The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century Contents

Chapter 3: Education—the key building block

88.One of the first steps on the civic journey is the education system. Education should help young people become active citizens once they understand their role within society and how they can go about improving it. Too often individuals are prevented from engaging because they feel they lack the skills or knowledge required. Whilst many parts of the school experience can contribute to creating an active citizen, citizenship education can specifically address these challenges.

The Importance of Citizenship

89.Citizenship education has a crucial role to play in helping to build active citizens. We have received large amounts of evidence stating that this is the case, from personal experience of teaching to academic studies. For example, Karl Sweeney told us:

“The centrality of Citizenship Education and PSHE69 in encouraging greater social cohesion, greater resilience and aspiration among young people and a thoughtful national narrative about Britishness and what a nation should be, cannot be over emphasised. In my 35 years in the education profession, this is the single most self-evident fact I have learned.”70

90.The Government funded Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study (CELS) found that citizenship teaching can have important positive effects on civic engagement. As Dr Avril Keating, Senior Lecturer at the UCL Institute of Education, told us, where students received a lot of citizenship teaching, they “were more likely to hold positive attitudes towards civic and political participation, and to feel that they could effect change in their communities and in the political sphere … These benefits could be seen even after they had left school and become young adults.”71

91.This study’s finding were not unique and the benefits of citizenship education can be seen across the globe. As Dr Keating explained:

“research studies from other countries … have shown that civic participation during adolescence can have a wide range of benefits, both for individuals and for societies. In particular, these studies have found that participation in civic activities can have a positive effect on young people’s civic dispositions such as tolerance, trust, civic knowledge, political activism, political efficacy, sense of commitment to the community, and self-esteem.”72

92.Citizenship education can also go some way toward mending the democratic inequality that exists in society. James Weinberg from the University of Sheffield told us:

“We have evidence showing that those in the top quintile for household income are five times more likely to participate in political activities than those in the lowest … Citizenship education can redress this balance. We have evidence … that citizenship education, where it is done effectively and consistently, can predict political efficacy, participation and levels of knowledge.”73

93.On a more practical level, citizenship education also gives young people skills that are useful for getting on in life, as James Weinberg described them: “the skills to do with critical debate and public speaking, which will set young people up for life”.74 Adding further emphasis to this point, preliminary research has suggested a link between participation in citizenship activities in schools (such as school councils and mock elections) and participation in community and political life are linked to higher educational attainment.75

94.The purpose of education is not simply to prepare people for the labour market. It is also important to educate citizens for a vibrant and cohesive society. Citizenship education properly taught does this.

A short history of citizenship education

95.Since 2002 citizenship education has been a part of the national curriculum in England for key stages 3 and 4 with an optional GCSE available in the subject.76 Citizenship education was formally introduced into the curriculum in England in 2002 following concerns about declining democratic involvement and worries about social decline.77 It was implemented in a variety of different ways across different schools. Some schools chose to combine it with teaching of Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) whilst others taught it as a stand-alone subject. There was also a wide variety of teaching methods and differing levels of training given to teachers who taught the subject.

96.There was a wide variety of quality in teaching after the initial introduction of citizenship education, as Dr Avril Keating explained:

“There was a bit of nervousness around making schools have something that was too formalised and too uniform, so schools had more autonomy to do what they wanted. This was a wonderful aspiration, but, in practice when it rolled out, school autonomy meant that good schools could do it well and bad schools just went, ‘Here’s a video, guys. That’s all you need to watch this week’ or, ‘We’re talking about drugs and sex education. That’s citizenship, and that’s all we need to do’.”78

97.However, over time the quality of citizenship education began to improve. It peaked between 2009 and 2011, as Scott Harrison, who was working in the Ofsted citizenship team at the time, told us: “two-thirds of schools had good provision and some had outstanding provision, but … [we were] already seeing a fall-back in the final year.”79

98.In 2013 the national curriculum for key stages 3 and 4 was revised to create a new slimmed-down curriculum. The aims of the current National Curriculum on citizenship are to ensure that all pupils:

99.Citizenship is also an optional subject in primary education which has a curriculum framework for key stages 1 and 2.81 This framework focuses on broader concepts such as right and wrong and how to articulate opinions.

Character education

100.One of the concerns about the direction of citizenship education is whether it has moved from a collective political conception of citizenship towards a more individualised notion that focuses on character and promoting volunteering. This concern about a thin concept of citizenship being promoted which ignores the political elements of being a citizen has been a consistent theme throughout the inquiry.

101.The concern is that citizenship education is being subsumed within character education which, as the name suggests, seeks to create a positive character in the individual, rather than focusing on the community. James Weinberg told the Committee that proponents of character education see “citizenship education as one of four components to character”. He stressed the importance of clarifying the distinction between learning through volunteering, which contributes to character education, and learning through democratic involvement, which contributes to citizenship education.82

102.This is a particular concern, as CELS research identified political literacy as “the subject area where teachers felt least confident”. Dr Avril Keating suggested that there is a need for training teachers in how to teach the theory and practicalities of politics.83 However, this decline in the teaching of political literacy appears to be only a small part of the decline of the subject as a whole.

The decline of the subject

103.The current state of citizenship education is poor. Tom Franklin, CEO of the Citizenship Foundation, provided us with a summary of the landscape:

“Our current view is that citizenship education is withering on the vine at the moment at a time when it is needed more than ever. If we look at the polarisation of society and the undermining of the faith in democratic society, there is such a need for young people to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence, yet what is happening with citizenship education is that the support for the subject has been dismantled. If we look at the fact that education regulators no longer focus on it; that there is not the support needed for teacher training … Whether young people are receiving high-quality citizenship education is a lottery; it is by chance as to whether they are getting it in their school or not, which is a great shame.”84

104.The change from local authority run schools to academies has meant a decline in use of the national curriculum which has particularly affected citizenship teaching. As the Government told us:

“Academies do not have to follow the national curriculum and can develop their own curricula, tailored to meet the particular needs of their pupils or the particular ethos of the school. However, they are still required (like all schools) to teach a broad and balanced curriculum and promote fundamental British values. Academies may therefore choose to teach Citizenship to fulfil these duties.”85

105.From the evidence we heard they often choose not to. The Development Education Centre South Yorkshire told us that:

“Very few schools take Citizenship Education seriously and most secondary schools are failing their statutory duty to teach it (it is often hidden in [PSHE] and pupils are unaware of the difference between the two subjects).”86

106.PSHE is not citizenship education. As its name suggests, PSHE, or Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education, is focused on individual development and is not the teaching of young people about their role in society. Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural education does not cover citizenship either. At its very broadest it includes the thin version of citizenship education described above, but that is not true citizenship education.

107.The decline of the subject is partly a result of the review of the curriculum in 2013. The Association for Citizenship Teaching told us that the review:

“led some schools to assume that the rumoured removal of the subject must have happened and, three years on, some still do not know that Citizenship remains in the National Curriculum or has a GCSE. Consequently some schools have simply stopped teaching the subject.”87

108.The evidence suggests that citizenship was never fully embedded into the education system, and recent changes have damaged what attachment there was. Dr Avril Keating highlighted how further reforms could be making the situation worse: “there is preliminary evidence to suggest that the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is putting pressure on subjects like Citizenship, which are not considered core academic subjects within this framework. ”88

Citizenship GCSE

109.There are very few students who take Citizenship GCSE but those who do are broadly similar to other pupils in socio-economic status and attainment. In the school year 2015/16 17,710 pupils took Citizenship GCSE in state funded schools, approximately 3% of the entire key stage 4 state-funded schools cohort. The group taking Citizenship GCSE were slightly more likely to be receiving Free School Meals than the cohort as a whole (16% vs 13.4%) and overall had similar Attainment 8, the government measure of success for GCSEs, scores (50.1 vs 49.9)89 and Progress 8, the government measure for progress between key stage 2 results and GCSE results90, (0.07 vs -0.03). These numbers are down on the 2009 peak where just over 96,000 took Citizenship GCSE.91 This may be partly because the half GCSE in Citizenship which many pupils took alongside a half GCSE in Religious Studies is no longer available.

110.This drop in the number of students taking Citizenship GCSE appears to be representative of the attention given to the subject by schools. Sean Harford from Ofsted highlighted that the declining numbers of GCSE entries “could be an indicator of schools’ focus and commitment to that subject.”92 Other data suggests that schools are not prioritising citizenship education. Liz Moorse, the Chief Executive of the Association for Citizenship Teaching, told the committee: “The amount of teaching time, according to that DfE workforce survey93, also has diminished and is non-existent in some schools.”94

111.In putting together their written evidence, the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) surveyed their members on the current state of citizenship education. The survey suggested that it was not made a priority by schools even where there is a citizenship teacher who is a member of ACT:

“The ACT survey conducted for this Committee showed that whilst 90% [of ACT members] see Citizenship as an important priority and 85% said their Head or Principal was supportive of Citizenship education, just 47% felt it was actually made a priority in their own school or college.”95

112.We heard from teachers such as Simon Kinder that citizenship “often gets side-lined in favour of other very important PSHE areas. Rarely is the curriculum time sufficient to allow citizenship education to be delivered fully or in a way that will inspire and animate young people.”96

113.The difference in schools’ capacity to teach high quality citizenship is not spread randomly across the country and to some extent entrenches existing inequalities. Dr Avril Keating told us:

“The challenge is that, as it currently stands, it is the schools which have an interest and are invested in citizenship education which are providing good citizenship education. This often means that it is selective and fee-paying schools that are providing good citizenship education because it is part of their ethos. This means that you have children and young people who are receiving it based on their income or status rather than their entitlement to receive education about democracy. This creates problems in the short term and the long term for society and politics more broadly.”97

114.This disparity between those privileged pupils attending fee-paying schools and experiencing the “ethos” of a broader education preparing them for life, compared with the more disadvantaged, points to a weakness in current education policy. Politicians and educationalists who believe that this broader curriculum which embraces the teaching of citizenship is a distraction from the absorption of a body of knowledge, ignore the empirical evidence that there is a clear beneficial outcome to the encouragement of, and participation in, democratic engagement and civic life.

115.Although the numbers taking the Citizenship GCSE currently are broadly similar to other pupils, this may change if citizenship continues to be seen as optional. Dr Jan Germen Janmaat from the UCL Institute of Education raised the possibility that making citizenship optional would increase inequality:

“Making it an optional subject will only lead to the already engaged students, who as a rule are from middle class backgrounds, signing up for the programme. Voluntary programmes therefore risk not serving the disengaged groups. Having citizenship education as a compulsory programme makes all the more sense as existing research has found that students from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit more from citizenship education in terms of political engagement than their peers from more privileged backgrounds. Citizenship education is thus able to compensate for missing parental socialisation.”98

Improving the status of the subject

116.The current system of secondary schooling gives individual schools a relatively high level of autonomy. In this system there are two main influences on what is taught in schools: subjects and topics which have a statutory requirement and are inspected by Ofsted; and the overall school performance measures of Progress 8 and Attainment 8. These two performance measures prioritise GCSE subjects within the English Baccalaureate.99 Citizenship is not within the English Baccalaureate and so, as explained by Dr Avril Keating,100 is likely to be less favoured by schools. There are two options available to promote citizenship teaching in as many schools as possible. Either it could be included within the English Baccalaureate, or a statutory requirement to teach citizenship whose compliance with which could be inspected by Ofsted.

117.If citizenship were included in the English Baccalaureate it would incentivise more students to take it as a GCSE subject. However, the evidence we have received does not suggest that formal teaching towards a GCSE is the only way that citizenship can be included in schools. The CELS research found that pupils were more likely to report that they received a substantial amount of citizenship education if they were taught in “discrete timetable slots and not conflated with others subjects”.101 On the other hand, the ICCS IEA International Civic and Citizenship Education Study, an international review of citizenship education, found no relationship between the structure of citizenship education and its outcomes:

“There is no obvious recommendation about the best way to organize civic and citizenship education. Data pertaining to the ICCS countries’ national contexts indicate that different approaches coexist in many education systems, with these including the integration of civic and citizenship education in other (civic-related) subjects or the establishment of specific subjects to teach civics and citizenship content.”102

118.Citizenship does not necessarily have to be taught in subject style lessons. As we heard from Dr Avril Keating,103 hands-on activities are important too:

“we found that experiential learning activities that help pupils acquire politically-relevant skills (e.g. school councils, mock elections and debating clubs) have a positive, lasting, and independent effect on a range of political activities (including voting, contacting MPs, campaigning and protesting). These effects were apparent even after the participants had left school and had become young adults (age 20), and above and beyond the effects of other known predictors of civic engagement (such as socio-economic status, or prior dispositions). We also estimated … the size of the effects, which are not insubstantial. When pupils participated in these types of activities, the predicted probability of voting rose by 14.9 per cent, while the probability of participating in other types of political activities increased by 13.1 per cent.”104

119.The ICCS study also found that democratic structures in schools were a strong influence on future civic activity, again suggesting that citizenship is important beyond the classroom:

“Many findings in this report suggest an association between the way students experience democratic forms of engagement at school and their dispositions to engage in civic activities in the future. Such an association gives some support to the argument that establishing basic democratic structures within schools and providing students with early opportunities for active civic participation has the potential to promote civic knowledge and a disposition toward future civic engagement.”105

120.Citizenship education is important even at a young age and can be more effective if started earlier, as we heard from Tom Franklin:

“It is all about giving those children confidence that they have a sense of agency, that, even at that young age, they can make a difference. We find that the amount of enthusiasm and buzz they get from taking part in that sort of way is incredible, so it is a critical age. It is too late to wait until secondary school and it should be in the national curriculum for key stage 2, absolutely.”106

121.At Byron Wood Academy in Sheffield we saw how citizenship in primary schools can, through a cross curriculum focus, help bring together children from a wide range of communities. We saw how a focus on citizenship can help children see what they have in common and provide a narrative that binds the school together.107

122.The Government may wish to consider whether there should be more policy levers that can be applied to encourage schools to teach a subject. As it currently stands, although there is a National Curriculum, academies are under no obligation to follow it. This leaves public pressure through school performance measures and statutory requirements overseen by Ofsted as the only ways to influence the content of school teaching. It is beyond the scope of this inquiry to suggest a fundamental rewriting of the relationship between the Department for Education and schools. However the current system restricts the options to a small number of blunt tools.

123.The Government should create 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. Ofsted should give consideration to this in deciding whether a school should be rated as Outstanding.

Are there sufficient trained teachers?

124.In line with the decline of the status of citizenship education there is a decline in the number of citizenship teachers. Liz Moorse told us:

“If you look at the school workforce data, the decline from 2011 suggests that there are about half as many people who self-identify as a citizenship teacher as there were in 2011. In 2011, there were about 10,000 self-identifying citizenship teachers and there are now fewer than 5,000.”108

125.Citizenship is an area where there is a definite need for specialist teachers. Even if citizenship is being taught as part of other subjects there is a need for schools to have a specialist teacher to oversee teaching. Sean Harford from Ofsted told us:

“Where things are diffuse … how thoroughly and rigorously they are delivered can get lost in the tracking of them … You need a knowledgeable professional to be a citizenship lead … to be able to track, monitor and make sure that it is being delivered in a way that is effective.”109

126.The role of a specialist citizenship teacher is crucial to leading the subject, as Liz Moorse told us:

“schools should have freedom to determine how they put their curriculum together, but it should be based on good practice and what quality looks like. The research that has happened over past years demonstrates that discrete specialist subject teaching led by a specialist trained citizenship teacher creates much better outcomes for learners … It needs leadership in the school and that person needs the status and backing of their head teacher, and it needs to be given the same treatment and parity of esteem as other subjects in the curriculum”110

127.The data on teacher training suggests that the problem of a lack of specialist teachers is likely to get worse. It highlights the need for a sharp change of direction in order for schools to have the citizenship specialist they require. Liz Moorse told us: “In addition, there is now a crisis in initial teacher education. In 2010, 243 trainees in citizenship were going through programmes of initial teacher education; this year, it is 40. We cannot sustain this system.”111 She also said:

“It is very difficult for us to gain the reach that we need to train enough citizenship teachers, both existing and new, so that every school has a subject specialist citizenship teacher to lead the subject in their school. We need probably about 400 trained every year for the next 12 years to have any hope of ever reaching that ambition. We need to make citizenship a priority teacher-training subject, with the appropriate financial support, so that all potential trainees from all social and economic backgrounds can train as citizenship teachers.”112

128.A lack of support for potential teachers appears to have contributed to the shortage. The Expert Subject Advisory Group on Citizenship explained:

“In part this is because Citizenship has no bursary to provide financial support for those wishing to specialize in the subject. Training fees of £9000 plus living costs, means potential Citizenship trainees with relevant degrees are looking to other teacher training subjects with bursaries or are being put off teaching altogether.”113

Citizenship is the only curriculum subject without bursaries, aside from PE and Art and Design.114

129.When concerns over a lack of specialist citizenship teachers were put to the Minister of State for School Standards, he suggested that teachers from other backgrounds should teach citizenship:

“… citizenship is taught well by people who are applying to be teachers of politics, for example; it is one of the most common academic backgrounds for teachers of citizenship. Therefore, I would not despair by looking at the citizenship figures; I would also look at the numbers coming through who are equipped to teach politics.”115

130.The research is clear that non-specialist teachers are not as well equipped to teach the subject. James Weinberg told us:

“On the issue of teachers, I did some research last year with teachers from more than 60 schools in England … there is a significant lack of specialist teachers, so my research was specifically with non-specialists. That showed that all these teachers, who had not been trained in citizenship but were delivering it in the classroom, did not have a shared understanding of citizenship and the purpose of citizenship education. There was a distinct gap between academic work on good pedagogy for citizenship education and the practice that they reported, and they were open in admitting that this was because they had a lack of initial teacher training in citizenship education. They all agreed that citizenship education was sorely neglected within their secondary schools due to lack of resource and importance; and where it was taught, they described the delivery of citizenship education in individualistic and inward-looking political conceptions of good responsible citizens rather than active citizens, which is contrary to what Bernard Crick would have wanted in his report 20 years ago.”116

