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National Curriculum

Planning and assessment in citizenship


Planning across the key stage

The revision of the key stage 4 programme of study provides an opportunity to review and refresh your sequences of work. When reviewing planning across the key stage, developing new sequences of work or revising existing ones, you should consider the following.

Where are the opportunities to develop students’ experience of the key concepts?

Planning needs to ensure that the key concepts are integrated into teaching and learning across the key stage.

When reviewing your planning you may find that issues and problems provide opportunities to develop and connect understanding about all three key concepts – democracy and justice, rights and responsibilities, and identities and diversity. It is important to ensure that understanding is developed in each concept and that students make sense of the concepts through concrete examples. Applying the concepts to different topical issues and in a range of contexts (local, national, global) will reinforce conceptual understanding.

How can planning ensure that students make progress in the key processes?

When students revisit the key processes at different points in the key stage there should be a clear increase in demand to ensure that students continue to be challenged and are able to progress. Planning should not only develop students’ ability to debate, argue and take action in an informed way, but also their ability to adapt their techniques and strategies to a widening range of contexts and purposes with increasing independence. Planning should also ensure that students have opportunities to:

  • develop questions to investigate

  • use different approaches for their enquiries and research

  • use and analyse real data including statistics and primary sources of research, such as surveys of or interviews with their peers

  • work with others, including different people from their peer group, people of different ages and backgrounds and those from the wider community

  • try out new roles or ideas as they plan and undertake different courses of action in project teams and groups

  • practise different ways of presenting a case in informal discussions and in parliamentary style debates, with familiar and unfamiliar audiences

  • use a wide range of increasingly complex and challenging materials and sources, including those that are ICT-based or that are derived from the media.

Assessments should be planned as part of citizenship teaching and learning. This requires teachers to clearly establish what pupils should:

  • know (the essential knowledge drawn from range and content)

  • understand (conceptual understanding)

  • be able to do (citizenship skills and processes).


Pupils should be given regular feedback on how to improve in order to help them meet the expected standard by the end of the key stage. New level descriptions for citizenship will help teachers and learners to understand the standards to aim for, and will provide a framework for progression in the subject.

Teaching of the key processes should take account of students’ experiences at key stage 3 to link with and build on their previous learning.

How can you provide opportunities for students to engage with the wider community?

Students should be given opportunities to communicate with, represent, and take action alongside others both in school and in the wider community. Activities or sequences of work involving contact with groups, organisations and individuals in the local community are an important way to achieve this. Elements of ICT such as using the internet, PDAs (hand-held computers) and webcams offer direct opportunities to engage with audiences in different communities, both within the UK and internationally.

Explanatory text


Continuity across the key stages

To make good progress students need continuity and opportunities for development across the key stages. To achieve this, curriculum planning at key stage 4 needs to:

  • build on and extend students’ achievements and experiences at key stage 3
  • provide students with a clear sense of how teaching and learning is helping them develop their knowledge, skills and understanding, and of what they are aiming to achieve by the end of the key stage
  • prepare students for the demands of further study in the subject or the world of work.

Key stage 3

In key stage 3, students develop their understanding and experience of citizenship by learning about a complex range of issues and topics. Students use a range of sources of evidence to explore issues including those where rights may compete or may need to be balanced. They identify different and opposing views on problems and issues and can explain what they think is fair and unfair, giving reasons for their view. Students understand that communities are complex and diverse, and they can describe ways in which the UK is interconnected with the wider world. They work collaboratively to research, plan and undertake action aimed at making a difference to the lives of others, and they can explain the impact of the action taken. Students develop knowledge of the political and justice systems in the UK, and of ways in which citizens can shape and influence decisions affecting society.

Key stage 4

By key stage 4 most students are experienced at exploring a range of opinions concerning the topics and issues that they study. They undertake research, ask questions and challenge assumptions, supporting their findings with relevant evidence. They can argue persuasively and can represent the views of others, including views with which they do not agree, in debates. Students have developed their understanding of the complexities of rights and of how these can compete or conflict in a range of local to global situations. Students become confident in working with others to take forward different courses of action to address concerns, problems or issues. Students appreciate that society is made up of complex identities and communities and understand that these continually change over time. They begin to evaluate the roles that citizens can take in shaping decisions, and they gain knowledge of different approaches to democracy, justice and systems of government in the wider world.

Students who take GCSE Citizenship Studies are able to gain formal recognition of their knowledge, understanding and skills.

New opportunities

The revised programmes of study offer you many opportunities to refresh and renew your curriculum, making it broader and more relevant in ways that will inspire and engage learners. Some of the key themes that underpin the revisions include:

A renewed focus on critical thinking

The revised programmes of study recognise the importance of engaging students in:

  • thinking about, and responding to, real dilemmas, issues and problems facing individuals and communities

  • developing new ways of thinking about and reflecting on a range of citizenship ideas, concepts and issues including democracy and justice, rights and responsibilities, identities and diversity

  • exploring contentious, controversial and sensitive issues and problems including those where the rights of individuals or groups compete or conflict

  • interrogating evidence, asking questions, developing judgements and exploring opinions and values other than their own

  • making connections between citizenship concepts, experiences and actions.

