Britain's biggest exam board, the AQA, will launch the first A-level in citizenship at a conference in London this month. Four MPs, including Boris Johnson, the shadow minister for higher education, and Barry Sheerman, the chairman of the education and skills select committee, are in the line-up of speakers.
Also speaking will be Sir Keith Ajegbo, who wrote a report for ministers on citizenship and Britishness, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, the columnist and commentator, Mick Waters, the head of curriculum at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, and Mike Cresswell, the director general of the AQA board.
The AQA's new course, which will begin in September 2008, aims to tap into the growing popularity of citizenship at GCSE level. The A-level will embrace the study of democracy, community action, global issues and "power and justice".
At AS, students will be expected to address the relationship between the individual, the law and the state, answering questions such as "What does it mean to be British?" and "Are we all equal citizens?"
The A2 course covers the principles of justice systems, representative democracy and the role of Parliament. The syllabus sets out some questions which have been exercising media commentators in recent years. For example:
"To what extent does poverty exist in Britain?" and "What is the influence of the media in its various formats?"
Students will also complete a coursework investigation into a particular subject area, but this will not be formally assessed. Mock examples include research into the activities of Greenpeace and a study of the arguments concerning identity cards.
Another novel aspect of the course is that students will be expected to demonstrate active citizenship, for example by taking part in class debates and influencing school policies, and record these activities in a logbook.
* More information on the launch event, on June 25, at www.aqa.org.ukqualcitizenship.php