rather than rights and that responsibility was inextricably linked to pupils’ behaviour. It also found that much of the information, knowledge and understanding, about democratic processes held by children appeared to be caught rather than taught. The study also showed that teachers taught about ‘safe issues’ whilst avoiding any teaching relating to local, national or world political events that might be contentious or controversial. From the findings a theoretical model for citizenship was developed that shows the relationship between citizenship knowledge, social control, empowerment, and teaching and learning. This study has contributed to the developing understanding of citizenship as it has been implemented in primary schools in England. The evidence suggests that unless teachers take account of pupils’ prior knowledge of citizenship they will by default indeed be teaching for social control rather than empowerment
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