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What is citizenship?

Citizenship involves playing an active part in society. Citizenship education enables that.

Kensington Primary Schools march for their Go-Givers campaign

Citizens are members of a state or a nation. Citizenship is the process of being such a member. It is how we make society work, together.

Citizenship education gives people the knowledge and skills to understand, challenge and engage with the main pillars of our democracy: politics, the economy and the law.

Why is it important?

"We should not, must not, dare not, be complacent about the health and future of British democracy. Unless we become a nation of engaged citizens, our democracy is not secure." Lord Chancellor, 1998

Society belongs to all of us. What we put into it creates what we get out of it.

At the Citizenship Foundation, we believe society is best when we all join in. That is, when we all bring our energy and judgment to it.

This helps make it fairer and more inclusive. It supports a democracy in which people participate and belong.

But it means we all need enough knowledge, skills and confidence to take part effectively.

We want everyone to feel they belong. And we want everyone to feel they can drive change.

The European Commission says active citizenship is:

'Participation in civil society, community and/or political life, characterised by mutual respect and non-violence and in accordance with human rights and democracy' (Hoskins 2006).

So let's make this a reality. Let's help people become effective citizens. The cost is much greater if we don't.

Where should we do this?

In lots of places. But, at the very least, through citizenship education in schools.

Schools prepare us for living in society. And, in the UK, we all have the chance to go to school.

In school, we learn about other important things such as history, language and mathematics. This is so we can survive in, thrive in and contribute to society: be that in our work lives or our social lives.

There are elements of citizenship education in all of these subjects, as well as in a school's SMSC outcomes (see doingsmsc.org.uk).

But citizenship education is more than that. Which is why we're pleased it is still in the National Curriculum in secondary schools as a subject in its own right.

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