Despite the apparent set backs from austerity funding cuts and a negative attitude from Government, the present situation is far from the end of Citizenship Education.
Since the 1960’s Governments have wished to encourage people to take an interest in their communities and become active as volunteers. The Community Development Projects of that decade, for instance, were specifically to address how such activism could assist in the regeneration of neighbourhoods that had declined. Ledwith (2011) highlights the needed soultion to this predicament was presented by the likes of the Gulbenkian Foundation which advocated devolving needed resources and power to these communities so they could make decisions on how best to improve themselves. This, however, was flatly rejected by the Labour Government as it regarded such talk as too “political” and thus created a false divide between “community politics” on the one hand and “community development” on the other that largely hampered efforts for a long time afterwards.
This theme was picked up again during the 1980’s by the Conservative Government as part of further regeneration work such as the Urban Programme, City Challenge and the Single Regeneration Budget (SRB). All of these initiatives accepted the need to focus on a specific geographical area and to involve residents in the shaping of programmes of work. By the time the SRB programme was launched, resident-led programmes were being tested and so both funding and some degree of authority was beginning to be devolved to the affected communities. An example in Bradford would be the Royds Community Association which was a not-for-profit company with a majority of its board elected by local residents in the area of the programme. The Royds managed an SRB round one programme covering the Buttershaw, Delph Hill and Woodside area and was regarded for a long time as an exemplar SRB venture.
The Labour administrations from 1997 through until 2010 also carried on with this theme of resident-led regeneration through programmes such as the New Deal for Communities (NDfC), Neighbourhood Renewal and the Local Enterprise Growth Initiative. Thus, the idea of engendering active communities as part of regenerating deprived areas had become mainstream thinking.
Alongside this, the Local Government and Rating act 1997 introduced a new right for communities to demand the setting up of parish councils in order to devolve some further power to the grass-roots level. This process was streamlined and extended into Greater London with the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health act 2007 which also allowed parish councils to be called “village councils”, “neighbourhood councils” and “community councils”. Parish councils began to be accepted as legacy bodies after a programme regeneration work was completed so there was a resident-led and accountable body remaining in the area to continue to organise and deliver improvements. In Bradford, the NDfC programme Bradford Trident was succeeded with the Bradford Trident Community Council as an example of this approach.
There are no more area-based regeneration programmes under the Coalition Government. However, their Localism Act 2011 has introduced a number of community rights that to some extent devolve more power down to the neighbourhood level and can even be exercised by a recognised community organisation instead of a parish council. These include over the planning process, registering assets of community value so the neighbourhood can have an opportunity to buy them out if they are sold or changed, and neighbourhoods taking over the running of local authority services. The age of the active citizen and community-led initiatives therefore seems to be here to stay.
And whilst Government funding for Citizenship and Community Education may be on the down there will continue to be other opportunities. Non-charitable trusts such as the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, the Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust and the Edge Fund all exist to promote radical, grass-roots action. Even apparently mainstream funders such as the Big Lottery Fund have been prepared to some extent to fund community ventures which encourage people to campaign and affect change, even if this is sometimes regarded as political, so long as it is not extreme or party political.
Neighbourhood Ventures particularly has an opportunity to build on its pilot scheme which to date has proved to be successful. It has already developed some good relatons with the small grant providers that have given funding this time and it may be able to convince those and others to continue to fund its work and possibly increase the level of grant aid so as to employ at least one member of staff to build its capacity. Attached to this posting is a copy of an Action Plan considering a way forward from the SWOT analysis and other issues in this blog.
Thus, the landscape may be changing, the Government may be hostile and there may be fewer funding opportunities out there, but Citizenship Education will survive and continue into the future. As such, my teaching specialism will have opportunities to be put into practice beyond by graduating from the PG Dip PCET.
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