Press release

International citizenship survey shows England’s teenagers have a strong sense of national identity but poor civic knowledge of the EU

22 November 2010

The results of the IEA International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) show a complex picture of young people’s attitudes and understanding of their societies and their role within them.  Although the vast majority expects to vote in national elections, political parties were the least trusted civic institution. The study highlights a strong relationship between civic knowledge and participation, with students with higher civic knowledge reporting greater likelihood to participate in society.

The outcome of the survey in England, which was conducted by NFER, has shown some interesting comparisons between English teenagers and their international and European counterparts.

Key findings

There are many implications for citizenship education policy and practice in England that  arise from the ICCS study, including addressing the low scores in matters such as tolerance of immigration; knowledge of EU policies and practices and strengthening the ability of teachers to address such topics.  Schools, and the citizenship curriculum, have an important role to play in helping pupils to improve their knowledge and understanding of the local, national, European and worldwide community in which they live as well as providing a secure environment where pupils are encouraged to express opinion, to debate and to  participate in decision making. 

NFER’s Professor David Kerr, the Associate Research Director for ICCS, with responsibility for the ICCS European Report says:

‘With many countries interested in how best to prepare young people to be active, informed and responsible citizens, England’s participation in the ICCS study allows us to compare the civic knowledge and attitudes of young people in England with those in other European and international countries. It shows a mixed picture. On the one hand, it highlights a deficit in pupils’ civic knowledge about the EU, their negative attitudes toward immigration in Europe and lack of community participation. On the other, it reveals that young people will vote and do participate in school. It also confirms the positive influence of school ethos and of opportunities for pupils to discuss and participate in school on their civic knowledge and engagement.’

The research report and research brief are available to download here


For more information contact: Allie Chownsmith, Media and Communications Executive, on 01753 637155 /, and Gail Goodwin, Media and Communications Manager, on 01753 637159 /

Notes to editors

ICCS is a large-scale study of pupil knowledge and understanding, dispositions and attitudes, which is administered across 38 countries worldwide. There is an International Report and a European Report, which focuses on European specific civic and citizenship issues. The results are based upon England’s national dataset, with reference to international- and European-level findings, and to findings from the IEA Civic Education Study (CIVED), which took place in 1999.

In 2006 the, then, Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF), commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to coordinate the administration and analysis of England’s participation in the IEA International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS).