Citizenship: a world of change but more to do

22nd January 2010 at 00:00
Provision 'strongly positive' in primaries but still 'inadequate' in one in 10 secondaries

The last three years have seen a big improvement in citizenship lessons, but more than one in 10 secondaries have still done "little or nothing" to implement the subject, according to an Ofsted report published today.

In 2006, the watchdog found citizenship lessons were inadequate in a quarter of secondaries, with some schools barely teaching the new statutory national curriculum subject.

Ofsted's latest survey, based on visits to 91 secondaries, reveals that achievement in citizenship in more than half of the schools is now good or outstanding.

In primaries, provision was"strongly positive", and good or outstanding in 21 of 23 schools visited.

"Particular strengths included pupils' understanding of the community, sustainability, global links and human rights."

But 10 of the secondaries offered inadequate provision. They had "done little or nothing to implement citizenship, a national curriculum requirement that has now been in place for seven years", the report says.

"In these schools, citizenship had been misunderstood or ignored, or its development had been so constrained by other priorities that its effectiveness was severely limited," it adds.

In the best schools the vision for citizenship was reflected in the broader life of the school as well as the taught curriculum.

Schools which relied "too heavily" on suspending the timetable to provide time for citizenship were "most unlikely to meet national curriculum requirements".

In schools where provision was no better than satisfactory, citizenship was generally included in personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) lessons, leaving time short and curriculum coverage uneven.

Pupils typically knew a good deal about some aspects such as human rights but had significant knowledge gaps, particularly in government and politics.

But inspectors were encouraged that in many schools with weak provision there was a "positive direction of travel".

In some schools, opportunities to participate in "active citizenship" through leadership roles or school councils were limited to more able pupils.

And Ofsted found schools generally gave insufficient attention to the needs of lower-attaining pupils in citizenship lessons.

Some schools needed to make a more explicit link between citizenship lessons and their duty to promote community cohesion.

Most outstanding teaching observed came from well-trained specialist citizenship teachers.

"They had strong subject knowledge and were willing to tackle sensitive and controversial topics," the report said.

It said there was a need for more in-service citizenship training for teachers. But schools had been slow to take up places on government funded courses.

Christine Gilbert, chief inspector at Ofsted, said: "Citizenship is becoming a well-established part of the school curriculum and this report highlights the ways in which schools are successfully promoting social responsibility, community involvement and political understanding. "

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