The success of citizenship in secondary schools will depend almost entirely on how seriously senior managers treat it, a conference on the new subject was told.
Some schools have offered little funding and no training. This could be because many regard the subject as a ministerial fad, said local authority citizenship advisers at the Association for Citizenship Teaching conference last month.
Primary schools, which do not have to teach citizenship, are finding it easier to introduce than secondaries, partly because a single class teacher can work across the curriculum and partly because many are enthusiastic about a return to a broader education, said Jan Urban-Smith, Gloucester's citizenship adviser.
But even schools that are doing well face an assessment conundrum: with the Government and inspectors insisting that citizenship must be marked like other subjects, how are they to tell a child he or she is not up to scratch as a citizen?
Teachers have been asked to stream children into citizenship ability sets, and produce levels for each child so managers can demonstrate that targets are being met. Some pupils were aware that if they did not get a level 4 they would be seen as bottom-ability citizens, one head of history told The TES.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has been monitoring the subject's implementation in 10 per cent of schools and will publish a report later this year, as will citizenship support groups and the National Foundation for Educational Research.
The foundation has begun a seven-year study following a cohort of pupils to see how they develop as citizens.
If there is no improvement as a result of the teaching, said Professor Bernard Crick, creator of the subject, then citizenship should be scrapped.
"If it hasn't worked, it should be withdrawn. I may be father of the movement, but I will strangle the child if it's just a bloody waste of time," he said.