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9 April, 2014

New GCSE confirms citizenship as a crucial academic subject

We've always known it, and citizenship teachers have always known it: that citizenship education has a solid base of academic learning on a par with more traditional subjects. Now the government has recognised this too by including citizenship in its reformed GCSEs.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has already announced reforms to some subjects. Today, those are joined by further qualifications, including GCSE citizenship.

'All our reforms to GCSEs and A levels complement the changes we have already made to technical and vocational qualifications,' Mr Gove said in an online statement, 'removing those which are not endorsed by businesses or employer bodies from league tables, and leaving only those which represent real achievement.

'Taken together, these changes mean that every young person in this country will have the opportunity to study high-quality, rigorous, demanding qualifications across the academic and vocational curriculum from September 2016 onwards.'

The inclusion of citizenship is a true testament to the quality of citizenship teaching and the strength of belief in the subject. Just three years ago, the government was under pressure to drop the subject from the curriculum; now it recognises the value and rigour of citizenship teaching and has made it a central plank of its strategy for schools.

'We are delighted that there is now absolute clarity around the status of citizenship education in schools,' says Andy Thornton, Chief Executive of the Citizenship Foundation.

'This puts the lid on a lingering myth that it was being dropped from the curriculum, or decreasing in value as a subject. At the same time as the Cabinet Office promotes youth led social action, this exam compliments a call for schools to offer the knowledge skills and practical experiences to develop the next generation of effective citizens'.

However, the revised citizenship GCSE must retain an active citizenship component. 'Without it there is a danger the GCSE will become just an old style civics test of knowledge about politics the law and the economy,' says David Kerr, a Senior Teaching Fellow in Education at the University of Bristol.

The nine new GCSEs announced today are in art and design, music, drama, dance, citizenship, computer science, design and technology, PE and religious studies.

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