Ofsted: Schools failing citizenship test

A quarter of secondary schools are failing to teach citizenship to a sufficient standard, a report by education watchdog Ofsted warned today.

Compulsory citizenship lessons – which cover subjects including law, local government structures, the electoral system and human rights – were introduced for 11 to 16-year-olds in 2002 as part of a government drive to beat extremism.

The Ofsted report says: “In a small number of schools there is no will to change because of other priorities, resistance to the idea of citizenship education, or an expectation that it will go away.”

It adds that few teachers approach the subject “with enthusiasm”, concluding that 25 per cent of the schools inspected in 2005/06 were offering “inadequate” citizenship classes.

Calling on schools to do more to improve teaching of the subject, Ofsted urged them to recruit specialist staff for or providing more training for existing staff.

Urging the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to provide more places for initial teacher training in citizenship, inspectors called for citizenship to be made into a subject in its own right. They also urged for GCSE as well as A-level courses to be made available.

Ofsted’s director of education Miriam Rosen said: “Citizenship is still seen as the poor relation of more established subjects but it requires teachers to be highly skilled and able to deal with contentious and sometimes difficult issues.

“Urgent attention is needed to make sure it is a central part of the school curriculum and ethos.”

Sir Bernard Crick, one of the architects of citizenship teaching in schools, said the subject should use real issues to teach children how to be politically literate, making them “active citizens” rather than “apathetic subjects”.

The DfES pointed to plans to train 1,200 new citizenship teachers over the next two years.

A spokesman said: “Citizenship is still a relatively new subject which Ofsted says is improving – inspectors saw much good practice and we are confident it can be successful.

“Citizenship has had a positive impact on the curriculum in the majority of schools and we are confident it will continue to improve as it becomes more embedded.”