A greater emphasis on identities and diversity

Citizenship concerns the way we live together in society, our place within society and the roles we can take to improve or change things. The revised programmes of study include the key concept of identities and diversity, encouraging exploration of what it means to be a citizen of the UK. This involves looking at different understandings and experiences of citizenship in the UK and in the wider world, and learning that societies and democracy are dynamic and changing. Students learn about the complexity of identities, and examine sources of ideas, traditions and cultures that shape life in the UK today, as well as considering the UK’s role and influence in Europe and in the international and global communities.

A clearer approach to developing informed and responsible action

The introduction of critical thinking and enquiry, advocacy and representation, and taking informed and responsible action provides a clear structure in which students can develop the skills to be successful in contributing to public life and in engaging with the wider world. Students have the opportunity to work with others in a variety of contexts as they identify, negotiate, plan and take action to address political and social issues. The intentions and purposes of such action should be clear at the outset and include action designed to influence those in positions of power, to bring about change or to resist unwanted change in school and community contexts.

The revised programmes of study provide students with opportunities to participate in different types of formal and informal discussions, debates and voting. It encourages them to learn about and participate in different forms of individual and collective actions, from awareness-raising and campaigning for change to training others in democratic skills.

An outward-looking and relevant curriculum

The revised programmes of study provide opportunities for students’ experience of citizenship to be more connected to their communities and to the wider world through the topics and issues they investigate and take action on. Students will experience working with different kinds of community partners such as non-governmental, voluntary and public sector organisations, and with those working in law, the justice system, politics and the media. These experiences can have a lasting impact on students and help to develop and deepen their understanding of the contexts of and complexities involved in making decisions and formulating policies.

The revised programmes of study require that students develop advocacy and representation skills for contexts and purposes beyond the classroom, where they may need to try to persuade or influence those in power and decision-makers.

Citizenship requires that students engage with the local and wider community in different ways. The subject allows them to see the relevance of what they are learning and why they are participating, which can be extremely motivating.

Planning for inclusion

Planning an inclusive key stage 4 means thinking about shaping the curriculum to match the needs and interests of the full range of learners.

These include:

  • the gifted and talented

  • those with special educational needs and disabilities

  • students who have English as a second language

  • the different needs of boys and girls.

Students will also bring to school a range of cultural perspectives and experiences, which can be reflected in the curriculum and used to further students' understanding of the importance of the issues of diversity.

An inclusive curriculum is one where:

  • different groups of students are all able to see the relevance of the curriculum to their own experiences and aspirations

  • all students, regardless of ability, have sufficient opportunities to succeed in their learning at the highest standard.

You may find that a useful starting point to planning for inclusion could be to consider your own school's Disability Action Plan, Race Equality Plan and other equality policies alongside a comprehensive overview of the data available on students from various groups. This can then be used to draw up a useful framework for curriculum review. You will also be able to identify appropriate points to involve learners themselves in some of these developments.

Teachers may find the following additional information helpful when implementing the statutory inclusion statement: Providing effective learning opportunities for all pupils. Teachers need to consider the full requirements of the inclusion statement when planning for individuals or groups of students.

Support for assessment

Assessment is an essential part of normal teaching and learning in all subjects. It can take many forms and be used for a range of purposes. To be effective assessment must be ‘fit for purpose’; being clear about what you want the assessment to achieve will determine the nature of the assessment and what the outcome will be.

When planning assessment opportunities consider the following:

Purpose – What is the assessment for and how will it be used?

Does it form part of ongoing assessment for learning to provide individual feedback or targets so that the student knows what to do next? Is it to provide an overall judgement about how the student is progressing against national curriculum levels? Related to this is the need to consider how the purpose of assessment affects the frequency of assessment. For example, there should be sufficient time between level-related judgements to allow a student to show progress, whereas to be effective the assessment of ongoing work should be embedded in day-to-day teaching and learning.

Evidence – What are the best ways to gather the evidence needed to support the purpose of the assessment?

Assessment shouldn’t be limited to a narrow range of evidence. Any meaningful judgement of progress or attainment should be based on a range of activities, outcomes and contexts This could include assessing the learning as it’s happening through observation, discussion or focused questioning; involving students in the process through peer or self-assessment; or sampling a range of work over a period of time. If there are areas where you don’t have sufficient evidence you could either adjust your planning or use a more focused short task to fill the gap. The gathering of evidence also needs to be manageable. With care, the same evidence may be used for a variety of purposes.

Outcome – What form will the assessment outcome take and how will it be used?

Depending on the purpose of the assessment the outcome could be a level judgement of progress over time or a specific and measurable improvement target for the student. Effective use of the assessment outcome results in actions such as providing an instant response or planning for the longer term. The best means of communicating assessment outcomes should also be considered. For example, it might be through written feedback or a discussion. The outcome may also provide you with valuable information for your future planning, by identifying areas that need to be revisited by a class or individuals to secure understanding, or by revealing gaps in curriculum coverage where there is no evidence of achievement in a particular area to assess.

Further guidance on gathering evidence, integrating assessment, periodic assessment and the role of tasks and tests can be found in the assessment section of the website.

Further guidance on day-to-day assessment and peer and self-assessment can be found under the assessment section of the website.

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