Teachers do not feel confident giving lessons on politics, economics, law and the European Union, according to a report on citizenship education.
The Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study, published a week before the local and European elections, reveals that three- quarters of the 387 teachers polled felt they needed more training in these areas. The study also found that only one in five schools plans to use the new short-course GCSE in citizenship studies.
Citizenship education has been compulsory in secondaries since September 2002. But the report found only two-fifths of teachers surveyed had received training.
Teachers from 112 schools across England and Wales called for more assistance in relation to assessment, teaching methods and subject matter.
The report said: "Few schools have as yet recognised the broad scope of citizenship education and attempted to translate it into a holistic and coherent whole-school policy."
It called for schools to review citizenship, include it in the curriculum, and to develop partnerships with the wider community.
Four-fifths of teachers said they expected citizenship education to have "some impact" on pupils' future participation in the community and propensity to vote in elections. Of 18,500 Year 7 pupils surveyed, nearly two-thirds felt a sense of belonging to their neighbourhoods, while approximately half felt a sense of belonging to their town and country. The youngsters' views will be canvassed again in Years 9, 11 and 13.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills, which commissioned the study by the National Foundation for Educational Research, said there were no plans to encourage more schools to introduce the GCSE short course. "It is up to the individual school to decide whether they offer it but we will look at the findings of this study," she said.