Citizenship education

Citizenship is in the national curriculum and is statutory in secondary schools. It is a natural place for many of the current requirements around SMSCBritish values and the Prevent Duty.

At a glance…


Citizenship teaching provides 'knowledge, skills and understanding' to 'play a full and active part in society' (National Curriculum 2014).

The citizenship curriculum fosters:

  • keen awareness and understanding of democracy, government and law
  • skills and knowledge to explore political and social issues critically
  • skills and knowledge to weigh evidence, debate and make reasoned arguments
  • pupils' ability 'to take their place in society as responsible citizens'.


All schools must promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils and, within this, 'fundamental British values'.

British values

Ofsted will inspect these 'fundamental British values':

  • democracy
  • the rule of law
  • individual liberty and mutual respect
  • tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

All of whch fall within the citizenship curriculum.

Prevent Duty

The Government's Prevent Duty guidance recommends building pupils’ resilience to radicalisation by:

  • providing a safe environment for debating controversial issues
  • helping them to understand how they can influence and participate in decision-making.

In secondary schools, the Department for Education particularly recommends using the citizenship curriculum for this.


Ofsted will inspect all of these.


Citizenship: a statutory national curriculum subject

Citizenship has been on the national curriculum in England and Wales since 1991, and compulsory in secondary schools since 2002.

When planned, taught and assessed well, citizenship education is a key element of SMSC. It helps prepare pupils for life as engaged citizens and to meet its opportunities, challenges and responsibilities.

The new national curriculum citizenship programmes of study provide many opportunities to develop SMSC, promote British values and help teachers uphold the Prevent Duty.

They stipulate the citizenship curriculum's purpose as providing 'knowledge, skills and understanding' to 'play a full and active part in society'.

It should foster pupils' 'keen awareness and understanding' of democracy, government and law, their skills and knowledge to explore political and social issues critically, weigh evidence, debate and make reasoned arguments', and prepare pupils 'to take their place in society as responsible citizens'.

Key stage 3

'Teaching should develop pupils’ understanding of democracy, government and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

'Pupils should use and apply their knowledge and understanding while developing skills to research and interrogate evidence, debate and evaluate viewpoints, present reasoned arguments and take informed action.'

Pupils should be taught about:

  • the development of the political system of democratic government in the United Kingdom, including the roles of citizens, Parliament and the monarch
  • the operation of Parliament, including voting and elections, and the role of political parties
  • the precious liberties enjoyed by the citizens of the United Kingdom
  • the nature of rules and laws and the justice system, including the role of the police and the operation of courts and tribunals
  • the roles played by public institutions and voluntary groups in society, and the ways in which citizens work together to improve their communities, including opportunities to participate in school-based activities
  • the functions and uses of money, the importance and practice of budgeting, and managing risk.

Key stage 4

'Teaching should build on the key stage 3 programme of study to deepen pupils’ understanding of democracy, government and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

'Pupils should develop their skills to be able to use a range of research strategies, weigh up evidence, make persuasive arguments and substantiate their conclusions.

'They should experience and evaluate different ways that citizens can act together to solve problems and contribute to society.'

Pupils should be taught about:

  • parliamentary democracy and the key elements of the constitution of the United Kingdom, including the power of government, the role of citizens and Parliament in holding those in power to account, and the different roles of the executive, legislature and judiciary and a free press
  • the different electoral systems used in and beyond the United Kingdom and actions citizens can take in democratic and electoral processes to influence decisions locally, nationally and beyond
  • other systems and forms of government, both democratic and non-democratic, beyond the United Kingdom
  • local, regional and international governance and the United Kingdom’s relations with the rest of Europe, the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the wider world
  • human rights and international law
  • the legal system in the UK, different sources of law and how the law helps society deal with complex problems
  • diverse national, regional, religious and ethnic identities in the United Kingdom and the need for mutual respect and understanding
  • the different ways in which a citizen can contribute to the improvement of their community, to include the opportunity to participate actively in community volunteering, as well as other forms of responsible activity
  • income and expenditure, credit and debt, insurance, savings and pensions, financial products and services, and how public money is raised and spent.