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National Curriculum

Citizenship key stage 3 - Programme of study

Statutory content

Programme of study for key stage 3

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The programme of learning is made up of:

Importance of Citizenship key stage 3

The importance of citizenship

Education for citizenship equips young people with the knowledge, skills and understanding to play an effective role in public life. Citizenship encourages them to take an interest in topical and controversial issues and to engage in discussion and debate. Pupils learn about their rights, responsibilities, duties and freedoms and about laws, justice and democracy. They learn to take part in decision-making and different forms of action. They play an active role in the life of their schools, neighbourhoods, communities and wider society as active and global citizens.

Citizenship encourages respect for different national, religious and ethnic identities. It equips pupils to engage critically with and explore diverse ideas, beliefs, cultures and identities and the values we share as citizens in the UK. Pupils begin to understand how society has changed and is changing in the UK, Europe and the wider world.

Citizenship addresses issues relating to social justice, human rights, community cohesion and global interdependence, and encourages pupils to challenge injustice, inequalities and discrimination. It helps young people to develop their critical skills, consider a wide range of political, social, ethical and moral problems, and explore opinions and ideas other than their own. They evaluate information, make informed judgements and reflect on the consequences of their actions now and in the future. They learn to argue a case on behalf of others as well as themselves and speak out on issues of concern.

Citizenship equips pupils with the knowledge and skills needed for effective and democratic participation. It helps pupils to become informed, critical, active citizens who have the confidence and conviction to work collaboratively, take action and try to make a difference in their communities and the wider world.

Explanatory text

The importance of citizenship: This reflects the three principles of effective citizenship education set out by the Advisory Group on Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools. These are that citizenship should develop social and moral responsibility, community involvement and political literacy.

Key concepts of Citizenship key stage 3

There are a number of key concepts that underpin the study of citizenship. Pupils need to understand these concepts in order to deepen and broaden their knowledge, skills and understanding.

1.1 Democracy and justice

  1. Participating actively in different kinds of decision-making and voting in order to influence public life.

  2. Weighing up what is fair and unfair in different situations, understanding that justice is fundamental to a democratic society and exploring the role of law in maintaining order and resolving conflict.

  3. Considering how democracy, justice, diversity, toleration, respect and freedom are valued by people with different beliefs, backgrounds and traditions within a changing democratic society.

  4. Understanding and exploring the roles of citizens and parliament in holding government and those in power to account.

1.2 Rights and responsibilities

  1. Exploring different kinds of rights and obligations and how these affect both individuals and communities.

  2. Understanding that individuals, organisations and governments have responsibilities to ensure that rights are balanced, supported and protected.

  3. Investigating ways in which rights can compete and conflict, and understanding that hard decisions have to be made to try to balance these.

1.3 Identities and diversity: living together in the UK

  1. Appreciating that identities are complex, can change over time and are informed by different understandings of what it means to be a citizen in the UK.

  2. Exploring the diverse national, regional, ethnic and religious cultures, groups and communities in the UK and the connections between them.

  3. Considering the interconnections between the UK and the rest of Europe and the wider world.

  4. Exploring community cohesion and the different forces that bring about change in communities over time.


Explanatory text

Democracy and justice: This focuses on the role that citizens can take  within the political and justice systems in the UK. It includes: freedom as part of democracy; fairness and the rule of law as part of justice; power and authority; and accountability. Pupils should understand that accountability happens at many levels, ranging from a responsible opposition in parliament challenging, testing and scrutinising what government is doing, to citizens in local communities challenging decisions that affect them.

Pupils should learn about the need to balance competing and conflicting demands, and understand that in a democracy not everyone gets what they want. Linking teaching about democracy, elections and voting with the student council provides a way for pupils to apply their learning to real decision-making situations. Active participation provides opportunities to learn about the important role of negotiation and persuasion within a democracy.

Rights and responsibilities: There are different kinds of rights, obligations and responsibilities – political, legal, human, social, civic and moral. Pupils should explore contested areas surrounding rights and responsibilities, for example the checks and balances needed in relation to freedom of speech in the context of threats from extremism and terrorism.

Identities and diversity: living together in the UK: This includes the multiple identities that may be held by groups and communities in a diverse society, and the ways in which these identities are affected by changes in society. For example, pupils could learn about: how migration has shaped communities; common or shared identity and what unifies groups and communities; and how living together in the UK has been shaped by, and continues to be shaped by, political, social, economic and cultural changes. The historical context for such changes should be considered where appropriate.

