Active Citizenship and Young People: Opportunities, experiences and challenges in and beyond school citizenship education. Longitudinal Study: fourth annual report

David Kerr, Elizabeth Cleaver, Joana Lopes, Julie Nelson, Eleanor Ireland

01 May 2006

The Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study (CELS), conducted by the NFER on behalf of the DCFS, aims to identify, measure and evaluate the extent to which effective practice in citizenship education develops in schools. The study began in 2001 and will conclude in 2009. The report sets out the findings from the second longitudinal survey and visits to ten case-study schools.

Key Findings

The analysis provides an important update with regard to the status and practice of citizenship education in schools. The findings from this update are listed in brief below:

  • Analysis suggests that the main change in approach to citizenship education in schools has been an increased focus on curriculum aspects of citizenship education provision. The proportion of schools described as progressing and implicit, in the typology of schools developed in 2003, remained largely unchanged in 2005. However, the proportion of schools described as minimalist decreased, while the proportion described as focused increased.
  • Schools continued to use a variety of citizenship delivery models. However, there was a notable increase in the use of dedicated timeslots and in the use of assembly time.
  • Teachers were more likely in 2005, than in 2003, to believe that citizenship education was best approached as a specific subject and through extra-curricular activities.
  • School leaders and teachers were more familiar with a range of key documents related to citizenship education in 2005 than in 2003.
  • Teacher confidence in teaching citizenship-related topics saw a moderate increase in 2005, although overall confidence levels remained relatively low.
  • Students were more aware of citizenship in 2005 than in 2003. The main ways in which they reported learning about citizenship was: through personal, social and health education (PSHE), religious education, as a discrete subject and tutor groups.
  • Descriptions of citizenship education that encompassed ‘active’ components, such as voting and politics, were relatively uncommon amongst students, although a sizeable proportion identified the importance of belonging to the community.
  • Although traditional teaching and learning methods continued to dominate in citizenship and other subjects, a range of more active methods were also used. There was also an increase in the use of computers, the internet and external agencies, and a decrease in the use of textbooks.
  • There was a substantial increase in the proportion of schools with an assessment policy for citizenship education in 2005, and the use of formal assessment methods was considerably more widespread than in 2003.
  • Teachers received more training in citizenship in 2005 than in 2003. Despite this there was a high demand for further training in relation to subject matter, assessment and reporting and teaching methods.
  • The main challenges to citizenship education were felt, by school leaders and teachers, to include time pressure, assessment, the status of citizenship and teachers’ subject expertise with student engagement and participation seen as lesser challenges.

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