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“Missed opportunity” to improve citizenship education in Schools White Paper, says Lords Committee Chair

A new report published today by the Lords Liaison Committee has concluded that the Government has failed to realise the link between citizenship education and the levelling up agenda. It also said that Ofsted are further undermining citizenship education by ignoring Government policy when assessing the subject in schools. It warns that as a result, children are leaving school without a basic understanding of our democracy and their rights and responsibilities as a British Citizen.  

 This report follows up the Lords Citizenship and Civic Engagement Committee’s 2018 report into the state of civic engagement and citizenship education. That report called for the government to appoint a Minister to champion a cross-government strategy for citizenship and for Ofsted to review citizenship education provision after years of poor delivery.  

Chair of the former Committee who led this follow up work, Lord Hogdson of Astley Abbotts said that the situation ‘had gone backwards, rather than forwards’ with the number of teachers trained up to deliver citizenship education declining. They also heard evidence that Ofsted was not assessing citizenship education as a core part of the National Curriculum, despite this being stated government policy.  

Peers wanted to see the Government think again and ensure that citizenship is included in their strategy for schools.  

Chair of the Committee Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts commented: 

“Things have gone backwards rather than forwards with citizenship education in the UK since our last report. This is despite the government’s clear commitment to levelling up across the country and an Elections Bill where great stress is being placed on the importance of engagement with our voting system. Everyone agrees that education is the best way to produce citizens that understand their rights and responsibilities within a well-functioning democracy. 

“We were promised a cross-department Minister, we didn’t get one. We were told that Ofsted should treat citizenship education is a core part of the curriculum, the evidence shows they don’t.  The government had a chance to put things right in its Schools White Paper. It appears that they have missed the opportunity to do so. There is just one mention of citizenship in the Schools White Paper, and it is mentioned in the context of volunteering. We urge the Government to think again. Otherwise, they risk damaging democracy for generations to come.” 

Details of the House of Lords Liaison Committee’s conclusions and recommendations can be found within the report. Please note that the report was agreed on 17 March, prior to the publication of the Schools White Paper.

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