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17 February, 2005

Active citizenship education really is motivating young people

A recent report, based on research by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has praised an innovative citizenship education programme for 16-19 year olds for its success in motivating young people to play an active role in their communities. It highlights the programme's 'political literacy in action' approach and its achievements in inspiring young people to get involved in national and local politics.

The Post-16 Citizenship Development Programme, run by the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA), was set up in 2001 by the Department for Education and Skills as a pilot scheme to discover the best ways of delivering citizenship education at 16 plus.

Now, in its third year, some 17,000 young people in school sixth forms, colleges, youth organisations and on work-based training schemes are involved in the programme, which is run through local partnerships. Its distinctive features are experiential learning and education through action, rather than simply the acquisition of knowledge about politics and government.

One young person summed up what citizenship meant as 'just helping someone crossing the road is not citizenship. If you are a good citizen you will go to the council and get a zebra crossing to be there so that it benefits everyone'.

Bernadette Joslin, LSDA's project manager for the programme, comments:

'This report is timely, given the burgeoning interest in citizenship education and the scanty knowledge of politics displayed by recent polls of young people. What we have discovered is that citizenship education can really galvanise young people into becoming activists in a positive way - through the democratic process. Publicising schemes like this can help to show the value that they can contribute to society.'

The Citizenship Foundation, an independent charity, managed the pilot in the London Central area of this national development project until the end of 2004. The Foundation remains an advisory partner to the national programme, which may lead to an entitlement to Citizenship Education for all in the 16-19 phase.

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