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Citizenship education Inquiry 2006

National Foundation for Educational Research Memorandum of Submission to the Education and Skills Select Committee: NFER Research Findings on Citizenship Education

David Kerr, March 2006

  1. Introduction
    • IEA Civic Education Study – NFER conducted the English country description and national surveys on citizenship for the IEA CIVED study involving a comparative sample of over 80,000 14 years olds in 28 countries. This was the largest ever study undertaken in citizenship education.
    • Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study – NFER is half-way through a nine-year longitudinal study of the introduction of the citizenship curriculum in England for the DfES. This ground-breaking study is assessing the short-term and long-term effects of citizenship education on the knowledge, skills and attitudes of young people. The Study is following a cohort of over 18,000 young people from age 11 to 18 as well as surveying their teachers and school leaders. It also involves a number of longitudinal school case studies.
    • National Evaluation of Post-16 Citizenship Development Programme – NFER has recently completed a three-year evaluation of the post-16 citizenship development project programme for the DfES. The evaluation ascertained how well citizenship education was developed for 16 to 19 year olds in a range of settings.
    • Pupil Assessment in Citizenship Education – NFER is currently managing a European-wide study on pupil assessment in citizenship, funded by NFER and CIDREE, the Consortium of Institutes for Development and Research in Education in Europe.
    • Evaluation of 2005 European Year of Citizenship through Education – NFER is also evaluating the impact of the 2005 European Year of Citizenship through Education, across its 48 member states, for the Council of Europe.
    • Mapping Citizenship Education Resources – this project has just been completed and was commissioned by the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) to map the citizenship resources available of most relevance to the DCA priorities concerning citizenship and human rights education.
    • IEA International Civics and Citizenship Study (ICCES) – NFER is part of an international consortia which is managing the international co-ordination of this new IEA Study. The Study looks to survey 14 year olds, their teachers and school leaders about their citizenship experiences in and beyond school in participating countries and produce national and comparative findings in 2009. Topics addressed include students’ acquisition of civic knowledge and understanding, development of civic capabilities and understanding of issues concerning identity and belonging.
  2. This submission has been compiled by David Kerr, Principal Research Officer, at NFER, who directs NFER’s portfolio of research projects in citizenship education at national, European and international level with a team of other researchers. Details of current and previous NFER research projects in this area are provided in Section 1b below while Section 5 contains further details about the author’s citizenship education credentials.

    The submission pinpoints the most recent research findings in citizenship education that are of particular relevance to the areas of interest in the Committee’s terms of reference. It dovetails with the references to NFER research findings in the submissions from a number of other organizations and government departments, notably the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), Citizenship Foundation, Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) and Schools Council UK. The findings are drawn from the cumulative annual reports of the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study since 2001, notably the third annual report entitled Listening to Young People: Citizenship Education in England, which was published in 2005.

    However, the Committee should note that the Study’s fourth annual report, entitled Active Citizenship and Young People: Opportunities, Experiences and Challenges in and beyond School, has been completed and is due to the published by the DfES at the end of April 2006. The report provides the most up-to-date evidence about the progress of citizenship education in schools in England from 2003 to 2005. It focuses, in particular, on young people’s experiences of active citizenship in the academic year 2004-2005. This focus is highly relevant to the Committee’s terms of reference and it is hoped that this latest research evidence can be heard through the further oral evidence sessions to be held in late spring.1a About the NFER

    The National Foundation for Educational Research in England and Wales (NFER) has been at the forefront of educational research and test development for 60 years. The Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation and is a registered charity. Our aim is to improve education and training, nationally and internationally, by undertaking research, development and dissemination activities and by providing information services.

    NFER undertakes around 200 research projects every year and our work spans all sectors of education, from pre-school to lifelong learning. We provide high quality, evidence-based research for policy makers, managers and practitioners. Our unrivalled experience enables us to offer a wide range of services and information sites, making NFER a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in education and educational research.1b NFER research in citizenship education

    NFER has a distinguished track record in carrying out innovative and influential research and evaluation in citizenship education for policy-makers at national, European and international level. The Department for Evaluation and Policy Studies (EVP) is the base for the NFER’s research into citizenship education, headed by David Kerr at http://www.nfer.ac.uk/research-areas/citizenship/. Some of the leading research studies conducted and/or currently underway include:

  3. Research relevant to the select committee’s areas of interest
    1. Where are we at with citizenship?
      • identifying the main types of citizenship education provision in schools in England;
      • determining the factors, at management, institution and learning context levels, which underlie successful citizenship education provision in schools and colleges;
      • ascertaining the views of young people about their citizenship experiences in schools and colleges and about wider citizenship issues.


      • citizenship is delivered through PSHE (Personal Social and Health Education) and/or though assemblies;
      • school/college is viewed as an institution that is ‘moderately democratic’ by staff
      • there is a traditional teaching and learning environment, where note taking and listening while the teacher/tutor talks are more prevalent than more active discursive approaches
      • there is a positive classroom climate (i.e. students feel free to express their opinions and bring up issues for discussion)
      • there are a variety of extra-curricular opportunities on offer for students.
      • there is less of a concentration, according to students, on teaching about political literacy (i.e. political and legal processes and institutions) and more on other citizenship topics.What factors underpin the most successful provision?
      • senior managers who actively support and promote citizenship education in the school and college
      • sufficient resources allocated to citizenship education, including time (e.g. curriculum space and time for planning)
      • an effective and manageable assessment strategy through which students’ achievements can be recognised
      • on-going planning and reviewing to sustain the development of citizenship.
      • a clear and coherent understanding of what citizenship education means.
      • high status of citizenship, promoted by a well-respected coordinator who is ‘a citizenship champion’.
      • staff training and development that builds confidence and improves teaching and learning strategies.
      • a participatory school/college ethos that supports the aims of citizenship education and positive relationships within the school/college community.
      • delivery approaches that are diverse and effectively link the curriculum, school/college and wider community dimensions of citizenship education.
      • Tailoring of citizenship education to the needs, skills, interests and experiences of young people.
      • positive relationships between the school/college and the wider community that enable the school/college to foster opportunities for the students to engage with individuals and organisations beyond the school/college
      • dedicated and enthusiastic staff, with the skills to facilitate as well as teach
      • dedicated timeslot for citizenship, whether as a discrete course, a module within a programme or a specific project.
      • involvement and participation of students in decisions about their learning, and the development of a student voice.
      • Focus on critically active forms of learning, including discussion, debate, dialogue and reflection. The best examples are where students are helped to think, reflect and take action.
      • School/college factors: citizenship (education) experiences offered by schools and colleges
      • Student background factors: personal, family and community characteristics (e.g. home literacy resources, age, ethnicity, gender)
      • school/college experiences of citizenship – students currently define citizenship as more to do with rights and responsibilities and issues of identity and equality than with political literacy and formal political processes.
      • home literacy resources – the more books students have at home, the higher their civic knowledge and the greater their intended future political engagement.
      • age/year group – students’ sense of belonging to the school community increases with age in comparison to attachment to other communities.
      • ethnicity – Asian and Black students have the most positive views about volunteering compared to other groups.
      • gender – compared to boys, girls think that volunteering has fewer costs and more benefits.
    2. Citizenship education became a new statutory national curriculum subject for 11 to 16 year olds in England in September 2002. There was a particular emphasis in the policy statements for citizenship education, both in schools and colleges, on developing students’ political literacy – the knowledge, understanding and skills required to play a full and active part in ‘public life’ in the many communities to which they belong, including the school/college community. This was seen as the new element of citizenship education.

      The last three years have seen schools attempting to make sense of the ‘light touch’ Citizenship Order and turn it into effective practice, and those in 16-19 exploring approaches to active citizenship. So how are schools and colleges faring? While recognising that these are still early days for citizenship, research evidence suggests that progress has been patchy and uneven. Though there has been undoubted progress, there are still aspects that require further development. A recent report by Ofsted argued that citizenship was amongst the least well-taught subjects and that about a quarter of schools had made insufficient provision in this new area. This backs up findings from the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study (hereafter ‘the Study’).

      The Study started in 2001 and will run until 2009. It is funded by DfES and carried out by NFER with the overarching aim of assessing the short- and long-term effects of citizenship education on students. To date, the Study has improved our understanding of citizenship education by:

      Key findings from the StudyWhat are the main approaches to citizenship education in schools?
      The Study has identified four types of approach to citizenship education in schools: schools that are progressing in citizenship, others that are focused, those that are minimalist and those that are implicit in terms of citizenship (see Fig. 1).

      Figure 1. Four approaches to citizenship education

      Progressing schools
      Developing citizenship education in the curriculum, school and wider community; the most advanced type of provision.

      Active cit. in the school and wider community

      Implicit schools
      Not yet focusing on citizenship education in the curriculum, but with a range of active citizenship opportunities.

      Cit. in the curriculum


      Focused schools
      Concentrating on citizenship education in the curriculum, with few opportunities for active citizenship in the school and wider community.


      Minimalist schools
      At an early stage of development, with a limited range of delivery approaches and few extra-curricular activities on offer.

      The main difference in the typology is the relative emphasis that schools give to citizenship in terms of curriculum provision and active citizenship developments in the school and wider community. Progressing schools are the most advanced in terms of curriculum provision and active citizenship developments, whereas in minimalist schools there is the greatest scope for improvement in both areas. Implicit and focused schools each have their own strengths: namely, active citizenship in the former and citizenship in the curriculum in the latter. In a nationally representative sample of schools about one quarter of the schools surveyed fall into each category. This suggests that citizenship education provision in schools in England is currently uneven and patchy, with one quarter of schools offering only a minimal level of provision: a finding that concurs with recent Ofsted conclusions. In addition, many schools are still to develop a holistic and coherent approach to citizenship education.

      How and where are schools and colleges providing citizenship opportunities?

      The latest Study findings reveal that citizenship is delivered most typically in school and college contexts where:

      The Study also identifies a series of factors – at management, institution and learning context levels - which underpin the most successful provision of citizenship education in schools and colleges. These include:

      At management level

      At institution level

      At learning-context level

      What factors impact on students’ development of citizenship knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes?

      Broadly, these influencing factors can be divided into two groups:

      The Study demonstrates how the following are important and influential factors:

      This suggests that young people’s development of citizenship-related dimensions is influenced not only by their experiences in school and college (both in the curriculum and in the school/college community) but also by their wider experiences beyond school.

      The specific research findings, concerning the Committee’s areas of interest, that follow are drawn largely from the third annual report of the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study. It is based upon a large, nationally representative sample of 237 schools and 50 colleges and reports the responses of 238 school and college leaders, 876 teachers and college tutors and 6400 students across years 8, 10 and 12. (students age 13 to 14, 15 to 16 and 17 to 18 respectively) in the academic year 2003-2004.

    3. Teachers attitudes to Citizenship
    4. Teachers and school leaders remain positive about the outcomes of citizenship education, believing that it will have a number of positive impacts on students’ participation, engagement, skills, awareness and tolerance.

    5. Initial Teacher Training and CPD
    6. There is little evidence in the sample of schools involved in the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study of the impact of initial teacher training and CPD. This is not surprising given the relatively small numbers of newly qualified citizenship teachers who are trained each year (250) compared to the number of secondary schools in England. In terms of continuing professional development (CPD), few teachers say that they have heard of the Association for Citizenship Teaching and limited numbers have had access to CPD training in citizenship. Access to citizenship CPD remains dependent on the attitudes of senior managers in schools and what they see as overall training priorities for their school. Teachers surveyed demand more citizenship CPD in relation to three priorities: improving their subject knowledge; helping them to understand assessment issues; and, increasing their confidence in more active teaching and learning approaches.

    7. Role of Local Authorities in supporting school staff
    8. There is some evidence of Local Authority involvement in CPD training and support for schools. However, such support is inconsistent across the country with LA staff having limited capacity to support schools because of competing priorities for their time and lack of funds.

    9. Continuity of Citizenship from KS1 to post 16
      • Consider the implications for current and future policy in citizenship education of the uneven development of students’ citizenship dimensions over time.
    10. Students in all year groups report that citizenship is more noticeable to them in secondary schools than in 2002.
      The third annual report confirms students’ development of citizenship dimensions (knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes) is neither even nor consistent. The findings reveal lower levels of citizenship knowledge; student efficacy; personal efficacy; active student participation; trust and embeddedness and belief in the benefits of participation among the Year 10 students who took part in the survey, when compared with those in Years 8 and 12.

      It also confirms the complex nature of young peoples’ citizenship experiences and attitudes and the range of factors and influences that can impact on their development. These include contextual characteristics or factors (such as age, gender, ethnicity and family characteristics), the different contexts or ‘sites’ of citizenship education including the school, the family, peer groups, and students’ local and wider communities, and the various actors that take part in the (formal and informal) educational processes at these different ‘sites’.

      The report suggests possible changes in this interrelationship and its impact on students’ development of citizenship dimensions across a number of age ranges and educational stages. Findings suggest that there may be a considerable ‘dip’ in development around Year 10, when students are age 14 to 15. However, at this stage of the analysis it remains unclear whether these findings are cohort specific, will be replicated in future years, or indeed if such a ‘dip’ exists nationally. This requires further in-depth investigation.

      It suggests that policy-makers should

    11. Quality of Citizenship across all schools including faith schools
    12. As already underlined, the overall quality of citizenship across all schools, including faith schools, remains uneven, inconsistent and patchy. While there are schools that are developing excellent practice, and making links between citizenship in the curriculum and active citizenship in the school and through links with wider communities, this is not the norm in all schools. There remain a worrying number of schools where citizenship is not a priority and, as a result, where students are not receiving their statutory entitlement to citizenship education in the National Curriculum.

      Schools are finding it particularly challenging to deliver the more active components of citizenship and ensure sufficient opportunities for engagement and participation for all students. There is also no one standard delivery approach to citizenship in schools. While there is increased separate curriculum time given to citizenship, often alongside personal social and health education (PSHE), citizenship is also delivered through a range of other approaches including: through other subjects; as a cross-curricular approach; through tutorial and form tutor time; and, through collapsed timetable days and activities. Delivery approaches are dependent on a wide range of factors including ethos and values (a strong factor in faith schools), senior managers understanding of citizenship education and the impact of standards and league tables, among others. The range of approaches means that students are not always aware of when they are being taught citizenship and are not always successful in linking their citizenship learning within schools.

      However, the third annual report also highlights that schools, two years after the statutory introduction of citizenship, may already be influencing students’ development of citizenship dimensions. There are signs in the report that school experiences can have an influence on students’ conceptions of citizenship, their civic knowledge and on their sense of efficacy and empowerment.

    13. Debates about British-ness and identity
      • Students demonstrate that they are sophisticated users of the media in accessing information about citizenship issues at national, local and international level. They place most trust in news reports on the TV, less in reports on the radio and show least trust in newspaper reports.
      • Students’ development of citizenship dimensions may be influenced by personal, family and community characteristics. Findings suggest a clear relationship between home literacy resources and feelings of empowerment, levels of trust, engagement, community attachment and commitment to volunteering, participation and political engagement. Differences were also found in attitudes and behaviours between male and female students as well as between those from different ethnic backgrounds.
    14. Students, teachers and school leaders who have taken part in surveys and case study visits during the Longitudinal Study have made no reference to the impact of debates about British-ness on citizenship policy and practice.

      However, they have raised broader issues concerning identity and belonging in relation to citizenship. Interestingly, when asked to define citizenship students say that it is more to do with rights and responsibilities and issues of identity and equality than with political literacy and formal political processes. There is insufficient evidence, at present, to say how far this definition is influenced by the way that citizenship is taught in schools (i.e. students’ citizenship experiences in school) or by students’ everyday citizenship experiences in communities beyond school.

      However, a number of points are relevant to such a discussion. They include:

    15. Contribution of Citizenship to Community Cohesion
      • Consider how the school as a ‘site’ for citizenship impacts on, and is impacted on by, student experiences of other citizenship contexts and sites, such as the local community, family and peers.
      • Recognise that schools cannot develop citizenship education in isolation from the social contexts in which they are situated and with which students interact on a daily basis. Schools are but one of a number of interrelated ‘sites’ for the development of citizenship dimensions.
    16. Several citizenship surveys at national and international level (notably the IEA Civic Education Study and Longitudinal Study) highlight a persistent minority of students (approximately 5 per cent) in schools who express unlawful and discriminatory attitudes toward minorities, equal opportunities, immigration and new migrants. These attitudes are related to factors beyond school such as family, peer and community influences. More in-depth investigation is required as to what gives rise to such attitudes and how far the introduction of citizenship education in schools can combat them.

      However, it should also be noted that the survey reveals that students’ sense of belonging and attachment to the different communities in their lives may change over time. It is noticeable in the survey that students’ sense of belonging to the school community increases with age in comparison with their attachment to other communities. This suggests that schools and colleges may have a key role to play in providing students with real opportunities to participate and engage through the confines of the school/college community with which they are most familiar on a daily basis. School leaders and teachers remain positive that citizenship will improve a sense of tolerance and community within schools and increase students’ propensity to participate for the good of the communities to which they belong.

      Findings suggest a clear relationship between home literacy resources and feelings of empowerment, levels of trust, engagement, community attachment and commitment to volunteering, participation and political engagement.

      Findings also hint at differences in attitudes between those from different ethnic backgrounds. For example, Asian students in the sample had the highest levels of student efficacy compared to other groups while Asian and Black students had the most positive views about volunteering compared to other groups. The influence of community and culture on students’ attitudes and behaviour, alongside other influences, is something that requires further investigation.

      This means that school leaders and teachers and policy-makers need to:

    17. Active aspects of the Citizenship curriculum
    18. This is the focus of the Study’s fourth annual report, to be published in late April 2006. The report will provide greater details about the type and range of active citizenship opportunities available to young people in their schools and communities and the challenges facing schools in providing such opportunities.

      The Study has confirmed, to date, alongside other research evidence, that the linkage between citizenship in the curriculum and active citizenship in the wider school and through links with wider communities is not well developed in schools. Many schools are struggling with the more active aspects of citizenship, particularly the provision of active citizenship in partnership with communities beyond school. They are struggling both in terms of staff confidence and expertise to take these active aspects forward as well as a lack of time, money and resources for such actions, alongside other competing priorities.

      It is unclear, as yet, what the impact of the Every Child Matters: Change for Children action plan, and the particular outcome making a positive contribution, will be on the development of citizenship education in schools. The Every Child Matters agenda provides considerable opportunity to link students’ opportunities for participation in schools with those available to them in the wider community and provide continuity and cohesion between the two. It also has the potential to encourage students to reflect on the outcomes of such participation. However, the Change for Children action plan is still in its early days of implementation and schools and Local Authorities are still to decide what its impact will be on their policies and practices.

      The third annual report highlighted that:

      The classroom continues to be a ‘traditional’ teaching and learning environment with methods such as note taking, working from textbooks and listening while the teacher talks taking precedence over discussion and debate and the use of new information and communication technologies (ICT).

      Despite this, both teaching staff and students agree that their classrooms have a positive climate with students feeling free to express opinions and to bring up issues for discussion.

      Extra-curricular activities, such as school councils and opportunities to raise money for good causes, remain consistently available across school and college settings and school leaders and teachers continue to be supportive of a democratic school ethos. However, the gap between opportunities to participate and student levels of take up remains large, with most schools offering these activities yet only a small proportion of students taking them up.

      There is recognition by schools that they are ‘moderately democratic’. This suggests that the idealism of citizenship as involving equal democratic participation of everyone in a school is giving way to an acceptance that there are limits to participation and democracy in schools.

      Schools are strengthening their community links. This may signal a growing realisation among schools that citizenship education involves not just the school, its curriculum and culture/ethos, but also how the school relates to the wider community.

      The findings suggest that those working in schools need to:

      Consider whether their institution uses a sufficient range of teaching and learning approaches for citizenship education that encourage active learning approaches.

      Consider how to involve students more fully in the running of schools, beyond school councils, and in negotiation of their teaching and learning experiences.

    19. Curriculum design and appropriateness of DFES / other guidance.
      • Ask whether the citizenship education programme offered to students is improving their citizenship knowledge, as well as understanding and skills.
      • Support the development of students’ citizenship knowledge by focusing on the topics that schools are teaching under the umbrella of citizenship education and the teachers involved in teaching citizenship topics. Take action to ensure that the core knowledge at the heart of citizenship education is being taught in schools.
    20. The introduction of statutory citizenship education in schools was designed, in part, to improve the ‘democratic deficit’ in society. This was developed through the political literacy strand of the Crick report, which was the new and challenging element of citizenship for schools. The curriculum that followed was designed to be ‘light touch’ in order to ensure that young people had sufficient knowledge and understanding about participation and engagement in the political process at many levels, as well as practical opportunities to experience it first-hand in response to topical citizenship issues in society as they arose. The vision was for students to develop and experience political literacy in action in relation to their everyday citizenship experiences and interests in their schools and wider communities. DFES and other guidance promoted this approach.

      However, research evidence from the Longitudinal Study suggests that the political literacy strand of the citizenship curriculum has proved difficult for teachers and students to grasp and take forward. This is related to issues concerning the confidence of teachers in having sufficient subject knowledge to address political literacy topics (such as government, elections and voting), particularly where the subject is taught by non-specialists, as well as the challenges in making such topics interesting and relevant to the lives of young people.

      Key findings from the third annual report that address these issues include:

      Certain citizenship curriculum topic areas are less likely to be taught than others; in particular, topics such as, voting and elections, the European Union (EU), the economy and business and parliament and governance.

      Students continue to report low levels of intention to participate in conventional politics in the future, beyond voting.
      Students currently define citizenship as more to do with rights and responsibilities and issues of identity and equality than with political literacy and formal political processes (see Figure 2 below)

      Figure 2. Most common student definitions of citizenship

    Graph showing most common student definitions of citizenship.

      Larger image >>

      Students’ citizenship knowledge about political and legal processes and institutions appears to be lower than recorded in the first cross sectional survey in 2002; particularly for students in Year 10. However, this may reflect the nature of the questions posed to students and the subjects taught in schools. The knowledge items in the survey tested knowledge about political and legal processes and institutions, including those concerning voting, political representation and legal rights. These are precisely the citizenship topics that students report they are taught least about.

      The findings suggest that policy-makers and those in schools should:

    1. Practice in other countries
      • rights and responsibilities
      • access
      • belonging
      • other identities.
      • diversity – of living in increasingly socially and culturally diverse communities and societies
      • location – of the nation-state no longer being the ‘traditional location’ of citizenship and the possibility of other locations within and across countries, including notions of ‘European’, ‘international’, ‘transnational’ or ‘cosmopolitan’ citizenship
      • social rights – of changes in the social dimension of citizenship brought by the impact of an increasingly global economy
      • participation – of engagement and participation in democratic society at local, national and international levels.
    2. Citizenship education policy and practice has moved on apace in other countries and regions around the world. There are no countries in Europe and few in other regions across the globe that have not either undertaken major reforms of their civic /citizenship curriculum in schools or are planning to undertake such reforms, as part of broader curriculum reviews. England is now viewed as a leading light in initiating policy reform and attempting to bridge the ‘implementation gap’ between policy and practice. Proponents of citizenship policy and practice in England are in high demand to share their experiences with those in other countries via organisations such at the British Council, DfES international division, the Council of Europe, UNESCO and the European Commission.

      Indeed, the last two decades has witnessed a fundamental review of the concept of citizenship and what it involves in communities in the United Kingdom (UK), Europe and globally. This review has encompassed countries, communities at local, national and regional levels as well as cross-national organizations such as UNESCO, European Union (EU) and Council of Europe (CoE). A central feature of debates about public education and educational policies has been the increasing stress on the importance of citizenship education. This has led UNESCO, at an International Bureau of Education conference in 2004 to identify ‘education for active and responsible citizenship’ as a priority for action in order to improve the scope and quality of education for all young people. Meanwhile, the Council of Europe launched its ‘education for democratic citizenship’ (EDC) project in 1997, culminating in the designation of 2005 as the European Year of Citizenship through Education around the slogan ‘learning and living democracy. Not to be outdone, the European Commission has identified the development of European citizenship as a priority area for the EU, and recently launched an action programme, entitled Citizens for Europe, to promote increased civic participation and a stronger sense of citizenship, as well as a scooping study to provide indicators of active citizenship.

      This fundamental review of the concept of citizenship has been brought about by the impact of the rapid pace of change in modern societies, in political, economic and social life, and the need to respond. The pace of change is having significant influence on the nature of relationships in modern society at a number of levels, including those between individuals, community groups, states, nations, regions and economic and political blocs. This period of unprecedented and seemingly relentless change has succeeded in shifting and straining the traditional, stable boundaries of citizenship in many societies. A series of major events across the world, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bombings in America, Bali, Madrid and, more recently, London, the Iraq conflict and the populist revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, has resulted in important social and political changes which have, in turn, triggered considerable discussion and debate. These discussions and debates have raged within and across national, academic, professional and practitioner boundaries.

      The cumulative effect has caused experts and policy makers to reflect anew on the meaning and role of citizenship education in the curricula of public educational systems and, in particular, on its influence on the formation and development of democratic, political culture in society. As a result of such reflection, discussions about citizenship education in public education have become enjoined with wider debates about approaches to issues such as human rights, equality, tolerance and social justice. Citizenship education has become strongly linked to contemporary discussions about the pressure of changes on the nature of relationships between differing groups in society as well as those between the individual and the state. Indeed, the pressure has become so great that it has triggered a fundamental review across many societies of the concepts and practices that underpin citizenship.

      The review has concentrated on four particular dimensions of citizenship, namely:

      These dimensions are interrelated and have been dubbed by some commentators as the ‘new dimensions’ of citizenship. They are viewed as the dimensions that are most in need of redefinition in modern society. The review has focused, in particular, on how these dimensions should respond to four particular issues concerning citizenship in modern societies. These are the issues associated with:

      It is not always easy to address these dimensions and issues relating to citizenship because of the inherent tensions between them. However, the review of citizenship has begun to see its traditional boundaries reshaped in order to respond to the rapid pace of change in modern society. The attempts to redefine citizenship have had a considerable knock-on effect on citizenship education. They have triggered and influenced debates about the definition and nature of citizenship education and the role to be played by schools, curricula and teachers, parents and communities.

      Reshaping citizenship has also meant reformulating citizenship education at the same time. The two go hand in hand. This has been the case in many countries and contexts, including in the United Kingdom (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in particular) and in Europe (Council of Europe All-European EDC Policy study, 2004; EURYDICE survey, 2005). It is no coincidence that effective, active citizenship education has been included as a fundamental goal of education systems in the curriculum reviews that are underway in many countries. Schools, curricula and teachers have been given a significant role in helping to actively prepare young people for engaging with and participating in modern society.

      2006 has seen the IEA launch its third study in citizenship education, the new International Civics and Citizenship Study, as a follow up to the 1999 IEA Cived study. The launch is recognition of the changes in policy and practice in citizenship education that have taken place in many countries and regions across the world since 1999. The Study is expecting a strong participation from European countries. It will be interesting to see whether England participates again given developments. Participation would provide a measure of progress in citizenship education in relation to national results for 1999 as well as in comparison to the results of other participating countries.

  4. Final comment
    1. What is the status of citizenship in my school/college?
      • is citizenship education considered important in the eyes of managers, teachers and students?
      • Do school/college leaders, teachers and students understand the rationale for and benefits of citizenship education?
      • Is citizenship education actively supported and promoted across the institution?
      • Are there sufficient ‘citizenship champions’ in the institution to take this area forward?
      • Are students actively involved in their citizenship learning and developing a student voice across the school/college?
    2. How is citizenship education provision approached in my school/college?
      • Where does your school/college fit in the typology of approaches to citizenship in Figure 1? Is it progressing, focused, implicit or minimalist?
      • Is there a clear and coherent understanding of what citizenship education means across the institution?
      • Are there links between citizenship in the curriculum and active citizenship developments in the whole school/college and through links with the wider community?
      • in the curriculum
        • does citizenship have a dedicated timeslot and sufficient resources?
        • Are the knowledge and understanding areas associated with political literacy covered as well as other citizenship topics?
      • in the school community
        • what opportunities are available to students for active participation in school life?
        • how well-organised and led is the school/college council and how does it contribute to the development of a ‘real’ student voice?
      • in the wider community
        • what is the state of the partnerships and links between the school/college and the local community?
        • how involved are staff and students in local, national and international communities and links?
    3. And in particular:

