Government response on citizenship education “too timid”, says Young Citizens

The Government has today published its Response to the House of Lords Select Committee’s recent report on Citizenship and Civic Engagement (published earlier this year).  The report had called for a new statutory citizenship entitlement for all school pupils at both primary and secondary schools.

Whilst the Government’s Response makes a strong case for the importance of citizenship education for every young person in the UK, it fails to follow through on concrete action to address the parlous state of citizenship education which most children and young people are actually receiving.

Tom Franklin, Chief Executive of Young Citizens, commented,

“This Response from the Government is simply too timid.  Of course, we’re pleased that the Government makes clear how important it views high quality citizenship education and opportunities for helping children and young people be active citizens.  But the Lords Report was very frank: solid action was needed to address the structural and systemic reasons for the parlous state of citizenship education in many schools.  The Response from the Government avoids the measures that the Committee recommended to address this.”

The Government’s Response states that,

“A high quality citizenship curriculum helps to provide pupils with knowledge, skills and understanding to prepare them to play a full and active part in society as responsible citizens….We want all pupils to understand democracy, government and how laws are made and to understand the different ways that citizens can work together to improve their communities and society.  We want children and young people to use this understanding to become constructive, active citizens.”

However the Response does not address, or rejects, the Lords Committee’s recommendations that to achieve this:

  • There should be a statutory entitlement to citizenship education from primary to the end of secondary education.
  • This should be inspected by Ofsted to ensure the quantity and quality of provision.
  • Citizenship education should be a priority subject for teacher training, with bursaries for applicants.
  • Urgent action should be taken to step up programmes of Continuing Professional Development for those willing to take on and lead citizenship education in their school.
  • Ofsted should undertake a review of the current provision and quality of citizenship education in schools and highlight best practice.

The one recommendation on citizenship education which the Government has accepted is that citizenship teachers should be able to apply to be Specialist Leaders of Education – which Young Citizens supports.

Tom Franklin continued,

“At a time when our democratic society and institutions are under such threat, it should be a national priority to ensure every single young person leaves school equipped to be active, engaged citizens.  This is not a time for timidity.  We will keep working to persuade the Government to turn its support for citizenship into the practical steps needed.”

A copy of the report can be downloaded here