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About Citizenship

Citizenship education develops knowledge, skills and understanding that pupils need to play a full part in society as active and responsible citizens.

What is Citizenship education?

Citizenship education is a school subject that develops knowledge, skills and understanding that pupils need to play a full part in democratic society, as active and responsible citizens. Pupils are taught about democracy, politics, parliament and voting. They also learn about human rights, justice, the law, media and information literacy, climate change and sustainability, personal finance and the economy. Political literacy is developed alongside the skills of active citizenship through practical opportunities to address issues of concern by taking different forms of responsible, democratic action and campaigning. Throughout the subject teaching is brought to life using real, topical issues and case studies in local to global contexts.

What must be taught?

Primary schools in England are expected to teach Citizenship by following the non-statutory curriculum framework . Published by the DfE , this should be used to plan citizenship provision in key stages 1 and 2. Whereas, in secondary schools, Citizenship is a statutory National Curriculum foundation subject. The Citizenship programmes of study  set out what schools must address in teaching to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills required by the national curriculum. The GCSE Citizenship Studies contains the content and assessment for preparing students for this qualification. Citizenship education can continue post-16 through the study of qualifications such as Politics, Law and Sociology at A level and as part of enrichment activities in sixth-forms and colleges.

In the other parts of the UK there are different arrangements in the curriculum for Citizenship education. See the Five Nations website.  

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.

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. Today, 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 produced a report, sometimes known as the ‘Crick report‘ that recommended citizenship education be introduced and is underpinned by three principle aims to develop: social and moral responsibility, political literacy and community involvement.

The report was accepted in full by government and Citizenship became a statutory National Curriculum foundation subject from 2002. The Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) was founded in 2001 to support teachers and everyone engaged in providing high quality citizenship teaching  in schools.

Launching Citizenship in 2002

Citizenship became a statutory National Curriculum subject in England in 2002, and this was when the first National Curriculum was published with a programme of study that sets out what schools need to address in their teaching. The programme of study was reviewed in 2007, for first teaching in 2008. Then again in 2013, for first teaching in 2014.  

During the most recent review, a coalition called Democratic Life set up a campaign to ensure there was continued and widespread support for Citizenship in the National Curriculum. The campaign was successful and Citizenship continues as a statutory National Curriculum subject in secondary schools today. 

A student view of the importance of Citizenship

Through Citizenship we start to really understand how vital the right to political action is and how to get our views across and tell our stories in the most effective way.