Citizenship is improving but there remains wide variation in quality with inadequate provision seen in a quarter of the schools surveyed

The teaching of citizenship is improving and there are now better opportunities for training, but in around 25% of schools inspected in 2005/06 the provision was found to be inadequate.

Towards consensus? Citizenship in secondary schools published today by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), shows that many schools have not yet implemented full programmes of citizenship across Key Stages 3 and 4, and that misconceptions remain about what should be included in citizenship education. However, the report goes on to stress that there is now much good practice that can be shared and the post-16 citizenship pilot programme, which began in 2001, has been successful .

Findings continue to show that the best examples of citizenship education are found in schools where there is strong leadership, deployment of specialist teachers, and in those schools that offer a short GCSE in the subject. Although good practice was also found in schools that chose to include citizenship in other subjects, usually personal social and health education (PSHE), the best practice was found in schools where citizenship is taught as a subject in its own right.

Ofsted’s Director of Education, Miriam Rosen said:

“We have seen enough good practice to know that citizenship education can be successful. This good practice needs to be replicated more widely. It is important that lessons learned over the last four years lead to improvement.”

The report goes on to say that there is a stark divide in standards and achievement in citizenship education. There are a minority of schools where standards are high, a majority of schools where standards are satisfactory and 25% where standards are inadequate, in some cases this is because citizenship still hardly figures in the curriculum at all.

The report contains guest commentaries from key individuals involved in citizenship education including Sir Bernard Crick.

When referring to the basic idea behind citizenship, Sir Bernard Crick is quoted in the report as saying:

“If pupils discuss real political and social issues, they will then want to find out the principles behind them and by what means and through which institutions citizens can seek resolution or mediation of a problem.”

Inspectors state that most citizenship teachers are non-specialists, working far from their normal comfort zone in terms of subject knowledge. Teachers are unclear about the standards they should expect from pupils, although this is slowly changing.

The report found that standards are better in pupils’ discussion work rather than in their written work, except on GCSE courses.

Miriam Rosen continued:

“Citizenship is still seen as the poor relation of more established subjects but it requires teachers to be highly skilled and able to deal with contentious and sometimes difficult issues.

“Urgent attention is needed to make sure it is a central part of the school curriculum and ethos.”

The report recommends that the DfES and QCA should consider the findings of this report during the current review of curriculum content for pupils aged 11-14 so that schools have access to a more coherent, unambiguous and manageable citizenship curriculum. Inspectors have also recommended that plans for full GCSE and post-16 courses are implemented as soon as possible.

Related links

Notes for Editors

  1. Towards consensus? Citizenship in secondary schools will be published on the Ofsted website at 00.01am Thursday 28 September 2006.
  2. The guest commentaries included in this report were invited by Ofsted. While they are intended to illuminate the discussion or provide a relevant perspective, they do not necessarily represent Ofsted's views.
  3. Ofsted is a non-ministerial government department established under the Education (Schools) Act 1992 to take responsibility for the inspection of all schools in England. Its role also includes the inspection of further education, local authority children's services, teacher training institutions and some independent schools. During 2001, Ofsted became responsible for inspecting all 16-19 education and for the regulation of early years childcare, including childminders.