Select Committee on Education and Skills Second Report

2  Introduction

4. Citizenship education was introduced into the school curriculum in 2002. This inquiry was motivated by a desire to assess progress four years on—and six years on from the point where schools were encouraged to begin planning for its introduction. During the inquiry, many of those who gave evidence to us were clearly convinced of the potential value of citizenship education both to young people themselves, and to the communities they grow up in. Our principal aim and intention has been to examine the barriers that exist to successful implementation, and to suggest what needs to happen to ensure that the inspiring experiences enjoyed by what is probably still a minority of young people can become a realistic expectation for all.

The Crick Report

5. In July 1997, the Labour Government pledged in the White Paper, Excellence in Schools to strengthen education for citizenship and the teaching of democracy. Following this, an Advisory Group on Citizenship was established, which Professor Sir Bernard Crick was asked to head. The final report of the Advisory Group—Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools—was published in September 1998. The report advocated a three-pronged approach to citizenship education, covering: knowledge and understanding; skills of enquiry and communication; and participation and responsible action. The Advisory Group's detailed proposals on the form and content of a National Curriculum for citizenship were largely adopted by the Government and the subject became compulsory in September 2002 for secondary schools, at which time it also became part of the non-statutory framework for primary schools.


6. Along with greater engagement with the formal processes of democracy, many hoped the introduction of citizenship education would lead to positive changes in young people's attitudes, behaviours and dispositions—leading for example to lower levels of disengagement and anti-social behaviour, as well as increased participation in the formal and informal institutions of society. Some also suggested that it would play a role in bringing about improvements in the life of the school—for example, less bullying—as well as higher attainment levels.

7. Dr Dina Kiwan of Birkbeck College, University of London, told us that her research suggested those who were involved in the introduction of citizenship education saw the move as motivated by a number of factors. These were, in decreasing order of importance: the political apathy of young people; society in moral crisis; democratic crisis/low voter turnout; legal changes (eg Europe and the Human Rights Act); diversity and immigration issues; a move away from a "standards-driven" approach to education; and finally, a renegotiation between "citizen" and "state".[1]

What is citizenship education?

8. Citizenship education during the compulsory phase of education has a clear basis in the statutory National Curriculum for citizenship at secondary level, and the non-statutory guidelines for citizenship and Personal, social and health education at primary level. There are three key strands to the National Curriculum for Citizenship. They are:

9. The DfES further describes three key aptitudes and behaviours that citizenship education is designed to encourage. These are:

"Social and Moral Responsibility: Learning self-confidence and socially and morally responsible behaviour both in and beyond the classroom, both towards those in authority and each other;

"Community Involvement: Learning about and becoming helpfully involved in the life and concerns of their communities, including learning through community involvement and service; and

"Political Literacy: Learning about the institutions, problems and practices of our democracy and how to make themselves effective in the life of the nation, locally, regionally and nationally through skills and values as well as knowledge".[3]

10. From the outset, the DfES has deliberately adopted a "light touch" approach to citizenship education, allowing schools a very high degree of freedom in terms of delivery, avoiding prescriptive models. For example, when the curriculum was launched, guidance stressed that citizenship could be delivered as discrete units, during special "citizenship days" where the regular timetable was suspended, in an embedded form through other subjects such as history, geography or even maths, or any combination of these methods. Additionally, provision could take the form of organised activities which encouraged active participation; for example, working with local community organisations to achieve an identified goal, such as the improvement of local play facilities or other community services.

11. To a large extent, the principle of this guidance stands, although subject reports on citizenship from Ofsted and from other sources now frequently suggest that an approach that chooses one method only is likely to be less successful than one that takes a more comprehensive approach. The "light touch" approach has led to a wide variety of practice on the ground. We say more about the consequences of this approach in section three of this report, which focuses on implementation, and in section four, which focuses on the responsibilities of the DfES, its associated bodies, and ministers.

