Our History

How We Started

Young Citizens and its parent charity the Citizenship Foundation have their roots in the late 1960s, when a young Suffolk solicitor called Andrew Phillips (the Baron Philips of Sudbury, who sadly passed away in 2023) began to worry that young people were not learning enough about the law.

Click to view our story


The Rule of Law 

While they knew that they would be in trouble with the police if they broke the law, they seemed to know very little about the wider role of the legal system; in underpinning our democratic society; in protecting young and old alike and in holding to account everyone from our political leaders onwards.

So he wrote to the head teacher of a local school in his home town to express his concerns. He proposed a series of experimental lessons with pupils – led by himself, and the head teacher agreed. He would teach them about the law as it particularly affected young people.

The lessons were a great success, and the first steps were taken in creating what would become the Citizenship Foundation in 1989. Andrew, with the invaluable support of citizenship education pioneers Don Rowe and Tony Thorpe set about helping young people gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to become active, engaged motivated citizens.

Education for Citizenship

Each year we help tens of thousands of young people experience what it means to be an active citizen. This could be through taking part in our various educational resources or many citizenship experiences.

We also campaign for those in power to recognise that democracy cannot flourish unless everyone has the opportunity to learn how to become a citizen. We were instrumental in getting Citizenship into the national curriculum as a statutory subject.

We continue to lobby for government to give support to schools so that Citizenship is taught effectively.

But now there are even greater challenges for our young citizens, so we are changing to meet that need.

The birth of Young Citizens

We want to make it as easy as possible for schools and their students to understand and benefit from our programmes and services. In 2017, we surveyed teachers about how they thought we could best do this and about our brand. The answer we got back was clear: that it should be more focused on those we’re seeking to benefit – the young people themselves.

So in 2018 we launched Young Citizens as an umbrella brand for all of the work that we do for young people, especially in primary and secondary schools. While the official name of our charity remains The Citizenship Foundation, we will use Young Citizens as the brand to bring together and promote all our schools programmes.

We chose a vibrant, sparky and colourful look for the new brand – which reflects the exciting programmes that we run and our optimism that we can create a step-change in young people’s knowledge, skills and confidence to become positive, active citizens.


Suggested Next Steps: