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Citizenship National Curriculum

Requirements and guidance for schools.

Citizenship is a statutory subject

Citizenship is a required subject in the National Curriculum at key stage 3 (age 11-14) and 4 (age 11-16), so must be taught in all maintained schools in England. The programme of study describes what should be addressed and is used as the basis for Citizenship in all types of schools, including Academies and free schools. A GCSE qualification in Citizenship Studies is also available for pupils in key stage 4.

The DfE require maintained schools to publish the content of their school curriculum in each academic year for every subject – this includes mandatory subjects such as Citizenship, even if it is taught as part of another subject or subjects, or is called something else. DfE also states that schools should list all the courses available to pupils at key stage 4, including GCSEs.

In primary education Citizenship is not statutory, but it has a KS1 and 2 programme of study that should be used as the basis for planning teaching. The DfE expects all schools to use this.

Ofsted inspect Citizenship provision under both the Quality of Education requirement and the Personal Development requirement. You may find it useful to read our guidance and explanatory notes on the programmes of study for Citizenship to help you meet the requirements of the National Curriculum.

There are different curricular arrangements for Citizenship in other parts of the UK because education is a devolved matter.  More details are available on the Five Nations Network website.

The overview by education phase

Early years and primary Citizenship

During the early years and primary education, Citizenship helps children’s social development enabling them to engage with others, develop their understanding of communities and society, and provides opportunities for responsible and active citizenship. The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation stage sets out the basis for early years education.

In primary education, Citizenship has a non-statutory DfE National Framework with a programme of study. This sets out the knowledge, understanding and skills that should be taught and the DfE expect all schools to use this. Children in this phase are also encouraged to take part in active citizenship.

Secondary Citizenship

In secondary education, Citizenship is a statutory National Curriculum foundation subject with a programme of study at key stages 3 and 4. All schools who provide a broad and balanced curriculum should use this as the basis for planning and teaching Citizenship. A GCSE in Citizenship Studies is available to recognise pupil achievement.

ACT has produced a guide for secondary schools in England to help schools ensure political impartiality when teaching Citizenship. You can download the guide here.

Post-16 Citizenship

Schools and colleges can continue to provide Citizenship in post-16 education and training. The aim should be to build on prior learning, to continue to develop student’s subject knowledge and their experiences of active citizenship. There are a range of qualifications that offer ways to continue the subject and give students recognition for their attainment. 

There are also opportunities to develop Citizenship as part of enrichment and the National Citizen Service programme.