Citizenship education

Citizenship is in the national curriculum and is statutory in secondary schools. It is a natural place for many of the current requirements around SMSC, British values and the Prevent Duty.

Citizenship: a statutory national curriculum subject

Citizenship has been on the national curriculum in England and Wales since 1991, and compulsory in secondary schools since 2002.

When planned, taught and assessed well, citizenship education is a key element of SMSC. It helps prepare pupils for life as engaged citizens and to meet its opportunities, challenges and responsibilities.

The new national curriculum citizenship programmes of study provide many opportunities to develop SMSC, promote British values and help teachers uphold the Prevent Duty.

They stipulate the citizenship curriculum's purpose as providing 'knowledge, skills and understanding' to 'play a full and active part in society'.

It should foster pupils' 'keen awareness and understanding' of democracy, government and law, their skills and knowledge to explore political and social issues critically, weigh evidence, debate and make reasoned arguments', and prepare pupils 'to take their place in society as responsible citizens'.

Key stage 3

'Teaching should develop pupils’ understanding of democracy, government and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

'Pupils should use and apply their knowledge and understanding while developing skills to research and interrogate evidence, debate and evaluate viewpoints, present reasoned arguments and take informed action.'

Pupils should be taught about:

  • the development of the political system of democratic government in the United Kingdom, including the roles of citizens, Parliament and the monarch
  • the operation of Parliament, including voting and elections, and the role of political parties
  • the precious liberties enjoyed by the citizens of the United Kingdom
  • the nature of rules and laws and the justice system, including the role of the police and the operation of courts and tribunals
  • the roles played by public institutions and voluntary groups in society, and the ways in which citizens work together to improve their communities, including opportunities to participate in school-based activities
  • the functions and uses of money, the importance and practice of budgeting, and managing risk.

Key stage 4

'Teaching should build on the key stage 3 programme of study to deepen pupils’ understanding of democracy, government and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

'Pupils should develop their skills to be able to use a range of research strategies, weigh up evidence, make persuasive arguments and substantiate their conclusions.

'They should experience and evaluate different ways that citizens can act together to solve problems and contribute to society.'

Pupils should be taught about:

  • parliamentary democracy and the key elements of the constitution of the United Kingdom, including the power of government, the role of citizens and Parliament in holding those in power to account, and the different roles of the executive, legislature and judiciary and a free press
  • the different electoral systems used in and beyond the United Kingdom and actions citizens can take in democratic and electoral processes to influence decisions locally, nationally and beyond
  • other systems and forms of government, both democratic and non-democratic, beyond the United Kingdom
  • local, regional and international governance and the United Kingdom’s relations with the rest of Europe, the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the wider world
  • human rights and international law
  • the legal system in the UK, different sources of law and how the law helps society deal with complex problems
  • diverse national, regional, religious and ethnic identities in the United Kingdom and the need for mutual respect and understanding
  • the different ways in which a citizen can contribute to the improvement of their community, to include the opportunity to participate actively in community volunteering, as well as other forms of responsible activity
  • income and expenditure, credit and debt, insurance, savings and pensions, financial products and services, and how public money is raised and spent.

The current landscape

Citizenship curriculum

Citizenship is statutory on the national curriculum for key stages 3 and 4. There is currently no official citizenship curriculum for primary schools.

The new citizenship programmes of study for key stages 3 and 4 stipulate its purpose as providing 'knowledge, skills and understanding' to 'play a full and active part in society'.

Citizenship is available as a GCSE. The framework was revised along with all other GCSEs that the Government retained in its reforms. Exam boards are rewriting their sylabuses to fit.

There is currently no A level in citizenship but this could change.

Prevent duty

Since 1 July 2015, schools in England now have a legal duty to prevent pupils from becoming radicalised.

In secondary schools, the Department for Education recommends using the citizenship curriculum for this.

The Prevent Duty guidance for schools refers to SMSC and PSHE, but makes particular reference to citizenship:

'Citizenship helps to provide pupils with the knowledge, skills and understanding to prepare them to play a full and active part in society,' says the Prevent Duty guidance for schools and childcare providers.

'It should equip pupils to explore political and social issues critically, to weigh evidence, to debate, and to make reasoned arguments.'

'In Citizenship,' the guidance continues, 'pupils learn about democracy, government and how laws are made and upheld.

'Pupils are also taught about the diverse national, regional, religious and ethnic identities in the United Kingdom and the need for mutual respect and understanding.'

SMSC

Ofsted will not grade a school as 'good' or 'outstanding' if its SMSC provision is inadequate.

When planned, taught and assessed well, citizenship education is a key element of SMSC because it helps prepare pupils for life as engaged citizens and to meet its opportunities, challenges and responsibilities.

British values

'British values' is now firmly on the education agenda. The Department for Education (DfE) requires schools to promote 'British values' and advises doing so through SMSC.

Ofsted will inspect the 'fundamental British values' of:

  • democracy
  • the rule of law
  • individual liberty and mutual respect
  • tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

School Inspection Handbook from September 2015

All of these fall under the citizenship curriculum; and, indeed, the Government's guidance for SMSC and British values relies heavily on aspects of citizenship education:

  • encourage students to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative, and to understand how they can contribute positively to the lives of those living and working in the locality of the school and to society more widely
  • enable students to acquire a broad general knowledge of and respect for public institutions and services in England
  • further tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions by enabling students to acquire an appreciation for and respect for their own and other cultures
  • encourage respect for other people
  • encourage respect for democracy and support for participation in the democratic processes, including respect for the basis on which the law is made and applied in England.

School inspections

Ofsted will inspect schools on SMSC, British values and citizenship.

In 2014, Ofsted broadened its inspection criteria for SMSC, strengthening its commitment to SMSC. Ofsted will grade schools badly if they do not show good SMSC provision, which includes British values.

Ofsted will also inspect citizenship as a statutory national curriculum subject.

More about citizenship education and our approach to it.

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