131.The increasing need for more specialist citizenship teachers will not be solved by support for teacher training alone. It must be accompanied by a restoration of the status of citizenship as a subject worth teaching. As James Weinberg explained:

“I would urge caution that you cannot plough money into initial teacher training for citizenship and expect anything to change if you do not also add the resource for improving its significance within individual schools. I know a lot of citizenship teachers who, out of that small pool who have trained in citizenship, are not teaching citizenship in the schools where they are based, so, unless it is re-prioritised as a curriculum subject, that initial teacher training will not have any impact.”117

132.The Government should establish a target of having enough trained citizenship teachers to have a citizenship specialist in every secondary school.

133.The Government should establish citizenship education as a priority subject for teacher training, and provide 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.

134.The Government has created a National College for Teaching and Leadership which has a programme to train new Specialist Leaders of Education. There are a number of different areas of expertise under which teachers can apply. This includes “outcomes for children and other learners” in a large range of subjects, including all but one of the national curriculum subjects and a number of other subjects which are not on the national curriculum.118 The absence of citizenship from this list as a national curriculum subject is notable and unexplained. Liz Moorse told us:

“Citizenship teachers cannot apply to be specialist teachers of education; they are being discriminated against on the basis of what? Every other subject is included in that programme. We cannot understand why citizenship is not there. This is having a direct effect on the career prospects of our existing citizenship teachers.”119

135.The Government should ensure that the National College for Teaching and Leadership allows citizenship teachers to apply to be specialist leaders of education.120

Understanding the subject

136.We also heard that there was a lack of data on current teaching of citizenship. There is very little information on how many schools teach citizenship as a subject, how many teach it as part of other subjects, how many do not teach it at all, and whether the teaching that does happen is of a good standard. Liz Moorse told us that data on citizenship education is “virtually non-existent” and that “it is very difficult to speak with certainty about the true picture of citizenship education.”121

137.Officials highlighted Ofsted as an important source of data on the quantity and quality of citizenship education, and noted in particular a 2013 report which showed the quality of teaching was increasing. However, the 2013 report covers data from 2009–2011. Not only is the data seven years old, it also covers the previous national curriculum, including a substantially different citizenship curriculum. We heard from Liz Moorse that the previous national curriculum “was much fuller in content, breadth of study and the types of skills, knowledge and understanding required”.122 A seven year old Ofsted report inspecting the previous curriculum cannot be expected to present an accurate picture of the current state of citizenship education.

138.Ofsted told us that they no longer undertake triennial subject surveys due to resourcing constraints. They added that “focus on individual subjects has been lost, and that is a direct result of funding.” When looking at a school, Ofsted will look at:

“spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. It will look at the promotion of fundamental British values. It will look at whether subjects stick out as being particularly well or particularly badly provided for. We can retrieve that from the inspection reports that we publish for every school across the country roughly every five years … One thing that plays into that is that we no longer routinely go into outstanding schools because of the regulations on that. We will not be seeing the vast majority of those schools and how they do that particularly well. … that kind of look in depth at a single subject is not done now and may be missed.”123

139.We have not investigated what changes to Ofsted mean for other subjects, but for citizenship the result is clear. There is a very poor understanding of whether or not citizenship is taught at all in many schools, especially those that are otherwise thought outstanding; whether, where citizenship is taught, it is taught well; and what good citizenship teaching looks like.

140.The Department for Education is also withdrawing from academic evaluation of citizenship, as we heard from David Kerr: “There has been no follow up to CELS, England did not participate in the latest IEA study”.124 The results of CELS provided the most detailed evidence on citizenship education, and the IEA study allowed for proper cross-country comparisons of teaching. Now neither is available, rendering the understanding of the subject considerably more difficult.

141.Officials told us that they ceased taking part in the IEA study as ministers “took the view that it was not going to be a priority this time because it is largely a continuation of the 2009 study. It was felt that the emphasis that it was giving was not going to generate new evidence that would be relevant to current policy priorities.”125 The Government have also “have joined a new international study with the British Council and partners in France, Spain and Greece. That is a three-year project and it will trial an intervention that is aimed at increasing active citizenship and promoting fundamental values. It started in March and is measuring teachers’ attitudes and practices in relation to citizenship teaching and those of pupils.”126 Although this new study does sound promising it does not appear to replace the knowledge the IEA study would have granted and covers a different time period. The Government have not had any substantial evaluation of citizenship education between 2011 and March 2017. This new study does not appear to be providing a comprehensive understanding of citizenship education in the UK.

