Blog: Citizenship as a subject and theme in schools has never been more important!

I was delighted this year when it was officially recognised that school leaders could apply to become Specialist Leaders of Education in Citizenship. At the Alliance for Learning (AGGS/BFET) we really value exploring this as a topic and have already been doing this work in partnership with The Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT), giving it the prominence, it deserves.

I have always valued Citizenship as a subject and as a recently qualified teacher I led the work of the School Council with pride. Citizenship is also an important element of Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development and British Values promoted by schools to prepare students for life and assessed by Ofsted.

At a time when Brexit is putting Citizenship under the spotlight and a host of other geo-political and social themes unfolding globally and closer to home, now, more than ever, we need to focus on the topic of Citizenship and give it the status it deserves.

The AGGS Model United Nations team recently had a fantastic day at Withington Girls’ School and was awarded the title of ‘Outstanding Delegation’ for their role in debating complex geo-political and social issues from the perspective of Poland and the Philippines.

This was a brilliant opportunity and just one example of the range of extra curricula Citizenship opportunities we give students at Bright Futures Educational Trust supporting personal their development.  The most important element of Citizenship and personal development according to Ofsted relates to developing responsible, respectful and active citizens who can play their part in becoming actively involved in public life as adults. The AGGS team really demonstrated their future potential for this.


The Association for Citizenship Teaching is the recognised subject body for all those involved in Citizenship education and has various regional hubs, of which we are pleased to be one.  It is currently sharing important information to school leaders about Citizenship, its status in the curriculum and the new Ofsted inspection framework for schools. There is a lot of information on their website and a useful CPD offer can be found here:

Below you can also find a useful summary, plus links to the relevant DfE publications:

  • Citizenship makes a major contribution to pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and to their personal development.
  • Citizenship is a statutory national curriculum subject in secondary schools and has a DFE national programme of study in primary education.
  • Citizenship is defined as a subject by Ofsted under the new Inspection framework and is therefore to be considered alongside all other subjects.
  • Citizenship will be inspected under the new Quality of Education measure because it is a national curriculum subject
  • School leaders will be accountable for:
    • following the national and basic curriculum and in academies, a curriculum of similar breadth and ambition
    • how the curriculum is taught at subject and classroom level
    • ensuring teachers have expert knowledge of the subjects they teach and supporting gaps in their knowledge so pupils are not disadvantaged by ineffective teaching
  • GCSE Citizenship Studies can count as part of the Progress 8 measure of performance.
  • Teachers can apply to become Specialist Leaders of Education in Citizenship.
  • Citizenship is also covered under the new requirements for Relationship education and Citizenship.  Aspects covered in the new guidance include content relating to:
    • rules for staying safe, the right to privacy, consent, respect and understanding diversity in primary schools
    • the law, citizens’ rights and responsibilities including privacy and consent; crimes in relation to controlling and coercive behaviour; legal ages; respecting, diversity and equality in secondary schools


Requirements for Citizenship in the curriculum

In primary schools Citizenship has a DFE non-statutory programme of study which should be used to plan provision. Aspects of Citizenship are included in the statutory guidance to all schools in relation to the new requirement for Relationship education which takes effect in September 2020.

In Secondary schools Citizenship is a national curriculum foundation subject for pupils in key stages 3 and 4 and is required by law. The subject must be taught in all maintained schools.  For academies, the Ofsted Handbook sets out the expectation that they will offer all pupils a broad curriculum that is similar in breadth and ambition (paragraph 172).

Students can also choose to gain a GCSE in Citizenship Studies which recognises their success and active work in this area, awarded by AQA, Pearson Edexcel and OCR.


New requirements for Relationship education and Citizenship

As the topic is also covered under the new requirements for Relationship Education and Citizenship, schools can take a flexible approach and deliver all or some of Relationship education as part of their Citizenship provision. While the DfE guidance explains that ‘schools are free to determine how to deliver the content’ of the new requirements. If you’re responsible for this area then you’ll need to work closely with colleagues in related curriculum areas to ensure Relationships Education, RSE and Health Education programmes complement each other and don’t duplicate content that’s covered in national curriculum subjects e.g. citizenship, science, computing and PE.





Alliance for Learning
Cavendish Road, Bowdon
Altrincham WA14 2NL
Proud to part of the Bright Futures Education Trust