12. At the post-16 level, citizenship education is not defined by a National Curriculum as such. The impetus for post-16 work was the second Crick report, Citizenship for 16-19- year-olds in Education and Training, which was commissioned by the Government in 1999 and was published in 2000.[4] While supported at the national level by a co-ordination and development unit run by the Learning and Skills Network (LSN), and curriculum guidance from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, programmes in the post-16 phase are by nature voluntary and highly flexible, with a strong emphasis on responding to the local context.

13. During our inquiry into Citizenship Education, the discipline often seemed quite difficult to define. There are three main reasons for this: firstly, citizenship in itself is a complex and contested concept—with many different perspectives on what is most important for its effective development and expression; secondly, and as discussed above, schools, colleges and others have been allowed a greater degree of freedom in developing their citizenship education programmes than is the case with any other subject. In consequence, this has meant that different institutions have legitimately (and some would argue, necessarily) taken very different approaches to delivery, so "citizenship education" in one context can look very different than in another.

14. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, citizenship education is often described as a "subject plus"—an indication that it differs in important ways from other curriculum subjects. Chris Waller of the Association for Citizenship Teaching offered his own perspective on what this meant in practice:

"I think there has been a realisation that the goal of citizenship is something that is different, as indeed [Sir] Bernard [Crick] set out in his original intent about a massive change in the way in which society functions and how young people particularly engage with society. The realisation set within that is that this is not just another subject that is to be taught, like a different version of maths or science or English, but something that impinges upon the whole way in which schools function and it is about a bridge between young people, their schools, their families and their communities and that means there needs to be a much more sophisticated response to this."[5]

15. As has been argued by many during the course of our inquiry, citizenship education is about more than knowledge—it is a skill which can be developed and applied only through active participation. At their best, good citizenship education programmes clearly involve whole school action—including engagement with local, national and global communities, and the exploration of new, more participative forms of school or college management. We say more about this in section three, on implementation, below.

The value of citizenship education

16. At the beginning of our inquiry, we asked Professor Sir Bernard Crick whether he thought the introduction of citizenship education was producing tangible benefits. He told us that he thought it was "too early to judge" the relative success or otherwise of citizenship against the original aims, noting that no cohort had experienced citizenship education throughout an entire school career—or even through an entire secondary school career.[6] This seems to us a crucial point.

17. Throughout evidence-taking, we have heard inspiring accounts of cases where citizenship education is making a positive difference to individuals, the life of the school, or to the wider community. Most of this evidence has been based on personal experience. Dr Dina Kiwan spoke for many of those of whom we asked similar questions when she said:

"I do not think there is any strong empirical evidence which says that if we introduce citizenship education into schools we will get these certain educational or societal outcomes. My belief in citizenship education, which I guess is not based on research evidence, is the sense that it gives people a sense of empowerment and that they are connected with their larger community and they are empowered to make a change and contribution to their society. I would say, yes, I do think citizenship education has a place in our educational system, but, I am afraid, that cannot be supported by research evidence at this point."[7]

18. One area where witnesses have reported benefits is behaviour and attendance. Early on in our inquiry, we took evidence on an approach to citizenship education which had been taken in the Hampshire local authority area. John Clarke, representing the council, explained that the introduction of a Unicef-supported programme called Rights, Respect and Responsibilities had been associated with improved behaviour and fewer instances of bullying.[8],[9] Similarly, the Nuffield Foundation point to case-study evidence suggesting that citizenship education programmes can be used a 'hook' to attract and retain young people at the post-16 level:

"In the post-compulsory phase, citizenship has been used effectively as a core for courses which aim to attract young people, who have failed at school for a wide range of reasons, back into education. Kingston College's Pathfinder course is one example of the use of citizenship to restore young people's confidence particularly through active participation. These students are often following a GCSE course in the subject."[10]

19. Others have told us that they suspect quality citizenship education provision can have a positive impact on overall attainment. Keith Ajegbo, then Head Teacher of Deptford Green School, told us that in his opinion, the two were most probably positively linked:

"The bottom line was we felt that by giving children a greater sense of their rights, their self-esteem and hopefully making them more responsible, we would raise achievement. We have done insofar as over the four years we have moved from 33% to 54%, five As-Cs. While you cannot say it is only through citizenship, it is some evidence that we have more participation in good learning in the school. There was also a lot of evidence that those pupils are committing less crime out of school. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that if you are working towards good exam results, because you feel that is going to further empower you, then you are less likely to get involved in things out of school. I think there will be a correlation".[11] […] "My personal view is that providing children with a voice, certainly at Key Stage 4, engaging them in what they are doing and making education relevant, is the way to break the plateau of achievement which we are beginning to arrive at."[12]

20. It is apparent that an academically rigorous and truly conclusive body of evidence on the effects of the introduction of national curriculum citizenship education is still some way off. Currently, the National Foundation for Educational Research is contracted by the DfES to monitor the long-term impacts of the introduction of citizenship education, through its Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study project. The aims of this study, which began in 2001 and will run until 2009, are to "assess the short-term and long-term effects of citizenship education on the knowledge, skills and attitudes of young people".[13] It will follow a cohort of 18,000 young people from the ages of 11 through to 18 and will also survey their teachers.

21. It is too early to say with any degree of confidence whether citizenship education is producing the wide range of impacts originally hoped for. Initial evidence from small-scale studies and the experience of individual institutions is promising but on its own not enough. A large-scale study is being undertaken by the National Foundation for Educational Research to look specifically at this issue. This project needs continued strong support from the Government and a sustained involvement and progress reports from Ofsted.

22. We have heard anecdotal evidence of cases where citizenship education programmes appear to have been positively correlated with raising attainment. We are clear that citizenship education has value in and of itself, and recognise the risks of seeing it as 'just another school improvement strategy'. There is nevertheless a strong case for more systematic research into the link between the quality of provision and attainment levels in general, the results of which may prove an effective way of selling citizenship education to the small proportion of school leaders who still see it as an optional extra. As far as we are aware, there is currently no research underway to examine the links between citizenship education and general attainment; we recommend that the DfES should remedy this.

Belonging and integration in the spotlight

23. Since the publication of the Crick report and the introduction of National Curriculum citizenship education, several tragic events have occurred—including the terrorist bombings on London's transport network on the 7 July 2005—which have in some quarters been interpreted as a sign that society is coming unstuck at the edges and is increasingly lacking ties that bind all citizens together.

24. Allied to this, there has been renewed public and political scrutiny of the concept of "Britishness", and debate on the issue of whether a shared British identity and British values should be more vigorously promoted as a "uniting force" for society. Inevitably, this has led to equally intense debates about what constitutes "Britishness" and what British values really are. In 2006, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, made two speeches calling for the promotion of a reinvigorated British identity, based on common values. Speaking to the Fabian Society in January 2006, he said:

"[…] it is to our benefit to be more explicit about what we stand for and what are our objectives and that we will meet and master all challenges best by finding shared purpose as a country in our enduring British ideals that I would summarise as—in addition to our qualities of creativity, inventiveness, enterprise and our internationalism, our central beliefs are a commitment to—liberty for all, responsibility by all and fairness to all."[14]

25. In parallel there has been much controversy over the concept of multiculturalism, with some—notably Trevor Philips of the Commission for Racial Equality—arguing that multiculturalism as commonly understood is not always helpful because it privileges cultural difference and underplays the shared values which cut across Britain's ethnic and religious groups. Most recently, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has called for a more nuanced approach to shared values and difference:

"Our cultural identity and difference must be balanced with a clear understanding of a shared humanity and membership of one world. […] We need other human beings to help us be human. We are made for interdependence, for complementarity. Our commitment as communities to promote understanding and justice will create harmony longed for by all […]. Multi-ethnic harmony isn't the absence of conflict between different ethnic groups in the UK." [15]

26. The DfES say in written evidence that:

"Citizenship education is key to building a modern, cohesive British society. Never has it been more important for us to teach our young people about our shared values of fairness, civic responsibility, respect for democracy and respect for ethnic and cultural diversity. […] [it] remains a dynamic subject which responds to issues concerning society and how these come about."[16]

27. It is hard to disagree with this statement. While we recognise that citizenship education is about more than issues of integration and social cohesion, it does have at its heart a commitment to enabling young people to participate fully in a democracy, and ultimately, securing a cohesive and inclusive society. In particular, it has a role to play in developing the skills for effective community relations, in developing shared identities, and safe ways in which to express difference. We explore this issue further in the following section on the curriculum review of British history and diversity, and in section three with regard to teacher training.