142.We agree with the Expert Subject Advisory Group for Citizenship that “Ofsted should be asked to undertake a special survey … to find examples of best practice”127. We believe this should happen alongside the inspection of citizenship as a statutory requirement, as recommended above. The Government should have a solid understanding of whether citizenship is being taught, how it is being taught, and what good teaching looks like. At the moment it does not.

143.Ofsted should undertake a review of the current provision and quality of citizenship education in schools and highlight best practice. This should be followed up with long term monitoring of whether citizenship education achieves the set of criteria or goals that the Government sets out for it.

144.A further concern is that the shape of citizenship education has changed to focus more on knowledge and less on the practicalities of achieving change as a citizen. The Association for Citizenship Teaching told us that the active citizenship projects, which are part of the GCSE in Citizenship Studies, have decreased from 60% of overall marks to just 15%.128 Nick Gibb MP told us that they are instead focusing on a knowledge-based curriculum:

“We reformed the curriculum so that it is more knowledge based, because our understanding was that young people did not understand the structure of our political system. If you look at the national curriculum for citizenship at key stage 3 and 4, it covers things like: how laws are made; how the political system works; how local government works; the distinction between metropolitan and county local authorities and district and borough local authorities, parish councils and so on; how our legal system works; the difference between county courts, High Courts, Crown Courts and the Supreme Court. All these issues are now incorporated into the knowledgebased curriculum of citizenship, which we think is very important.”129

145.Whilst an understanding of the mechanisms of how society functions is crucial, it is not clear that it is sufficient for creating active citizens.

146.The problem with a curriculum that is too knowledge-based and has too little focus on practice was summarised by Tom Franklin:

“We would describe it as learning to play an instrument where there is the theory, which is very important, but, to learn to play an instrument, you need to play it. We think it is the same with citizenship, and what is needed is a review of the citizenship scheme of study there so that it includes much more about action, so it is about practising being a citizen and, therefore, developing the confidence in young people to take part, which at the moment is largely not there; it is a much more narrowed-down focus than is needed.”130

147.We agree that there is too narrow a focus, and that active citizenship projects potentially including democratic engagement should be an important part of any citizenship qualification.

Box 1: Good practice in citizenship education

We heard from Ryan Mason, the head of citizenship at a school in Lewisham, who presented a clear example of good practice in teaching citizenship:

  • On active citizenship projects: “In the past, I have had students doing campaigns about the Investigatory Powers Act and campaigns about Black Lives Matter. I have had lots of different campaigns where students have been outside Parliament campaigning and getting out and trying to do things. The new [GCSE specification] has restricted that. The element that schools are going to be less good at delivering now, although the students are getting the theory, is the active aspect of us getting them out. I know the subject itself should inspire kids to go out and do it themselves, but sometimes it is very difficult because you have to show them how to do it first before they can go on and continue to do it. That is going to be the weaker element of it.”131
  • On community cohesion: “If a school has good citizenship teaching, community cohesion will happen. My year 8s have done a lot of work with the Jimmy Mizen Foundation … Last year, we organised a conference at which the local police, our local MP Vicky Foxcroft, our head teacher Jan Shapiro, and lots of other local people tried to look at all the different issues that there are in our local community of Deptford, and tried to work out different ways to do that. We are having a follow-up conference this year. Community cohesion as a subject lends itself to allowing you to work with the community. Citizenship teachers are usually one-person departments, and we are very good at looking at what there is out in the community for us to work with and to bring in to help us make things happen.”132
  • On democracy in schools: “We have a school council. Last year, the young mayor of Lewisham came from my school. Our school promotes democracy. Each form class, of which there are 20, has two representatives who are going to represent students at school council. We have debating clubs, essay competitions; we have everything to try to encourage students to understand what democracy is as well as the citizenship education they get. As I said, my head teacher really believes in giving students a voice and allowing them to see what will happen when their voice is given.”133

148.The Government should work with exam boards to ensure that citizenship qualifications feature active citizenship projects as a substantial part of the qualification.

