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Teach Citizenship: bring current affairs alive in the classroom & make learning meaningful for young people.

What is Citizenship education?

The 2013 National Curriculum describes Citizenship education as providing pupils with the ‘knowledge, skills and understanding’ to ‘play a full and active part in society’. The subject features:

1. Specialist concepts: underlying themes such as democracy, power, freedom and justice;

2. Specialist content: politics, law, human rights, media, global issues and governance, identity & diversity, the voluntary sector and financial & economic literacy;

3. Specialist skills: critical thinking and enquiry, collaboration, deliberation, advocacy, taking action and reflection;

4. Specialist pedagogy: analysis of current affairs and contemporary issues, critical thinking & enquiry, harnessing student voice, exploring through debate and discussion, critique and questioning of positions and power players, and learning and effecting change through action.

What is the current status of Citizenship in secondary schools?

  • Citizenship education was launched as a new national curriculum subject in 2002, when it became a statutory component of the curriculum in all secondary schools.
  • OFSTED (2019) requires all schools to teach Citizenship
  • As a means to introduce the new subject to schools, when Citizenship was introduced the government established WHAT was to be taught, with schools deciding HOW the subject would be best delivered.  This has led to a wide variety of practice across the country: some schools teach Citizenship as a standalone subject (in a similar way to Maths, English or History, for example), others combine it with other subjects (such as Humanities, PSHE, RE or Social Sciences), while others teach it through form tutors, ‘drop-down’ days and events, or ‘through’ other subjects.
  • The National Foundation for Education Research conducted a ten-year study into the impact of Citizenship education on young people and found that their levels of civic understanding and engagement were highest when the subject was taught by teachers with specialist training (such as a Citizenship PGCE) in standalone, timetabled lessons.
  • The 2013 curriculum review saw Citizenship retain its statutory position in the curriculum of maintained secondary schools. As such, all state secondary schools currently have to teach the Citizenship curriculum.
  • Each year, approximately 20,000 young people (with a 11% rise in 2020) sit a GCSE in Citizenship Studies through one of the major exam boards (AQA, Edexcel or OCR).  AQA were the only exam board to offer an A-level in Citizenship Studies and, after a review of their overall A-level provision, they have decided not to offer the subject as an A-level from 2018 onwards.  A-levels in major components of Citizenship (Politics, Law and Sociology, for example) are still available.
  • For many schools, Citizenship is seen as a key pathway through which  a number of major initiatives are delivered, such as the compulsory duties on schools to promote ‘British’ values (democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and respect and tolerance of others), ensure the Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural (SMSC) development of their students, and reduce the risk of young people becoming radicalised to violent extremism (the ‘Prevent’ agenda).

For more information about Citizenship education why not read Teaching Citizenship Journal: or listen to the Citizenship podcast below:

The Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) is a membership organisation for teachers and educators of Citizenship education. ACT can also help you to think about your Citizenship teaching journey, what Citizenship involves and the support networks available.

About us

Teach Citizenship is led by PGCE Citizenship at UCL Institute of Education in collaboration with colleagues at Kingston University, Sheffield Hallam University, Bishops Grosseteste University, the Harris Federation, Bradford College, Gorse SCITT, Norfolk Teacher Training Center and Kent and Medway Training and the Association for Citizenship Teaching.

It is designed as a straightforward online guide for graduates & career changers interested in training to teach Citizenship education.

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