    4. What citizenship opportunities are provided for students?
      • Is citizenship a recognisable entitlement for all students and how would they define citizenship, if asked?
      • How coherent are student experiences of citizenship in the curriculum and in the life of the school/college?
      • What opportunities are there for students to be involved in more active approaches based around discussion, reflection and action?
      • How well is the political literacy strand of citizenship covered?
    5. What is the impact of school and other factors on students’ citizenship experiences and development?
      • to what extent does your school/college tailor its citizenship education provision to the needs, interests and experiences of students?
      • How much use is made of students’ ‘everyday citizenship experiences’ in their homes and communities in order to make citizenship relevant to them?
      • Is there a clear strategy for building strong links with local and wider communities beyond the school/college?
      • How far have individuals and groups (including parents) from the local community been involved in the planning and delivery of citizenship?
    6. What factors underpin citizenship developments in my school/college?
      • How far are the factors that underpin the most successful citizenship provision present in my school/college?
      • What is the status and impact of management factors?
      • How far is citizenship developed and supported across the whole institution?
      • To what extent are learning contexts supportive of citizenship in terms of staff expertise, active learning approaches and positive classroom climate?
    7. The research findings should be viewed with caution. It should be remembered that the citizenship education initiative in England is still in its early stages of implementation. The findings from the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study remain interim findings at this stage. It is not surprising that they present a picture of uneven and inconsistent practice within and across schools. This does not mean that there is not room for considerable improvement in many areas. However, it would be premature to suggest major changes to the citizenship curriculum until a cohort of young people have experienced statutory citizenship in schools and colleges from age 11 to 18 and the outcomes of such experience have been fully evaluated, published and reviewed. This will be the case when the final report from the Longitudinal Study is published in 2009.

      Finally, we would strongly support the need for research and evaluation to be at the heart of any on-going and future development in citizenship education in England (and in other countries). Research means that we know a lot more about policy and practice in citizenship in schools in England now than in 2001. And by 2009 we will know considerably more than in 2006.

  5. It is not the place of the NFER to suggest detailed recommendations to the Select Committee concerning citizenship education. Rather our role is to present the research evidence, to date, in order to strengthen the basis upon which such recommendations can be made. The research findings from the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study suggest a number of key considerations for reviewing citizenship education in schools and colleges. These considerations may provide a useful aide-memoire in reviewing the evidence from other submissions. They are:

    Further evidence

    NFER will be pleased to provide further details about the findings and issues raised in this submission. NFER researchers are also happy to contribute to any meetings or sessions convened by the Education and Skills Select Committee should committee members which to pursue anything further. We also hope that we will have an opportunity to place the latest findings from the Longitudinal Study on Active Citizenship before the Committee once these are publicly available in April. We believe they have a major bearing on the Committee’s activities.

    About the author

    David Kerr (d.kerr@nfer.ac.uk) is Principal Research Officer at the National Foundation for Educational Research in England and Wales (NFER) and Visiting Professor in Citizenship at Birkbeck College, University of London. He was Professional Officer to the Citizenship Advisory Group chaired by Professor (now Sir) Bernard Crick. The group’s final report led to the introduction of citizenship in schools in England in 2002. David is currently leading at NFER a nine-year Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study which began in 2001 and aims to assess the short and long-term effects of the new citizenship courses in schools on young people. The Study has produced a number of influential reports including Listening to Young People (2005) and Making Citizenship Education Real (2004). He was previously the national research coordinator (England) for the 28 country IEA Civic Education Study (CIVED).

    David is active in citizenship networks in Europe. He is currently the UK National Co-ordinator and on the CAHCIT Steering Group of the Council of Europe’s Education for Democratic Citizenship (EDC) project. The Council of Europe has designated 2005 as the European Year of Citizenship through Education. He co-authored the Council’s All-European Study on Education for Democratic Citizenship Policies (2004) and contributed to the EURYDICE survey Citizenship Education at School in Europe (2005) and CIDREE 2005 Yearbook on Citizenship Education. He has led a number of international seminars for the British Council on citizenship and human rights education, both in the UK and abroad, and published widely.

    David Kerr, Principal Research Officer, NFER, March 2006

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