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26 January, 2010

Ofsted reports on the state of citizenship education in schools

On 22 January Ofsted published 'Citizenship Established? Citizenship in schools 2006/09', their report on the provision of citizenship education in England.

Ofsted inspectors visited 91 secondary schools between September 2006 and July 2009.  Just over half of the schools visited were judged good or outstanding for students' achievements in citizenship, while 10 were judged inadequate.

Key findings

  • There is evidence that provision and outcomes for students are improving overall;
  • In the 10 schools where achievement was found to be inadequate there were significant gaps in students' knowledge and understanding, particularly in the key area of government and politics;
  • The 36 schools where the curriculum was only satisfactory often did not give enough attention to the key area of political understanding;
  • The lessons in the good and outstanding schools were mostly taught by non-specialists, many of whom were diligent and enthusiastic. Most of the outstanding teaching was by well-trained specialists who had strong subject knowledge and who were willing to tackle sensitive and controversial topics;
  • Most of the schools visited gave opportunities for some students to excel in active citizenship. However, few schools monitored these opportunities to ensure that all students were involved or used the information to encourage others to participate;
  • Leadership was good or outstanding in just over half the secondary schools visited and inadequate in 11;
  • Schools have been slow to take up places on CPD courses funded by the DCSF;
  • Most of the schools visited where inspectors focused on identity and diversity provided well for those aspects, although the link between citizenship and the duty to promote community cohesion was often not explicit. Provision was inadequate where teachers' subject knowledge was insufficient for them to deal with sensitive and controversial issues or where there was insufficient emphasis on these in the curriculum.

Key recommendations

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) should:

  • with the Training and Development Agency for Schools, maintain the numbers of trainee places for initial teacher education and the level of provision for continuing professional development in citizenship.
  • The DCSF should also promote the take-up of courses for continuing professional development in this area.

Local authorities should:

  • consider how they can support schools in developing citizenship programmes and facilitate networks of teachers and, in particular, encourage schools where provision is weak to become involved.

Schools should:

  • develop the quality of citizenship teaching by taking advantage of existing expertise in the school, capitalising on training opportunities and recruiting specialist teachers when the opportunity arises.
  • establish a clear link between citizenship and community cohesion, in particular highlighting the contribution that pupils can make to their local community.
  • Ensure that all their staff understand the principles defining citizenship and how these relate to other subjects, particularly the humanities and PSHE education
  • Ensure that the citizenship curriculum and opportunities for participation and responsible action are available to pupils of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.

Visit Ofsted for the full report

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