Citizenship education

Citizenship is a statutory National Curriculum subject in state maintained secondary schools and a non-statutory subject with a national framework in primary schools in England.

What is citizenship education?

Citizenship involves people acting together to address issues of common concern to maintain our democratic culture and to improve society. To achieve this goal, Citizenship education teaches knowledge, understanding about politics, the law and the economy and skills to participate effectively and responsibly in public and democratic life.

Through citizenship education, students:
  • explore questions about democracy, justice, inequality, how we are governed and organised;
  • learn to work together to create solutions that try to address challenges facing neighbourhoods and wider communities;
  • develop political literacy to make a positive contribution to society as informed and responsible citizens.

Some things you should know about citizenship education…

  • Citizenship is the only subject in the national curriculum that teaches about the way democracy, politics, the economy and the law work.
  • Half a million young people have achieved a GCSE or A level qualification in citizenship to date since 2002.
  • Young people have initiated over 100,000 active citizenship projects in their communities since the GCSE was introduced.
  • Citizenship is not about indoctrination: teachers and local authorities are required by the Education Act 1996 to make sure that students are presented with different points of views so that they can make up their own minds.
  • Citizenship education is also not only a Labour project: it was introduced as a cross-curricular theme by a Conservative government in 1990.
  • It’s been in the national curriculum in secondary schools in England since 2002.
  • It was a long time coming – politicians and educators alike had been lobbying for citizenship to be a fundamental part of education for 100 years.

What do students think?

In this video from 2009, students from Deptford Green school explain why they valued their Citizenship Studies GCSE.

Can’t see the film? Watch it on YouTube.


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