Improving the National Curriculum for Citizenship

Whilst Citizenship has remained a National Curriculum subject at secondary level, the proportion of schools subject to the National Curriculum (local authority controlled) has declined rapidly with the growth of academies and free schools. 

Moreover, the Programmes of Study which have been in place since 2015 put a stronger emphasis on constitutional history and volunteerism, and are weaker on active citizenship and involvement in the political process.

The regulatory focus on the new English Baccalaureate has meant a narrowing of the subject focus in many schools – not all National Curriculum subjects are treated equally.

From 2001-10, the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study, run by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and funded by the Department for Education, what invaluable in assessing the quality and impact of citizenship education, and helping to raise standards.  There is currently no national evaluation study, and this makes it extremely difficult to support schools to improve provision.  The findings of the longitudinal study[1] had shown that where citizenship education was taught regularly and consistently from a young age through to 18, planned by coordinators trained in Citizenship, taught by specialist teachers, and included planned assessment, whether through GCSE or another means, it had the greatest impact on young peoples’ confidence, engagement with local issues, future voting behaviour, and future participation in their community. Yet bursaries to train new citizenship teachers have been cut, and there is little support for training current teachers.  Numbers of specialist citizenship teachers continue to decline.

Support for organisations like the Citizenship Foundation, which provides resources, training and advice to teachers on citizenship education, has been withdrawn – and we now have to charge schools to help cover costs.  With school budgets increasingly focused on the English Baccalaureate, many schools struggle to pay despite wanting our support.

Young Citizens is calling for:

·       The National Curriculum to include Citizenship at both Primary and Secondary level.

·       All schools to be required to teach Citizenship for all pupils – we should no more think it acceptable to exclude a pupil from Citizenship as we would to exclude them from mathematics.

·       The Programmes of Study for Citizenship to include a greater emphasis on active citizenship and political involvement, rather than just constitutional knowledge and volunteerism.

A properly funded evaluation programme, to help schools improve the quality of Citizenship taught as part of the National Curriculum.