Citizenship Education in England 2001-2010: Young people's practices and prospects for the future (he eighth and final report from the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study (CELS))

David Kerr, Avril Keating, Thomas Benton, Joana Lopes, Ellie Mundy

22 November 2010

Research report available to download from DfE

Research brief available to download from DfE

In 2001 the former Department for Education and Skills (DfES) commissioned NFER to investigate the impact of citizenship education on the learning experiences and outcomes of pupils. The main aims of the study were to assess the short-term and long-term effects of citizenship education on young people in England, explore whether different processes can have variable results and produce different outcomes, consider what changes could be made to the delivery of citizenship education in order to improve its potential for effectiveness.

Key Findings

  • Young people's citizenship practices have changed over time in relation to their attitudes, attachments and efficacy. The picture is mixed. On the one hand, there has been a marked and steady increase in young people’s civic and political participation and indications that these young people will continue to participate as adult citizens. In contrast, there has been a hardening of attitudes toward equality and society, a weakening of attachment to communities and fluctuating levels of engagement, efficacy and trust in the political arena.
  • The factors that shape young people's citizenship outcomes include age and life-stage, background factors, prior citizenship outcomes, as well as levels of 'received' citizenship education. Trend analysis has highlighted a 'Key Stage 4 dip' in the cohort's interest in politics, sense of efficacy and levels of participation in civic activities and also the considerable impact of the cohort's prior citizenship outcomes on their current citizenship outcomes. There are preliminary indications that citizenship education, where young people receive 'a lot' of citizenship education, can have an impact on their citizenship outcomes, over and above the impact of other factors.
  • A number of changes could be made to the delivery of citizenship education in order to improve its effectiveness. They include looking at ensuring the delivery of discrete citizenship lessons, which are planned by CE teachers and linked to external examinations or certification. It is also suggested that consideration is given to providing citizenship education through to age 18 and providing support and training for the 'political literacy' strand and for embedding citizenship learning in schools.