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12 February, 2015

New citizenship GCSE content announced

This morning, education minister Nick Gibb published the new content specification for GCSE citizenship from 2016. We have been working hard behind the scenes, through Democratic Life, to inform a GCSE that best serves our growing citizens. On balance, the result is not bad.

Although the new content is mostly about knowledge, much of that knowledge is useful for practical, effective citizenship in action.

There are one or two historical novelties - for some reason the DfE thinks our young people will be better prepared for democratic engagement if they know that Black Rod is called Black Rod because he bangs a door three times with a black rod (okay, they don't put it quite like that) - but most of it is useful, applicable citizenship learning.

We wanted more of the exam (yes, it's to be 100 per cent examination now) to assess students' citizenship in action, rather than just the passive knowledge they learn. Sadly, that will be a risible 15 per cent of the paper.

On the plus side, though, schools will not be allowed to avoid preparing for that 15 per cent: they will have to confirm formally that the activities in question actually happened. That's one of our wins.

We would have liked more, we always do. We are not happy that there is no non-examined assessment for citizenship action (which Nick Gibb announced this morning; Ofqual will reveal its assessment plans in full in the next few weeks) and we are not happy that 'citizenship action' counts toward only 15 per cent of the exam.

On the other hand, we are pleased to see the skills of advocacy, campaigning, collaboration and problem solving are now spelled out.

On balance, it's not bad. Students will explore the important topics, concepts and issues required for effective citizenship, study a rich body of knowledge about our democratic society and its institutions and gain invaluable experience of taking practical citizenship actions.

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