In 2001, Citizenship was introduced as a statutory subject in the English National Curriculum, following the recommendations of the Crick Report in 1998. It is taught as part of the school curriculum to all pupils aged 11–16 years old in maintained schools in England.
The National Curriculum for citizenship in England contributes to the overall aims of the national curriculum, that children should develop as successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society. The Citizenship curriculum is based on key concepts (democracy, justice, rights and responsibilities, identities and diversity) that children need to understand and key processes and skills (critical thinking and enquiry, advocacy and representation, taking informed and responsible action) they need to develop. The National Curriculum for citizenship sets out teaching requirements that address a wide range of content including politics, parliament and government, the operation of the legal system, how the economy functions, the role of the media, human rights, Europe and international relations. Teachers use topical political and social issues to bring citizenship content to life and to help pupils develop key citizenship skills of research, discussion and debate, as well as to represent the views of others, think critically, evaluate and reflect. The Citizenship curriculum aims to develop student's ability to participate in communities and wider society as informed, critical and responsible citizens. The purpose of "active citizenship" is to teach students to work together and take practical action, using their Citizenship knowledge and understanding to contribute to a better society. For example, after learning about human rights, diversity and inequality, students might decide to set up a project to address racism in their school or local community. Other examples of active Citizenship projects include starting recycling programmes, setting up student action groups to address bullying or promote fair trade or campaigning to lower the voting age to 16.
A GCSE in "Citizenship Studies" is available for students in key stage 4. The three main awarding bodies in England (AQA, OCR and Edexcel) offer this qualification as a full and a short course. The qualification includes a controlled assessment based on an active citizenship project they have taken part in. There is also an A level in Citizenship Studies which is available through AQA. This qualification is valued by leading Universities including the University of Cambridge. More than 500,000 young people have now attained qualifications in Citizenship Studies since 2002.
A review by Sir Jim Rose of the primary national curriculum during 2009, was expected to lead the introduction of citizenship as a statutory part of the primary education during 2010. However, the Education Bill fell at its last hurdle in parliament so the subject remains non-statutory in primary schools. Most primary schools already teach citizenship through their curriculum. Materials to support the teaching of citizenship in primary and secondary schools and in post 16 settings were published by QCA (now the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency).
In October 2005, the House of Commons Education and Skills Select Committee began an inquiry into Citizenship Education, which reported in March 2007. They took written and oral evidence from a wide range of individuals including a range of Headteachers and Sir Bernard Crick, and organisations including the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Learning and Skills Network, Ofsted, the Association of Citizenship Teachers (ACT), the
Citizenship Foundation and the Hansard Society.
The Committee concluded that "It is too early to say with any degree of confidence whether citizenship education is producing the wide range of impacts originally hoped for. Initial evidence from small-scale studies and the experience of individual institutions is promising but on its own not enough...The imperative now is to ensure that patchiness [in the provision of citizenship teaching] is not allowed to remain, that high quality provision becomes the norm, and that progress is accelerated. This will require action from those on the ground, but also needs strong support from the DfES and Ministers."
Comparisons with civic and citizenship education in other countries have been subject to extensive research by the NfER and further information is available at http://www.nfer.ac.uk/research/projects/cels/ and https://web.archive.org/web/20130310032049/http://www.iea.nl/icces.html
The Coalition government is currently reviewing the National Curriculum in England. For more see http://www.democraticlife.org.uk