Curriculum review—British history and diversity

28. On 15 May 2006, Bill Rammell, Minister of State for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, announced that the DfES was commissioning a review of National Curriculum citizenship's coverage of diversity issues and how modern British cultural and social history might be incorporated into the citizenship curriculum. At the same time, he also announced a review of university teaching of Islam. These announcements were made during a speech to London South Bank University about action the Government was planning to take based on the review of the events leading up to the July 2005 London terrorist attacks.[17]

29. The Minister subsequently announced that he had invited Keith Ajegbo, then head of Deptford Green School, to carry out the review, which would look at:

"[…] how the National Curriculum is covering diversity issues to meet the needs of all pupils. It will also look at how we can incorporate modern British cultural and social history into the citizenship curriculum within our secondary schools."[18]

The review group's report was published on 25 January 2007. It made a range of recommendations relating to the teaching of diversity across the curriculum. Specifically with regard to the proposals to incorporate more British social and cultural history into the curriculum, it concluded that:

"A fourth "strand" should be explicitly developed, entitled Identity and Diversity: Living Together in the UK. This strand will bring together three conceptual components:

  • Critical thinking about ethnicity, religion and race.
  • An explicit link to political issues and values.
  • The use of contemporary history in teachers' pedagogy to illuminate thinking about contemporary issues relating to citizenship."[19]

30. We took evidence throughout our inquiry, which ran concurrently with the Ajegbo review, on the proposals as we understood them—namely, that the citizenship curriculum may be augmented to include more elements of British cultural and social history, in the context of a concern to strengthen a shared sense of belonging; and that diversity issues may need to be covered more adequately in the school curriculum, including in citizenship education. Broadly speaking, our findings support those of Sir Keith Ajegbo.

31. Witnesses often expressed passionate views when we asked them whether they would support changing the curriculum so that it had more of a focus on British cultural and social history—particularly if this was used as means of engendering a sense of national belonging. Raji Hunjan of Carnegie Young People Initiative, argued that a focus on Britishness per se may be misplaced and unhelpful, risked isolating some young people who may not define themselves principally as "British", and would also obfuscate the current worthwhile focus on experiential learning and participation:

"It is then more experiential learning, which I completely agree with, it is about ensuring that the views of young people can positively feed into decision-making. I think that the Government would be better off supporting that and supporting young people to understand their rights and responsibilities as active citizens, rather than forcing them to think about issues of Britishness, which conflicts with other ways in which they might see themselves."[20]

Others stressed practical concerns as well as ideological ones. For example, the Association for Citizenship Teaching wrote to us after the announcement by the Secretary of State, saying that adding a "fourth pillar" of British social and cultural history was unnecessary and risked overburdening teachers:

"Careful study of the Citizenship Programme of Study at Key Stages 3 and 4 and also the Crick report would support the contention that there is already enough flexibility in the current curriculum to address the concerns of ministers. The current curriculum was clearly designed to address matters of justice, human rights, fairness and also to enable discussion about identity, rights, respect and responsibility. As such an additional leg is not required—especially one that would require another set of complex and as yet undefined information to be learned by the citizenship teacher and imparted to the pupil. Things are not as simple as Bill Rammell implied in his speech […] in terms of diversity and identity ACT would contend that Citizenship is already enabling discussion about being a citizen in Britain without imposing definitions of Britishness".[21]

32. Some took a more positive view on the proposal to focus more closely on British social and cultural history in the curriculum but showed variation in respect of whether they thought the citizenship curriculum in particular was the correct place for this. Also, they differed in respect of what they saw as the ultimate aims of such a move. Professor Linda Colley of Princeton University told us:

"It seems to me that what we are dealing with is not just a matter for schools. People in all societies, at all times, tend to need a narrative, I think, a story to tell themselves which puts their short, individual life in a wider, more meaningful context, and the need for such a narrative is enhanced if you come from a disruptive background, or if you live in a time of immense change. In the past, in this country, we had a very strong narrative […]. A lot of these modes of implanting a narrative in the people of these islands either no longer work or they do not operate very powerfully, if at all. […] if we do not think about tailoring a [new] narrative that works, that can encompass the many different peoples that live in these islands then the danger is, of course, that they may go out and find their own narrative which is not one we will find very happy."[22]

Professor David Conway of Civitas told us he was in favour of reintroducing a strong, narrative version of history into the school curriculum, which did not shy away from emphasising the historical achievements of Britain and which would provide a common source of identity for all students:

"[T]here is a deeper commonality, a commonality of interest, and a nation, a political society, [it] is one where the common ground and the common good and the common interest take primacy. This is what needs to be purveyed by means of citizenship education. This historically was what was done through British narrative history until it got deconstructed and swept aside in the 1960s through progressive education. I am glad to see that the Government has woken up to the need to remarry its concerns about civics and civility and citizenship with the teaching, and proper teaching, of British narrative history."[23]

33. The Government has indicated that it accepts Sir Keith Ajegbo's recommendation for the development of a fourth strand of the citizenship curriculum. We support his proposals that many different aspects of British social, cultural and indeed political history should be used as points of entry in the citizenship curriculum to engage students in discussing the nature of citizenship and its responsibility in 21st century Britain.

34. Such coverage should rightly touch on what is distinctive in the inheritance and experience of contemporary Britain and the values of our society today. But it should not be taken to imply an endorsement of any single explanation of British values or history. Indeed, it should emphasise the way in which those values connect to universal human rights, and recognise that critical and divergent perspectives, as well as the potential to have alternative and different layers of identity, are a central part of what contemporary Britishness is.

35. If such changes are to work in practice, Government must recognise its responsibilities to resource teachers and school leaders and to clarify the curriculum. Citizenship is still a young subject very much in the process of "bedding down" and gaining support among teachers and school leaders. We agree with Sir Keith Ajegbo that it will be crucially important for the Government to communicate clearly with the teaching profession about what it is doing and why, and about how any new material fits with what is already there. Care also needs to be taken that the introduction of more knowledge-based content does not reduce space for active learning and the 'participative' strand of citizenship education. The proper resourcing of ITT and CPD in citizenship for teachers will be central to the success of these new elements. We recommend that the National College of School Leadership be more closely involved in engaging with these changes and in incorporating the challenges of citizenship education in its training programmes and other initiatives.

36. The question of strengthening the curriculum's focus on diversity—of allegiances, identifications and opinions—is of course intimately linked to the debate above about British history and belonging. As both Sir Keith Ajegbo's report and the DfES note, the citizenship curriculum already provides some scope for teaching about the cultural diversity of the UK; however, it is unclear to what extent this is translated into practice in schools. Scott Harrison of Ofsted told us:

"What we are finding is more teaching of what you might perceive as the central political literacy/government/voting/law area than, for example, the diversity of the UK, the EU, the Commonwealth, which are somewhat neglected, I think, because some of them are perceived to be dull and some of them are particularly sensitive areas that some teachers go to with great reluctance. I am talking about, for example, the diversity of the UK, which in the Order says, the 'regional, national, religious, ethnic diversity of Britain'. Some people find that difficult to teach."[24]

This accords with the findings of the Ajegbo review, which states:

"Issues of identity and diversity are more often than not neglected in citizenship education. When these issues are referred to, coverage is often unsatisfactory and lacks contextual depth."[25]