Thinking for the long term

149.The fact that Governments often have a short term focus is not new, nor is it specific to citizenship education. However, it has had a particularly harmful effect in this area. As Dr Avril Keating explained there has been “policy drift” as successive Governments have changed how they define citizenship. This makes it difficult for teachers, students and parents to “get a good grip” on the subject.134

150.As noted earlier, citizenship education is a comparatively new subject, only added to the national curriculum in 2002. As a new subject it takes time for it to become properly embedded within teaching so that schools understand its importance and teachers have a holistic understanding of what they are teaching. In 2007, five years in to the commencement of formal citizenship education, the Government created a legal obligation for schools to promote community cohesion135 which encroached onto the citizenship agenda. In 2013 the whole citizenship curriculum was revised and only a year later the Government introduced a requirement to promote British values.136 This new requirement was introduced without reference to citizenship education, as we heard from Scott Harrison: “[The guidance on British values] in no way mentions citizenship explicitly. It is like it came from another department that did not even know that citizenship had been a national curriculum subject and was already being done in schools.”137

151.We firmly believe that values are important and should be promoted. However, there were clearly problems with how it was introduced and its effect on citizenship teaching. James Weinberg told us about citizenship’s status being damaged by these new policies:

“… it is increasingly marginalised as other policies have come in that are far more resource-intensive and have incentives attached to them. I am thinking of social, moral, spiritual and cultural education which has been pushed forward and the Prevent programme, fundamental British values. All of these are taking far more symbolic time away from teachers, especially senior leadership teams in schools, and they are being followed up on as well, whereas we no longer have an assessment procedure with Ofsted for testing how citizenship is being delivered.”138

152.This is especially a problem as the current focus on inspection of British values and lack of support for citizenship means that Shared British Values are not being taught as effectively as they could be if they were taught within citizenship education. As Liz Moorse told us:

“The problem is that schools have often equated British values with Britishness. There has been a proliferation of pictures of the monarch and union flags being put up on classroom walls just in case an Ofsted inspector pops in … We need to embed these democratic values … in a proper citizenship curriculum.”139

153.This criticism was also found in James Weinberg’s research with non-specialists teaching citizenship and British values, where teachers themselves stated that “a far better way of delivering these values, British or not, would be through the medium of citizenship education if that is based on critical debate.”140 We heard the same thing from Ryan Mason, a citizenship specialist teacher all the elements of FBV he was “already delivering through our [citizenship] curriculum.”141

154.Nick Gibb MP agreed with this, telling us that: “fundamental British values are delivered in our schools and, of course, that is best delivered, in many ways, through the citizenship curriculum.”142 Yet due to the way they were introduced and the lack of focus on citizenship they are not usually delivered through citizenship education in a well thought out curriculum.

155.Just three months after Nick Gibb MP gave us this evidence, the Government released its new Integrated Communities Strategy which places a large emphasis on teaching FBV.143 It states that the Government intends to commission materials to support teachers and announces that Ofsted will review the prominence and weight attached to FBV. But it fails to mention citizenship education. Given that, as the Minister told us, FBV is best delivered through citizenship education, it is inexplicable and inexcusable that the Government has neglected to mention it as part of its Integrated Communities Strategy. This stands in contrast to the New Integration Strategy for London144 which was published on 16 March 2018, and which includes resources for a curriculum to support citizenship education.

156.The current and previous Governments’ habit of creating new initiatives that overlap with citizenship but are not connected to the curriculum as a whole has created a situation that Tom Franklin aptly described as “a bit of a mish-mash.”145 Teachers are unsure what citizenship is and what they should prioritise. For policy to be effective it has to be sustained, as Dr Avril Keating told us:

“… it has to be clear that this policy will be sustained into the long term, otherwise schools and teachers will shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Oh look, here’s another little tinkering in the system, another policy initiative. Next month, next year, it’ll be something else. Let’s just put that into a drawer and we’ll forget about that until the next one comes along’.”146

157.This is an example of the short term thinking which we have encountered throughout this inquiry. There is a need for a long term plan from the Government accompanied by sustained delivery.

158.The Government should formulate a curriculum that includes all the elements that they think important, like the Shared British Values or other initiatives, and then leave it unchanged for a substantial period of time to allow it to bed in. If they are going to change it they should think about citizenship education as a whole, rather than announcing a new initiative whilst seemingly forgetting that citizenship education exists.

159.This new curriculum should also consider how the NCS fits together with citizenship education. We discuss this in more detail in the following chapter.

160.The Secretary of State, for understandable reasons, has indicated publicly that he does not intend to make substantive changes to the national curriculum.147 Nevertheless, we hope that the proposed improvements and clarification we recommend can be introduced without any disruption or undermining of his intention to maintain stability.

161.The Government should conduct a review of the citizenship curriculum and formulate a new curriculum that includes the Shared Values of British Citizenship, the NCS and active citizenship projects. Piecemeal changes made without reference to the existing curriculum should be avoided.

