Defining active citizenship in English secondary schools

James Wood


The key stage three and four programmes of study for citizenship in English secondary schools include the requirement that schools make provision for participation (active citizenship) for all pupils. Following the publication of the programme of study a number of organisations have offered advice on how schools should fulfil this requirement. The key influences on this are the Department for Education and Skills through the Crick Report, The Office for Standards in Education and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Each offers differing views on the definition of participation and therefore conflicting advice to teachers wishing to put it into practice in schools.

A summary of these sources makes it clear that schools require further guidance in this area in first how to fulfil their legal requirements and second how to fulfil the spirit of the programme of study. Key distinctions between Crick, Ofsted and QCA include the questions of whether or not active citizenship must relate to the knowledge and understanding elements of the curriculum, whether or not participation should take place in the classroom and whether the notion of ?Ǩdoing good?ǨѢ is compatible with the notion of ?Ǩpolitical good?ǨѢ.

As schools are primarily concerned, not with legal requirements but with offering the best education to their pupils, I conclude that the most appropriate course of action is to plan a classroom curriculum which fulfils Ofsted?ǨѢs requirements and complement this through a participative school culture. This must include a political curriculum alongside extra-curricular opportunities which offer all pupils the opportunity to take part in activities which involve both ?Ǩdoing good?ǨѢ and ?Ǩpolitical good?ǨѢ as in reality neither can exist without the other.

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Editor-in-Chief: Prof Norbert Pachler
UCL Institute of Education, University College London
ISSN 1746-9082

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