All pupils, regardless of their legal or residential status, should explore and develop their understanding of what it means to be a citizen in the UK today.

Key processes of Citizenship key stage 3

These are the essential skills and processes in citizenship that pupils needto learn to make progress.

2.1 Critical thinking and enquiry

Pupils should be able to:

  1. engage with and reflect on different ideas, opinions, beliefs and values when exploring topical and controversial issues and problems

  2. research, plan and undertake enquiries into issues and problems using a range of information and sources

  3. analyse and evaluate sources used, questioning different values, ideas and viewpoints and recognising bias.

2.2 Advocacy and representation

Pupils should be able to:

  1. express and explain their own opinions to others through discussions, formal debates and voting

  2. communicate an argument, taking account of different viewpoints and drawing on what they have learnt through research, action and debate

  3. justify their argument, giving reasons to try to persuade others to think again, change or support them

  4. represent the views of others, with which they may or may not agree.

2.3 Taking informed and responsible action

Pupils should be able to:

  1. explore creative approaches to taking action on problems and issues to achieve intended purposes

  2. work individually and with others to negotiate, plan and take action on citizenship issues to try to influence others, bring about change or resist unwanted change, using time and resources appropriately

  3. analyse the impact of their actions on communities and the wider world, now and in the future

  4. reflect on the progress they have made, evaluating what they have learnt, what went well, the difficulties encountered and what they would do differently.

Explanatory text

Critical thinking and enquiry: Using real case studies to explore issues and problems can help to develop skills of critical thinking, enquiry, debate and advocacy. Pupils should learn how to make judgements on the basis of evidence, exploring ideas, opinions and values that are different from their own.

Topical and controversial issues and problems: Political, social and ethical issues and problems can be controversial and sensitive, and can lead to disagreement. They should not be avoided, but need to be handled so that pupils develop skills in discussing and debating citizenship issues and considering points of view that are not necessarily their own. Setting ground rules and using distancing techniques can help to manage the discussion of such issues.

Analyse and evaluate: This includes pupils evaluating and assessing different opinions and challenging what they see, hear and read through research and investigation, considering scenarios and case studies.

Advocacy and representation: Developing skills of advocacy and representation provides opportunities for pupils to build on the skills of speaking and listening, reading and writing from the English programme of study. In the context of citizenship, they learn to take account of different points of view and the various ways in which people express themselves. They practise communicating with different audiences, including those in positions of power, to try to influence and persuade them about ways of making a difference to political and social issues.

Voting: This includes knowing about and participating in different kinds of voting, for example a show of hands, a secret ballot and simulating division. Voting can be part of activities, for example to decide on a motion within a debate or to agree a new policy for the student council.

Take action: Action should be informed by research and investigation into a political, social or ethical issue or problem. This includes developing and using skills, while applying citizenship knowledge and understanding. Actions could include: presenting a case to others about a concern; conducting a consultation, vote or election; organising a meeting, event or forum to raise awareness and debate issues; representing the views of others at a meeting or event; creating, reviewing or revisiting an organisational policy; contributing to local community policies; lobbying and communicating views publicly via a website, campaign or display; setting up an action group or network; training others in democratic skills such as advocacy or campaigning.

Range and content of Citizenship key stage 3

This section outlines the breadth of the subject on which teachers should draw when teaching the key concepts and key processes. Citizenship focuses on the political and social dimensions of living together in the UK and recognises the influence of the historical context. Citizenship also helps pupils make sense of the world today and equips them for the challenges and changes facing communities in the future. The study of citizenship should include:

  1. political, legal and human rights, and responsibilities of citizens

  2. the roles of the law and the justice system and how they relate to young people

  3. key features of parliamentary democracy and government in the constituent parts of the UK and at local level, including voting and elections

  4. freedom of speech and diversity of views, and the role of the media in informing and influencing public opinion and holding those in power to account

  5. actions that individuals, groups and organisations can take to influence decisions affecting communities and the environment

  6. strategies for handling local and national disagreements and conflicts

  7. the needs of the local community and how these are met through public services and the voluntary sector

  8. how economic decisions are made, including where public money comes from and who decides how it is spent

  9. the changing nature of UK society, including the diversity of ideas, beliefs, cultures, identities, traditions, perspectives and values that are shared

  10. migration to, from and within the UK and the reasons for this

  11. the UK’s relations with the European Union and the rest of Europe, the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the world as a global community.

