Citizenship education is often overlooked in schools across England and Wales. With educators under pressure to develop students’ individual talents, it’s easy to forget that schools are also responsible for nurturing the communities of tomorrow.

Citizenship education represents a mandatory element of the National Curriculum for secondary school pupils, as well as a non-statutory part of the PSHE framework for primary students. It also helps students learn about the power of community and cooperation. As such, governing boards must do everything in their power to support schools’ citizenship initiatives.

How does citizenship education benefit pupils?

As well as giving young people a sense of agency, teaching citizenship helps pupils develop empathy and appreciate the importance of helping others. According to research from the Jubilee Centre, young people who engage in social action before the age of 10 are twice as likely to consistently serve their community compared to those who don’t volunteer until they’re 16 or 17.

As well as nurturing community-spirited young people, citizenship experiences help develop students’ practical and social skills. Young people who volunteer and learn about citizenship from a young age are better at negotiating, appreciating diverse points of view, managing their feelings, and working alongside others. In the long term, citizenship education is vital for creating a more socially just and inclusive world.

How can governors support students beyond the school gates?

Governors can support students’ citizenship education by posing pertinent questions during board meetings, such as:

  1. What does the current citizenship curriculum include? Are there any stats available regarding the success of this offering? Is it tailored to all learners’ needs?
  2. How could we improve citizenship education? Are children allowed to get out of the classroom and engage with community members such as local MPs, charity workers, or business owners? How can the school facilitate such experiences?
  3. Are there any organisations that could help provide citizenship experiences and education? How can we link up with them?

You can enrich the citizenship education offered at your school by reaching out to charities who can help, such as Young Citizens. Working across primary, secondary, and college settings, Young Citizens delivers a range of high-quality programmes and resources to help teachers address complex societal problems and build pupils’ citizenship skills.

According to Stella Baynes, Programme Manager at Young Citizens: “Social action is a core part of the work of Young Citizens. We support teachers to facilitate group community action projects in school, as part of the curriculum, or as an after school club or ‘drop-down’ day. We offer free online training for teachers focusing on the benefits of social action and the key qualities of an effective project. We also offer two group work programmes Make a Difference Challenge (KS2) and Bring About Change (KS3+), both of which provide a framework for quality youth-led social action.

“On our website, you can find resources and suggestions about making a difference in a community space. Whether your students are keen to tackle air pollution or protect local wildlife, these resources can be adapted for students of all ages. There’s also much more to explore on the Young Citizens site, including our Making a Difference from Home learning packs for supporting young people’s mental health and fascinating case studies about our popular programmes.”

With the right resources and support, schools can deliver high-quality citizenship education that could shape children’s futures. To find out more about Young Citizens, visit the charity’s website.

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