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National Curriculum

Developing personal, learning and thinking skills in citizenship


What are we trying to achieve?

The new secondary curriculum focuses on developing the skills and qualities that learners need to succeed in school and the broader community. The development of personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) is essential to meeting the three national curriculum aims of becoming successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.

The individual subjects which make up the curriculum provide the essential range of activities, learning opportunities and contexts essential for the effective development of these skills (PLTS).

The framework comprises of six PLTS:

  • independent enquirers

  • creative thinkers

  • team workers

  • self-managers

  • effective participators

  • reflective learners.

PLTS underpin the whole curriculum and can transform young people’s engagement with learning. They support learners’ understanding of themselves as well as their relationship with others and the world around them. Effective development of PLTS can raise achievement and make a considerable impact on learners’ ability to succeed, both now and in adult life.

How do we develop PLTS?

The citizenship programmes of study provide a rich and exciting range of opportunities to develop PLTS as an integral part of subject teaching and learning. Explicit and implicit opportunities are present in the key concepts, key processes, range and content, and curriculum opportunities. 

Independent enquirers

Learners can develop as independent enquirers when they are provided with opportunities in citizenship to:

  • plan and structure their own investigations, researching answers to many different kinds of questions, issues or problems and the impact on individuals, groups and communities in society

  • critically analyse information and evidence from a wide range of sources, questioning their own opinions and viewpoints and those of others

  • debate topical and controversial issues from different perspectives, considering opinions and ideas from a range of cultures and traditions

Creative thinkers

Learners can develop as creative thinkers when they are provided with opportunities in citizenship to:

  • use their imagination to consider and explore issues, problems and events from different perspectives

  • explore connections between concepts, ideas, viewpoints and actions, for example between rights and responsibilities

  • try out different courses of action, adapting ideas and plans to respond to changing circumstances

  • challenge their own and others’ assumptions to construct imaginative responses to issues or problems.

Team workers

Learners can develop as team workers when they are provided with opportunities in citizenship to:

  • work cooperatively in order to plan, negotiate and undertake citizenship actions, to address issues of concern, or try to influence change

  • recognise their own strengths and those of others to allocate roles and tasks, taking responsibility for their own contribution

  • work with a range of people from the wider community to achieve their goal

  • provide and respond to constructive feedback, taking account of different views and developing the confidence to resolve issues and achieve identified goals.


Learners can develop as self-managers when they are provided with opportunities in citizenship to:

  • take personal responsibility for organising their time and resources

  • set priorities and courses of actions to successfully complete a task

  • initiate, organise and manage their activity, demonstrating commitment and perseverance

  • respond positively to new or changing priorities and work towards new personal challenges.

Effective participators

Learners can develop as effective participators when they are provided with opportunities in citizenship to:

  • take responsible action in relation to issues in the school and the wider community that affect them and those around them

  • consider alternatives and make informed decisions about the citizenship actions they take

  • analyse the impact of their course of action on the wider world, now and in the future

  • act as an advocate for different views, including those that are different to their own, and make a persuasive case for change.

Reflective learners

Learners can develop as reflective learners when they are provided with opportunities in citizenship to:

  • use feedback from peers and others to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the citizenship actions they have participated in

  • question different ideas, opinions, assumptions, values and beliefs, including those they do not agree with

  • select for themselves appropriate ways of communicating ideas with different audiences, including use of technologies in school, in the community and beyond

  • continuously monitor their own progress, identifying criteria for success and making changes to further their learning.

How do we plan for PLTS?

Effective planning for PLTS in citizenship needs to ensure that they are embedded into sequences of work, teaching approaches and learning outcomes. When this is done well, it will enrich the experiences of learners and support their progress in citizenship while increasing coherence across the curriculum.

The following are some questions we might ask to support the development of PLTS through citizenship.

  • Are there planned opportunities for learning and teaching, where the six PLTS can be taught, practised and reinforced in a range of contexts?

  • Are planned experiences sufficiently ‘open’ for learners to draw on personal experiences and set themselves personal challenges?

  • Do activities encourage learners to explore a range of settings, for example collaborative work, individual work, in the classroom, the school and events in the community?

  • Are learners encouraged to communicate in a variety of ways?

  • Are there opportunities to make coherent links to learning in other curriculum areas to effectively connect and enhance learners’ experiences?

  • Are e-technologies used effectively to enable and support such learning?


Learners investigate issues of local importance and concern to them for the purpose of creating a podcast to broadcast on the school’s radio station. The podcast is used as a means to raise awareness and stimulate public debate about local issues. In carrying out this activity, it is important for the learners to develop the skills to become increasingly independent and take responsibility for solving problems and controlling the direction and format of their work.

In groups, learners agree the issue they want to investigate and work together to undertake research. They identify and set up interviews with key members of the local community. Throughout the activity, they work in groups, taking on various roles and responsibilities that draw on and challenge individual strengths, ensuring that each group member contributes effectively.

Learners are taught ways of planning their research and evaluate their findings in order to clarify their ideas. They are supported to develop appropriate success criteria and design their own individual and group evaluation forms. Learners complete these forms at the end of the task to help them reflect on their contributions and identify how their work might have been improved.

This activity involves learners in:

  • deciding on a format and approach to the task and dividing up roles for both research and technical tasks (team workers, self-managers)

  • researching the local issue (independent enquirers)

  • discussing issues with members of the community, seeking resolutions, anticipating questions or objections and proposing ways forward (creative thinkers, effective participators)

  • identifying and presenting a case for action and acting as advocates for a view (effective participators)

  • taking responsibility for preparing and producing different aspects of the podcast, reviewing work in progress, giving constructive feedback to others and making adaptations (team workers, creative thinkers, reflective learners)

  • evaluating their performance, taking account of feedback from peers and teachers, and setting targets to improve (reflective learners).

Are we achieving our aims?

In planning for progression, it is important to develop a clear picture of how learners demonstrate PLTS in the context of teaching and learning in citizenship and how those skills can raise achievement in this subject. For example, learners may demonstrate that they are:

  • making decisions about their learning and finding ways to improve their work, for example by identifying research questions and planning their own enquiries

  • transferring understanding of a concept from one context to another

  • increasingly drawing on their own experiences and making connections with key concepts to develop insights, for example by considering how their own viewpoints and experiences are different to or the same as those of other people

  • extending their understanding by exploring new ideas and options

  • experiencing different forms of individual and collective action as they participate with others to try to address issues of significance in citizenship.

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