Why teach citizenship?

Citizenship is a statutory national curriculum subject

There are many reasons to teach citizenship.

  • For a start, it is required by UK government since 1 July 2015 (for private schools).
  • It is an ideal tool for exploring British values, also required by the UK Government.
  • It builds character and develops soft skills that employers are crying out for, such as communication, initiative, social interaction and teamwork.
  • As well as elements of citizenship education appear in many subjects such as English, history and maths which influence a school’s SMSC outcomes.

But citizenship education is more than that.

Whilst many parts of the school experience can contribute to creating an active citizen, citizenship education can specifically address these challenges.

The Ties that Bind – House of Lords Citizenship Report, 2018

Citizenship is the only subject in the national curriculum that teaches about the way democracy, politics, the economy and the law work.

It’s the job of the education system to prepare our young people for the challenges and opportunities of a changing world.

Rekha Bhakoo CBE, Headteacher, Newton Farm School (Outstanding rated by Ofsted)

Democracies depend upon citizens who, among other things, are:

  • aware of their rights and responsibilities as citizens
  • informed about the social and political world
  • concerned about the welfare of others
  • articulate in their opinions and arguments
  • capable of having an influence on the world
  • active in their communities
  • responsible in how they act as citizens.

These attributes of a citizen do not develop unaided. They have to be learnt. While a certain amount of citizenship may be picked up through ordinary experience in the home or at work, it can never in itself be sufficient to equip citizens for the sort of active role required of them in today’s complex and diverse society.

If citizens are to become genuinely involved in public life and affairs, a more explicit approach to citizenship education is required. This approach should be:

  • Inclusive: An entitlement for all young people regardless of their ability or background
  • Pervasive: Not limited to schools but an integral part of all education for young people
  • Lifelong: Continuing throughout life.

Citizenship Education teaches SMSC, Public Legal Education (PLE), and Social Action.

Why is SMSC important?

  • Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development is the over-arching umbrella that encompasses personal development across the whole curriculum.
  • SMSC development is a key factor in supporting young people’s academic progress. It doesn’t happen in isolation – it saturates through the school and is linked to everything the school does, its ethos and attitude.
  • It needs to be supported and articulated by school leaders and governors and should be visible in all day-to-day decisions and relationships.

Why is PLE important?

  • Public Legal Education (PLE) provides people with awareness, knowledge and understanding of rights and legal issues. It promotes the confidence and skills necessary to deal with disputes and gain knowledge of legal culture.
  • It helps people feel confidence in the rule of law, our legal justice system, and that the principle of equality before the law is being upheld – all of which are foundation stones of our democratic society.
  • It ranges from broad-based on-going education about legal matters (Just-in-Case PLE) – delivered through formal education systems as well as informal education – to education, information and tools for individuals or groups most likely be facing a specific legal issue (Just-in-Time PLE).

Why is Social action important?

  • Social action involves individuals coming together to address a societal problem or issue important to their local, national or global community.
  • It involves people giving their time and other resources for the common good, as they hope to help improve lives and tackle inequality or injustice. Activities vary based on the social issue, but can range from volunteering, raising awareness, community-organising, social enterprise or simple neighbourly acts.
  • Young Citizens is an authoritative voice on youth social action, and we’ve facilitated exemplar programmes for more than a decade. We were recently awarded the Impact Accelerator award by Generation Change for our outstanding education interventions.

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