A level campaign

As a Democratic Life supporter, you will be alarmed by exam board AQA’s recent decision to withdraw the only A level in citizenship studies. We implore them to think again.

AQA’s decision has serious implications for access to higher education, but the repercussions will be even more profound: citizenship education risks losing credibility as a serious subject and, in turn, as something that schools should take seriously.

The need for citizenship education in the UK has never been greater: young people are disaffected with formal politics; a reduction in the voting age to 16 looks increasingly likely; and schools are required to prevent extremism and engage their students with ‘British values’, including democracy and the rule of law.

Citizenship studies combines academic knowledge and understanding with practical action. It makes an excellent contribution to the development of employability skills and preparation for higher education.

Citizenship is on the National Curriculum and the new citizenship GCSE has just been announced. Students must have the opportunity to progress beyond GCSE, not least because this is the case for all other National Curriculum subjects.

We wrote to AQA. The letter was signed by David Blunkett, Lord Phillips of Sudbury and a host of colleagues from higher education. They replied. They reiterated their position but invited us to meet. We are taking them up on that.

We shall point out that uptake of the full-course citizenship GCSE increased from 12,000 to 20,000 last year and that those students need a proper, active, citizenship A level to progress to: not Sociology or Government and Politics, as AQA suggest.

We shall remind them that the A level carries full UCAS points and that Cambridge University, LSE and others refer explicitly to citizenship as an A level they look to when recruiting to a number of degree courses.

And we shall point out that Ed Miliband has promised more citizenship education, not less, if Labour gets into power.

We launched a public campaign last week and we’re passed our initial target of 500 supporters. The British Humanist Association put their weight behind it and leading education magazine TES covered it online. Even Alastair Campbell and AC Grayling re-tweeted us.

Our letter to AQA was a collaboration of the Association for Citizenship Teaching, Citizenship Foundation, Subject Advisory Group for citizenship, Political Studies Association, Active Citizens FE and Democratic Life.

All sorts of people want to keep A level citizenship and we are working hard to convince AQA to change its mind.

But we won’t stop there: we also encourage other exam boards to step in and fill the gap.

Please join the campaign. Every supporter counts.