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29th Mar 2022 5:24pm News

Panel discussion highlights: work to do, but hope for the future

The Citizenship education community’s assessment after 20 years as a foundation subject.

Panel discussion highlights: work to do, but hope for the future

Work to do, but hope for the future: the Citizenship education community’s assessment after 20 years as a foundation subject

On Thursday, 24 March, ACT hosted an online panel discussion about the importance of delivering effective Citizenship education in schools to equip young people for the challenges of the future. We heard a variety of perspectives and asked attendees to think about, and contribute thoughts on the challenges and opportunities for the subject over its next 20 years.

How can Citizenship education ensure students are equipped to face future challenges?

Michelle Codrington-Rogers, former President of NASUWT and experienced Citizenship teacher, stated that Citizenship lessons are more important than simply preparing students to vote.

“The way our young people can make a difference is beyond putting a cross in the ballot box…teaching them to be activists. We need them to be involved with small ‘p’ politics, as they will get frustrated with big ‘P’ Politics.”

Professor Bryony Hoskins, whose research looks at political engagement and the social gap, made the point that we need to ensure young people see that activism is important, but in order to make changes we also need to work with formal representative politics. She highlighted the need for schools to be teaching young people the skills of resilience, to ensure they bounce back from the frustrations of the systems they must work within.

Leading up to the panel event, Baroness Morris of Yardley, Member of the Houses of Lords, and former Education Secretary, said it was important to support Citizenship education over the next 20 years because,

“Making sure that every citizen can play a full role in our society is going to continue to be very important. However, with the changes in technology and communication, this is going to become an even greater challenge.”

Discussions around the challenges young people face and the changes to curriculum content highlighted media literacy, climate change and impartiality as key areas to develop. Teachers are looking for support to ensure they give students the safe space to discuss topical issues, in a way that encourages agency.

What are the key challenges for the subject?

Time, resources and recognition were cited as the main challenges by the panel and online audience. Hoskins noted the biggest challenge was that not all young people are receiving Citizenship Education and that there is a huge variation in what is being received. Hoskins said on average, schools in the most deprived areas receive the least amount of Citizenship education; people from disadvantaged backgrounds vote less and have less of a say in who is leading us.

Alfie Brookes, Fair Education Alliance Youth Steering group member and trainee primary school teacher, spoke on the importance of primary Citizenship education and primary teachers being  trained in citizenship skills, not just reacting to global issues when they occur.

Across our audience survey and subject pledges, the following were picked up as ways to ensure the quality of provision and growth of the Citizenship subject over the next 20 years:

  • More investment in Citizenship teacher education, both initial teacher training and ongoing CPD;
  • Build the evidence base for the subject to exemplify the value and impact it has, and raise it’s profile with leaders;
  • Work with Ofsted, DfE and politicians to make Citizenship a priority

Vic Goddard, Co-Principal of Passmores Academy in Essex, expressed the curriculum pressures felt as a headteacher, while balancing the tension of shaping students to be empathetic community members, while achieving demanding exam results. He highlighted a priority for the Citizenship community.

“Make head teachers understand the impact of Citizenship not only on community, but on exam results; on the confidence of young people and their willingness to push themselves forward because Citizenship has a unique space in that in lots of ways.”

Panellists concluded on the need to celebrate the unique value of the subject, to lobby and ensure there is a  specialist teacher in every school, and ensure the subject is grounded in academia.

We are grateful to our co-chairs, Marcus Bhargava and Alife Brookes, as well as our panellists and audience members for all their contributions. ACT will use this discussion, and the views shared by our subject community, in its work to prioritise actions and help ensure the subject grows and deepens across primary and secondary school phases over the next 20 years.


We would like to know any more thoughts you may have following the discussion. Take 5 minutes to complete our subject pledge form and help us shape and support the future work of ACT. We value your views and thank you for taking the time to complete this.