162.The Government has allowed citizenship education in England to degrade to a parlous state. The decline of the subject must be addressed in its totality as a matter of urgency.

69 Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education

70 Written evidence from Karl Sweeney (CCE0042)

71 Written evidence from Dr Avril Keating (CCE0134)

72 Written evidence from Dr Avril Keating (CCE0134)

75 D Kerr, E Ireland and T Benton (2006). Exploring the Link Between Pupil Participation and Pupil Attainment at School Level. NFER: Slough. Unpublished report.

76 Department for Education, Citizenship programmes of study: key stages 3 and 4 (September 2013): [accessed 9 March 2018]

77 Jon Tonge, Andrew Mycock, Bob Jeffery, ‘Does Citizenship Education Make Young People Better-Engaged Citizens’, Political Studies, vol. 60, (2012), pp 578–602:–9248.2011.00931.x [accessed 4 April 2018]

80 Department for Education, Citizenship programmes of study: key stages 3 and 4 (September 2013): [accessed 9 March 2018]

81 Department for Education, Citizenship programmes of study: key stages 1 and 2 (February 2015): [accessed 9 March 2018]

83 Written evidence from Dr Avril Keating (CCE0134)

85 Written evidence from HM Government (CCE0249)

86 Written evidence from DECSY (CCE0120)

87 Written evidence from Association for Citizenship Teaching (CCE0143)

88 Written evidence from Dr Avril Keating (CCE0134)

89 51 would be equivalent to 8 Bs and one A.

90 Progress 8 compares the Attainment 8 score with the average Attainment 8 score in the same prior attainment group form key stage group. More detail is available Department for Education ‘Secondary accountability measures (including Progress 8 and Attainment 8)’ (25 January 2018): [accessed 5 April 2018]

91 Written evidence from Association for Citizenship Teaching (CCE0143)

93 Statistics that show the number of hours teachers work per subject.

95 Written evidence from Association for Citizenship Teaching (CCE0143)

96 Written evidence from Simon Kinder (CCE0009)

98 Written evidence from Dr Jan Germen Janmaat (CCE0060)

99 Department for Education, Progress 8: How Progress 8 and Attainment 8 measures are calculated (2016): [accessed 9 March 2018]

100 Written evidence from Dr Avril Keating (CCE0134)

101 Written evidence from Dr Avril Keating (CCE0134)

102 ICCS, Becoming Citizens in a Changing World: IEA International Civic and Citizenship Education Study 2016 International Report (November 2017): [accessed 9 March 2018]

103 Telling us about research using data from CELS

104 Written evidence from Dr Avril Keating (CCE0134)

105 ICCS, Becoming Citizens in a Changing World: IEA International Civic and Citizenship Educaiton Study 2016 International Report (November 2017): [accessed 9 March 2018]

107 We give details of this visit in Appendix 7.

113 Written evidence from Expert Subject Advisory Group for Citizenship (CCE0090)

114 The list of bursaries is available at National College for Teaching and Leadership, ‘Funding: initial teacher training (ITT), academic year 2016 to 17’ (16 June 2016): and the list of curriculum subjects is available at Department for Education, ‘National curriculum’ (16 July 2014): [accessed 4 April 2018]. See however footnote 120.

118 Department for Education, Specialist leaders of education: a guide for potential applicants (April 2016): [accessed 9 March 2018]

120 In April 2018 the Department for Education amended the website of the National College for Teaching and Leadership to state: “The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) has been repurposed and no longer exists … NCTL was an executive agency, sponsored by the Department for Education. It existed from 29 March 2013 to 31 March 2018.” The Committee will expect the Government to deal with this issue in its response to this report, and in particular with the question whether there continues to be discrimination against citizenship teachers.

124 Written evidence from David Kerr (CCE0222)

127 Written evidence from Expert Subject Advisory Group For Citizenship (CCE0090)

128 Written evidence from Association for Citizenship Teaching (CCE0143)

135 Section 21(5)(b) of the Education Act 2002, inserted by section 38(1) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006: see The Education and Inspections Act 2006 (Commencement No 5 and Savings Provisions) Order 2007 (SI 2007/1801).

136 Department for Education, Guidance on promoting British values in schools published (November 2014): [accessed 9 March 2018]

143 HM Government, Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper (March 2018): [accessed 15 March 2018] pp 32–33

144 Mayor of London, All of us: The Mayor’s strategy for Social Integration (March 2018): [accessed 12 March 2018]

147 Department for Education, ‘Damian Hinds sets out plans to help tackle teacher workload’ (March 2018): [accessed 15 March 2018]

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