37. Bernadette Joslin, of the Learning and Skills Network said that in order to discuss difficult or sensitive issues related to identity, religious and ethnic diversity, staff needed support on how to manage those discussions: "that is a priority, I am sure, for pre-16 colleagues as well as post-16 colleagues. Staff feel quite anxious about it and lacking in confidence."[26] Similarly, Chris Waller, Association for Citizenship Teaching, argued that he thought "Citizenship [provided] an opportunity to think about lots of different issues, controversial issues, the grey areas in life, but these require the right skills and time for the teacher to explore them in a meaningful way". [27] Tom Wylie of the National Youth Agency echoed these concerns:

"I do raise the question, do we think that in the most challenging circumstances we have sufficient teachers with sufficient competence to handle those issues of identity and value, and to do so in such a way as protects what may be, in some circumstances, a pretty small minority of children in that particular classroom, who, for whatever reason, may not be part of the majority? That was why I paused, about how far one should push some of these things into our system."[28]

38. The issue of identities and belonging can be challenging and sensitive for students and teachers alike; meaningful and productive discussions are more likely to take place if teachers have appropriate training in this area. As the Government takes forward the recommendations of the Ajegbo report, it will be crucial that it develops concrete plans as to how it will equip those teachers and lecturers to deal with the teaching of these often challenging issues on the ground.

39. Teachers in training spend a large proportion of their time in schools. If there is not good practice in those particular schools, there may be little opportunity to develop the skills and confidence needed to lead constructive discussions about identity and difference. Teaching diversity, belonging and place in society without relating it to the daily life experiences or observations of students risks at best apathy and at worse a rejection of those key elements of the curriculum. We recommend that far more use is made of the opportunities provided by activities outside the classroom—as well as discrete events such as Holocaust Memorial Day or this year's commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade—to stimulate this.[29]

1   Ev 119 Back

2   Adapted from National Curriculum Online Key Stage 3 Curriculum, Back

3   Ev 157 Back

4   Further Education Funding Council/Department for Education and Employment, Citizenship for 16-19-year-olds in Education and Training: Report of the Advisory Group to the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, 2000. Back

5   Q 83 Back

6   Q 17 Back

7   Q 397 Back

8   Q 65 Back

9   In written evidence, John Clarke notes that academic evaluation of the Rights, Respect and Responsibility (RRR) programme has been carried out by Canadian academics. This showed that where schools had implemented the work seriously, a range of improved outcomes had followed, including better behaviour, less bullying and fewer exclusions (see Ev 12). Back

10   Ev 215 Back

11   Q 68 Back

12   Q 81 Back

13   Ev 254 Back

14   Speech by Gordon Brown to the Fabian Society, The Future of Britishness, 14 January 2006. See also speech to the Labour Party Annual Conference, 25 September 2006. Back

15   Quoted in Newsquest Media Group Newspapers press notice "Saris 'not way to harmony''", 1 February 2007. Back

16   Ev 157 Back

17   Speech by Bill Rammell to London South Bank University, Community Cohesion, 15 May 2006, Back

18   Ibid. Back

19   Sir Keith Ajegbo et. al., Curriculum Review: Diversity and Citizenship, January 2007, DfES, p 12 Back

20   Q 206 Back

21   Letter from Association for Citizenship Teaching to Lord Andrew Adonis, copied to the Committee, not printed.  Back

22   Q 392 Back

23   Sir Keith Ajegbo et. al., Curriculum Review: Diversity and Citizenship, January 2007, DfES, p 7.


24   Q 25 Back

25   Sir Keith Ajegbo et. al. Curriculum Review: Diversity and Citizenship, 25 January 2007 Back

26   Q 106 Back

27   Q 107 Back

28   Q 222 Back

29   This includes greater use of and linkage with the resources provided by organisations such as the Holocaust Educational Trust who gave a good example in their written evidence to us of how these connections can be made:

"The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2007 is 'The Dignity of Difference' which will emphasise the other victims of the Holocaust as well as the Jews. This will provide an excellent opportunity within a citizenship framework for students to consider the diversity of identities […] schools will be able to encourage mutual respect amongst their students and to challenge inequality and discrimination." (Ev 281) Back

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