The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century - Follow-up report Contents

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Cross-Government Coordination

1.The Government has implied that the Inter-Ministerial Group for Safe and Integrated Communities is a substitute for a Minister for Citizenship and Civic Engagement. Given that the group has not met for three years, it is clearly not a suitable mechanism for coordinating this policy area and strengthens the argument for the appointment of a dedicated Minister. (Paragraph 23)

2.Coordination of citizenship and civic engagement policy is insufficient. The Government should appoint a Minister with responsibility for Citizenship and Civic Engagement without delay. The location of this Minister is crucial, and the Committee believes that the Minister would have greatest impact if located in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) or the Cabinet Office. The new Minister should be given appropriate authority and remit to facilitate integrated policymaking across UK Government departments. This Minister should be a permanent member of the Domestic and Economic (Levelling Up) Cabinet Committee. (Paragraph 24)

3.The Committee is reassured to hear that the Government has appointed a cabinet committee to coordinate this policy area and does not doubt the commitment of the Domestic and Economic (Levelling Up) Cabinet Committee. Nevertheless, the Committee saw good intent in relation to the Inter-Ministerial Group for Safe and Integrated Communities and yet that group did not meet for three consecutive years. Whilst the Committee respects that the Government organises its business how it sees fit and has stated that it does not usually share details of the frequency of cabinet committee meetings publicly, the Committee would be reassured to see evidence of the scale of the work expected to be undertaken by the Domestic and Economic (Levelling Up) Cabinet Committee. (Paragraph 37)

4.Given the cross-cutting nature of the levelling up agenda, the Committee is surprised to see that the permanent membership of the Domestic and Economic (Levelling Up) Cabinet Committee does not span more departments. The Committee recommends that the Government consider making office holders within the Cabinet Office and the Department for Education (DfE) permanent members of the Cabinet Committee. (Paragraph 38)

5.The Committee hopes that the Domestic and Economic (Levelling Up) Cabinet Committee can address the issues identified with institutional memory and recommends that a community-led and data-led approach is taken to the coordination of citizenship and civic engagement policies. (Paragraph 39)

6.Citizenship education and civic engagement opportunities are essential parts of a well-functioning democratic society. The Committee finds it difficult to comprehend how the levelling up strategy could be effective without adequate investment in and coordination of citizenship education and civic engagement initiatives. The Government should ensure that provision for citizenship education is included in the levelling up policy and consideration given to its role in addressing fake news, conspiracy theories and feelings of disenfranchisement. (Paragraph 40)


7.The Committee is reassured to hear that the Government is committed to ensuring the effective delivery of citizenship education within schools. If children are to be able to develop the skills required to become active citizens, they must be taught citizenship throughout their education. The Committee reiterates the 2018 recommendation that the Government should create a statutory entitlement to citizenship education from key stages 1-4. (Paragraph 55)

8.The Committee looks forward to the publication of the Schools White Paper and was reassured to hear that it will contain the Government’s plans for citizenship education policy. The related recommendations in this report should be addressed through the white paper. The implementation timetable should be published within six months. (Paragraph 56)

9.The evidence received demonstrates that Ofsted is misinterpreting the Government’s policy and assessment criteria for Citizenship. The Government must outline how it will address this discrepancy and monitor Ofsted’s assessment of Citizenship moving forward. (Paragraph 73)

10.Citizenship is a curriculum subject and should be treated as such. Ofsted should use ‘Quality of Education’ when inspecting and assessing citizenship education. Regular deep dives should be undertaken. Ofsted should ensure that citizenship is not conflated with PSHE. Effective delivery of Citizenship education should be considered when awarding school ratings, including practical as well as theoretical delivery. (Paragraph 74)

11.The Committee does not agree with Ofsted’s assertion that evaluating citizenship through the personal development metric is appropriate. Ofsted’s intention to review citizenship education provision through its upcoming review of personal development is insufficient. The Committee reiterates its 2018 recommendation that 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 the impact of citizenship education as a standalone curriculum subject. (Paragraph 75)

12.Ofsted must recognise the importance of citizenship education, particularly in the light of the challenges facing young people today and the acute need for them to develop political and media literacy skills. Furthermore, there are clear links between the Government’s levelling up agenda and citizenship, and an opportunity to ensure that this policy is successful could be missed, should schools not provide pupils with the appropriate foundation for civic engagement. The Government should outline what steps will be taken to improve Ofsted’s understanding of the wider context of citizenship education and ensure that Ofsted refrains from side-lining the subject. (Paragraph 76)

13.Ofsted should review the support and training given to their inspectors and should ensure that the inspectors are able to understand and effectively assess citizenship as a curriculum subject. (Paragraph 77)

14.The Committee is disappointed about the lack of investment in citizenship teaching. The Committee recommends that the following recommendations are included in the Government’s forthcoming schools white paper. (Paragraph 85)

15.The Government should reinstate bursaries for citizenship teachers for the 2023–24 academic year. The citizenship bursaries should remain in place until there are equivalent numbers to ensure that there is at least one trained specialist in every secondary school. The Government should also set a target for having at least one trained citizenship teacher in every primary school. (Paragraph 86)

16.The Committee is concerned to hear that the Government is no longer collecting data on citizenship trainee teachers. The Committee does not see any reasonable explanation for this. The Committee recommends that the data collection resumes without delay. (Paragraph 87)


17.The Committee was reassured to hear that the NCS is committed to improving “its relationship with the youth sector, Local Government Association [LGA] and others.” It agrees that the NCS could use its resources to amplify and support the work of other organisations, and this is in line with the Committee’s view that civic engagement programmes must be tailored to their specific audience. In the light of the evidence received on the importance of early engagement with citizenship education, the Committee recommends that the NCS expands its target audience (currently 16–17 year olds) to key stages 3 and 4 (11–18 year olds) and develops its partnership working with organisations set up to work with children at key stages 1 and 2 (5–11). (Paragraph 101)

18.The Committee was pleased to hear that the NCS is strengthening its partnerships. The Committee recommends that the NCS continues this practice and that the DCMS takes a data-led and outcome focused approach to monitoring the effectiveness of these partnerships. (Paragraph 102)

19.The DCMS’ decision to re-distribute funding for youth organisations more evenly amongst the youth sector seems appropriate. The Committee recommends that the DCMS and DfE continue to work closely with the NCS, with a focus on life-long civic engagement, political and media literacy. (Paragraph 103)

20.The Committee is pleased to hear about the NCS’ renewed focus on supporting schools and delivering programmes such as the “skills booster’ during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCS should scale up its partnership working with schools, delivering practical citizenship education and opportunities for civic engagement at key stages 3 and 4. It should support partnership working with organisations that are set up to deliver programmes for key stages 1 and 2. The Committee believes that the NCS could add particular value in educational institutions with pupils who require additional support as part of the levelling up agenda. (Paragraph 104)

The citizenship test (Life in the UK)

21.The Committee agrees with the Government that “the Life in the UK test should not be seen as a tick-box exercise”. The Committee is pleased to see that the test has been updated since 2018 and that some of the issues identified by the Committee have been addressed. Nevertheless, the Committee remains unconvinced that the test supports and measures active citizenship. The Committee recommends that the Government sets up an advisory group with a diverse and expert membership to review the content of and outcomes generated by the test within 12 months. The Committee can see no reasonable explanation to delay this work until after the completion of other immigration policy reviews. (Paragraph 116)

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