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About Citizenship

What is citizenship?

Citizenship education develops knowledge, skills and understanding that pupils need to play a full part in society as active and responsible citizens. Pupils learn about democracy, politics, parliament and voting as well as human rights, justice, media literacy, the law and the economy. They also learn the skills of active citizenship through practical opportunities to address issues of concern to them. Teaching is brought to life using real issues, case studies, people and events in local to global contexts.

In England, citizenship is a statutory National Curriculum foundation subject in secondary schools. In the other parts of the UK there are different arrangements for citizenship education. See the Five Nations website.  

The citizenship programmes of study in England sets out what schools must address in their citizenship teaching. The GCSE Citizenship Studies also contains core content that should be addressed in teaching and preparing students for this qualification. GCSE Citizenship Studies is available from the three Awarding Organisations AQA, Edexel and OCR.

In primary education, citizenship is a non-statutory subject. There is a curriculum framework for citizenship which should be used to plan citizenship provision in key stages 1 and 2.

How citizenship became part of the National Curriculum in England

Politicians from all parties, teachers and young people campaigned for citizenship education to be part of the curriculum and there continues to be cross-party political support for the subject. In 1997, Professor Sir Bernard Crick was asked to chair an Advisory Group on Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools by the then Secretary of State for Education, David Blunkett MP. The Group's report, sometimes known as the 'Crick report' recommended citizenship became a statutory National Curriculum subject and was accepted in full.

Citizenship became a statutory National Curriculum subject in England in 2002. The National Curriculum was last reviewed by the DFE in 2013. During the review an organisation called Democratic Life set up to campaign to retain citizenship in the National Curriculum and to improve the quality of teaching in schools. The campaign was successful and citizenship continues as a stautory National Curriculum subject in secondary schools.  A revised National Curriculum was published by the DFE for first teaching from September 2014 and the subject remains key to providing a broad and balanced curriculum in all schools. In the primary curriculum, citizenship has a non-statutory framework which sets out what should be taught at key stages 1 and 2.

ACT was founded in 2001 to support teachers and everyone engaged in supporting high quality citizenship provision in schools.  


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