Explanatory text

Political rights: This includes the development of universal suffrage and equal opportunities, which can be linked with the study of the development of democracy in history.

Human rights: Human rights and the rights of the child can be revisited in many different contexts. Linking teaching to topical issues provides a way of engaging pupils in learning about the values and principles underpinning human rights, including exploring decisions that need to be made to balance conflicting rights and the extent to which conventions and declarations have been enshrined in national law.

Law and the justice system: This includes the criminal justice system. Some topical areas of law, such as antisocial behaviour legislation, can provide a focus for exploring the difference between criminal and civil justice.

Key features of parliamentary democracy and government: This includes an understanding of the role of political parties, the ‘first past the post’ system of elections, the role of government and opposition, and cabinet decision-making.

The constituent parts of the UK: This includes how democracy has changed in recent times with the devolution of power to the Scottish Parliament and the assemblies in Northern Ireland and Wales. This can be linked with the study of the origins of the UK in history.

Environment: This provides opportunities to evaluate individual and collective actions that contribute to sustainable practices. Pupils could consider the different ethical implications of actions, policies and behaviour. This work can be linked with work in science and geography.

Changing nature of UK society: Change is a constant feature of UK society and pupils should understand some reasons why change occurs (eg migration, economic factors, globalisation) and how communities change as a consequence (eg shops, food, schools, languages).

Diversity: Diversity includes our different and shared needs, abilities and membership of groups and communities such as gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, physical and sensory ability, belief, religion and class. Learning about diversity involves recognising that culture, including the language, ideas, customs and traditions practised by people within a group, also forms part of identity. Pupils should explore the diversity of groups and communities and examine the changes that occur. They should also explore things that unify us, including the shared values that UK society is committed to, and what groups and communities have in common as we live together in society.

Europe: A European dimension can be incorporated when exploring many topical issues, including human rights, the environment, immigration, trade and economic issues, diversity and identities.

The Commonwealth: This includes the development, membership and purpose of the Commonwealth. It can be linked with the study of the British Empire in history.

The United Nations: This includes exploring the role of the United Nations in the context of topical events such as conflict situations affecting the international and/or global community.

Curriculum opportunities of Citizenship key stage 3

During the key stage pupils should be offered the following opportunities that are integral to their learning and enhance their engagement with the concepts, processes and content of the subject.

The curriculum should provide opportunities for pupils to:

  1. debate, in groups and whole-class discussions, topical and controversial issues, including those of concern to young people

  2. develop citizenship knowledge and understanding while using and applying citizenship skills

  3. work individually and in groups, taking on different roles and responsibilities

  4. participate in both school-based and community-based citizenship activities

  5. participate in different forms of individual and collective action, including decision-making and campaigning

  6. work with a range of community partners, where possible

  7. take into account legal, moral, economic, environmental, historical and social dimensions of different political problems and issues

  8. take into account a range of contexts, such as school, local, regional, national, European, international and global, as relevant to different topics

  9. use and interpret different media and ICT both as sources of information and as a means of communicating ideas

  10. make links between citizenship and work in other subjects and areas of the curriculum.

Explanatory text

Community-based citizenship activities: These encourage pupils to work with people beyond the school community to address real issues and decisions. They can involve inviting people into schools to work with pupils on issues and/or pupils working with others beyond the school site.

Campaigning: This can help pupils learn how to influence those in power, take part in decision-making and participate positively in public life in ways that are safe, responsible and within the law.

Community partners: These could include voluntary organisations and public and private bodies. For example, the police, magistrates and the courts could support work relating to the law and justice system. Local councillors, MPs and MEPs could support work relating to parliament, democracy and government.

Historical: This includes considering relevant historical contexts in order to inform citizenship issues and problems. For example, pupils could consider the movement and settlement of peoples within the British Isles over time and the impact of migration on diversity in communities living together in the UK today.

Media and ICT: This includes: using different media and ICT to communicate ideas, raise awareness, lobby or campaign on issues; using and interpreting a wide range of sources of information during the course of enquiries and research; and learning how different media inform and shape opinion. Pupils need to evaluate the extent to which a balanced or partial view of events and issues is presented.

Make links: This includes: making links with work on the media in English and ICT; work on diversity and inclusion in history and RE; and work on the environment and sustainability in geography and science.

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