We believe that every young person – no matter who they are, or what their background – has a right to the opportunities to learn and practice what it takes to be an active, engaged and motivated citizen.
The best way to nurture democratic society is by equipping citizens with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to be active, engaged and motivated in society. Today’s generation of young people need help and support from politicians and decision makers, the education sector, civil society, and their families to develop into active citizens.
But the sad reality is that Citizenship is withering on the vine in many schools, and too many young people are leaving school ill-equipped to take on leadership roles within their communities.
Our core campaign goal is that there should be a national consensus on the vital need for every young person to be able to learn and practice being active citizens.
To achieve this, we are calling for:
- Every school to be required to teach Citizenship.
Although Citizenship is in the National Curriculum at secondary level, academies and free schools are not required to follow the National Curriculum – and they drop Citizenship.
- Citizenship to be included in the National Curriculum for primary schools
At the moment, it is excluded from the primary school National Curriculum. Yet primary school children are eager to understand their world and to learn how they can make a difference. Citizenship education should begin from the start of school.
- Ofsted in England (and Estyn in Wales, the ETI in Northern Ireland, and Education Scotland) to inspect the quality of Citizenship teaching, and should help schools to raise the standards
Ofsted stopped reviewing Citizenship after 2010. As the regulator of standards, Ofsted has a big influence on what schools focus on. By removing the role of Ofsted, schools find it harder to focus on Citizenship, and the quality of teaching has slipped.
- Proper funding for civil society to support Citizenship education for young people
Almost all funding to support citizenship organisations in their work with young people has been withdrawn. This is short-sighted, as organisations such as Young Citizens can provide the help which teachers need to provide high quality citizenship education.
Automatic voter registration for young people, and consideration of lowering the voting age to 16
Evidence from the Scottish referendum was that, with the voting age lowered to 16, many young people took part in the debate and the vote. Wider evidence is that if people get into the habit when they are young of voting, this is likely to stay with them throughout their lives. But it needs to be supported with high quality citizenship education to help young people exercise their democratic rights.
- A re-appraisal of the rights and responsibilities of citizens in the UK, especially in the context of Brexit
Brexit is not just about the economic future of the UK; it is also about what kind of society we want to be and particularly, what the compact should be between individuals and the state. There should be a wide-ranging debate about what it will mean to be a citizen in post-Brexit Britain: what our rights should be, but also what our responsibilities should be.