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Bishop criticises citizenship teaching

PUBLISHED: 08:30 06 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:58 22 October 2010

The Bishop of Norwich has criticised citizenship teaching in schools - and says visits to Norwich cathedral are an example of how to keep children fascinated by the past.

The Bishop of Norwich has criticised citizenship teaching in schools - and says visits to Norwich cathedral are an example of how to keep children fascinated by the past.

During a House of Lords debate yesterday, the Rt Rev Graham James said 13,000 schoolchildren visited the cathedral last year as part of their studies.

He said: "Many children and young people come expecting to be bored and find they are fascinated. That's because of the imagination of our education officers and what they offer."

But he said schools were finding it more difficult to bring children for visits than in the past, and that sometimes people wrongly imagined the cathedral just wanted to convert children.

He said: "It's the scale of supervision required and the assessment of the risks involved which make them cautious. I do sometimes wonder whether the regulatory frameworks we've created limit imagination and risk."

And he criticised citizenship lessons as "a woolly concept". He said: "I suggest that instead of thrashing around to find out what Britishness is all about, often reduced to a vague belief in tolerance and the importance of queuing, we already have in the teaching of history a vehicle for a better informed future electorate . . . Teaching values without any sense of where they have come from is often fruitless."

Yesterday the bishop also spoke in a different House of Lords debate highlighting a damning report into conditions at Norwich Prison. He told peers during a debate on the Police and Justice Bill that the report last year was an example of the good work of the prisons inspectorate, whose existence is under threat from a merger with inspectors of courts, police and probation.

He said: "Last year's description of the conditions in the Victorian section of Norwich Prison was accurate, focussed and disturbing. We need such disturbance and I hope the government will think again."

The report found that the Victorian wing was "unfit for habitation" with dirty cells, peeling paint and leaking sewage pipes. Since then some improvements have been made, including a first night unit for those new to the prison.

The bishop is unhappy that there will no longer be a chief inspector of prisons, and that less attention will be paid to human rights, justice, health and safety and decency. He fears that the new institution will be less independent and more influenced by government policy.


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