Citizenship leaves pupils cold

20th August 2004 at 01:00
Most pupils enjoy at least half of their lessons at secondary school but think citizenship is of little use, a survey has found.

The Schools Health Education Unit's survey of 15,000 pupils found that a third enjoyed all or most of their lessons and a further third enjoyed half of them. Only 15 per cent said they liked "hardly any" of their classes.

But citizenship was considered one of the most "useless" subjects, with only a fifth of pupils describing these lessons as "quite useful" or "very useful".

Students ranked the subject behind all the other topics taught in personal social and health education lessons.

Classes on drugs were considered "useful" by 47 per cent of students; sex and relations education by 43 per cent; healthy eating by 35 per cent; bullying by 28 per cent and citizenship by 20 per cent.

Citizenship became compulsory in secondary schools two years ago and most schools teach it as part of PSHE.

The researchers found that as pupils grew older they felt lessons on citizenship, healthy eating and drugs were less useful.

But older pupils were more appreciative of sex education, with more 15-year-olds stating it was useful than 13-year-olds.

Dr David Regis, director and research manager of the unit, said: "The results for citizenship are a disappointment. It may be the case that pupils are taking part in activities, such as designing a mural with a community group, without realising that it is part of the subject."

Tony Breslin, chief executive of the Citizenship Foundation, said the findings underlined the need to make citizenship lessons more exciting.

Previous studies had indicated that the subject was only taught in an interesting and inspiring way in a quarter of schools, he said.

Mr Breslin said: "It is vital that pupils see that citizenship, like drugs and sex, is directly relevant to their lives."

He said schools were doing citizenship an injustice if they only taught it during PSHE classes or treated it as a dry lesson in civics.

"Learning about the passage of a bill is hardly going to engage a young person," he said.

The annual survey showed that 14 and 15-year-old girls outdid boys for drinking and smoking. Around 44 per cent of the girls said they had drunk an alcoholic drink in the previous week, compared with 42 per cent of the boys.

But researchers at the unit said there had been little change in teenagers'

drinking patterns and a fractional decline in smoking.

They suggested that the greatest concern for teenage boys remained their school work, while teenage girls were more likely to be worried about the way they looked.

The study also found that more than a quarter of 14 to 15-year-old boys felt "certain" or "fairly sure" that their friends carried weapons for protection.

The survey revealed that girls became significantly less interested in reading and in fitness as they grew older.

The proportion of girls who said they read books for enjoyment after school was 41 per cent for 11-year-olds, but only 18 per cent for 15-year-olds.

Similarly, the proportion who said they felt "fit" or "very fit" dropped from 57 per cent to 29 per cent between the two ages.

Young People in 2003 can be ordered at

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