Evidence before the House of Commons Education and Skills


The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham, Chairman of the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales, yesterday, Monday 11 December, gave evidence before the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee on the subject of Citizenship Education.

In a statement issued today (Tuesday 12 December) Archbishop Nichols said: “I was glad to give evidence yesterday before the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee. I attended alongside Dr Abdul Bari of the Muslim Council of Great Britain.

“In doing so I spoke to a definition of citizenship as ‘the active and creative role that every person is called to play in the local, national and global community.’ Clearly a Catholic education prepares people for such a role.

“In giving evidence I shaped my remarks around the three inter-related components of Citizenship education: social and moral responsibility; community involvement and political literacy. There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate the various ways in which Catholic schools address these three aspects of citizenship and how they could do so in the future.

“In addressing the Select Committee I emphasised that citizenship education, like all education, is never value free. Rather, the quest for our common good as a society is a profoundly moral quest. Citizenship education, therefore, requires a clear moral context. Indeed part of its objective is to develop of sense of moral responsibility.

“In a Catholic school that context is provided by its overall ethos and moral teaching. Citizenship education, therefore, cannot be properly understood as introducing either a morally neutral zone or a contrary set of moral criteria into a Catholic school.

“I had to point out, however, that an understanding a contrary points of view has always been an important part of Catholic education whereby the study of Catholic teaching and various points of view and the realities of daily life are explored, as appropriate to age and understanding, within Catholic education, not least in PHSE.

“An important outcome of Citizenship education is ‘critical democracy’. In giving evidence I referred to the words of Sir Bernard Crick: ‘Being taught to respect the law without learning how bad laws can be changed and better ones promoted tends to create apathetic subjects rather than active citizens.’ This highlights again the distinction between what is legal and what is moral. Political literacy needs to be accompanied by moral discourse.”

Archbishop Nichols added: “In response to questions about bullying in school, I asserted that a robust policy on bullying of all kinds was the best way forward. OFSTED evidence indicates that Catholic schools are in fact more effective than others in protecting pupils from bullying."