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Leading citizenship in schools. Questions for school leaders arising from an Ofsted invitation conference. Context.

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leading citizenship in schools

Leading citizenship in schools

Questions for school leadersarising from an Ofstedinvitation conference

  • In May 2007 Ofsted, in partnership with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the National College for School Leadership, held a conference for secondary schools in which citizenship was judged to be good.
  • Ofsted invited school and citizenship leaders from 22 schools.
  • They discussed the leadership of citizenship and how their schools tackled obstacles to development.
  • The outcomes of the conference are the basis of this presentation, which is aimed at senior leaders and whole staff development.
  • This presentation is accompanied by notes that refer to Ofsted’s latest report on citizenship Towards Consensus? Citizenship in Secondary Schools (HMI 2666) published in September 2006.

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what does the presentation cover
What does the presentation cover?
  • Obstacles to overcome
  • Vision
  • Staffing
  • Teaching and learning
  • Students
  • Curriculum
  • Inclusion

It also provides examples of issues and actions.

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what were the main obstacles that ofsted identified
What were the main obstacles that Ofsted identified?
  • Lack of a clear vision for and understanding of citizenship
  • Weak subject leadership and inappropriate staffing
  • Teachers ill-equipped for the challenge of teaching citizenship
  • Lack of assessment systems
  • Untapped potential of student voice
  • Lightweight and fragmented curricula
  • Pupils’ uncertain entitlement to citizenship

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creating a vision for citizenship
Creating a vision for citizenship

To give citizenship a presence in the school, effective citizenship leaders:

  • recognise that citizenship is a complex subject and needs well considered, whole-school planning
  • seek to establish its status and visibility in the curriculum
  • identify and promote examples of active citizenship in school and in the wider community
  • encourage discussion and debate, including challenges to the status quo
  • foster the characteristics of a democratic school.

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Reflecting on these characteristics, is the vision for citizenship in your school all that you would want it to be?

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making the most of staff expertise
Making the most of staff expertise

To develop staff expertise in citizenship, effective school leaders:

  • ensure that citizenship has parity with other subjects and that the subject leader has professional status
  • make a commitment to training to build and nurture the potential in all staff
  • organise the curriculum to supportnon-specialist staff and to ensure consistency and quality of teaching
  • ensure that staff in all subjects understand the significance of citizenship for their teaching.

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How have you taken steps in your school to:

  • develop staff expertise in citizenship
  • promote consistently high quality teaching?

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promoting best practice in teaching
Promoting best practice in teaching

To raise the quality of teaching, effective school leaders:

  • recognise that citizenship requires teachers to deal with difficult, sensitive and controversial issues and support them in doing so
  • help teachers develop their subject knowledge
  • ensure that structures exist, including assessment, to underpin students’ progression
  • use performance management to improve the quality of teaching and disseminate effective practice.

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How do you support effective teaching?

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nurturing active and informed students
Nurturing active and informed students

To promote citizenship amongst students, effective school leaders:

  • support student-led activities and active citizenship within and beyond the school
  • enable students to articulate their views through promoting the student voice
  • encourage the development of independent learning and reflection.

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In what ways does citizenshipempower students in your school?

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maximising curriculum opportunities
Maximising curriculum opportunities

To provide a curriculum that meets students’ needs, effective school leaders:

  • allocate sufficient time to citizenship at in Key Stages 3 and 4
  • provide a core programme that meets statutory requirements
  • refine the citizenship programme to reflect local community issues, cultures and concerns
  • use opportunities to support citizenship across the curriculum
  • consider the role of accreditation in KeyStage 4
  • consider, as appropriate, the implications for post-16 citizenship education.

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Does the curriculum in your school meet the needs of all students to educate them as young citizens?

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citizenship and inclusion
Citizenship and inclusion

To ensure inclusion, effective school leaders:

  • ensure that programmes are tailored to meet the needs of all students
  • monitor students’ engagement in citizenship activities
  • give due attention to identity and diversity
  • ensure that every student has opportunities for active citizenship and participation.

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How is your school inclusive?

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Slides 19–30 present six case studies:

  • the citizenship curriculum at Denbigh High School
  • establishing democratic structures at Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School
  • Alban Middle School’s response to an Ofsted survey
  • the limits of pupils’ voice at The Howard School
  • student-led activity at Durrington High School
  • democratising the school council at Sarah Bonnell School.

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the citizenship curriculum at denbigh high school
The citizenship curriculum atDenbigh High School


  • Denbigh had opted for a tutor-based programme. Evaluation showed improvement, but provision continued to be uneven.
  • Denbigh decided to relocate citizenship within humanities and require all students to take humanities in Key Stage 4.

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actions and outcomes
Actions and outcomes

Action by managers

  • Managers tackled resistance to change among some tutors and humanities teachers.
  • They used teaching and learning points to support changes and create a humanities faculty.


  • Feedback from students and staff showed the positive impact of changes.
  • The new curriculum provides coherence and ease of planning; monitoring of provision; and tracking of learners’ experiences.
  • Monitoring shows high quality teaching of citizenship.
  • Ofsted inspected citizenship in a subject survey and judged it to be outstanding.

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establishing democratic structures at bishop s hatfield girls school
Establishing democratic structures at Bishop’s Hatfield Girls’ School


  • The school wanted to give status to citizenship and maximise the involvement of staff, students and parents.

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actions and outcomes1
Actions and outcomes

Action by managers

  • Senior management gave an assistant headteacher responsibility for citizenship.
  • The citizenship coordinator developed a citizenship policy through a consultation process involving staff, students, parents and governors. The policy is reviewed every two years.
  • The citizenship programme is planned through evaluation and consultation, and informed by a continuing partnership with students.


  • Pupils’ motivation, confidence and self-esteem have increased.
  • The programme encourages pupils to get involved in democratic processes.
  • Students feel they are viewed as partners and they understand the reasons behind decisions.
  • Students feel proud that they have influenced decisions and made a difference.

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alban middle school s response to an ofsted citizenship survey
Alban Middle School’s response to an Ofsted citizenship survey


  • An Ofsted citizenship survey identified positive features and areas for improvement.

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actions and outcomes2
Actions and outcomes

Action by managers

  • The school devised a three-point action plan for citizenship with detailed success criteria and milestones to:
    • identify key ‘carrier’ subjects for aspects of the citizenship programme
    • establish a liaison group with the upper school
    • develop assessment arrangements.


  • More comprehensive curriculum planning resulted, giving better attention to the strands of citizenship.
  • An assessment system included students’ records with self-assessment.

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student led activity at durrington high school
Student-led activity atDurrington High School


  • Students were concerned about school travel arrangements and wished to take action to improve things.

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actions and outcomes3
Actions and outcomes

Action by managers

  • School leaders invited students from Years 8–10 to join a school-based working group to contribute to the county travel plan.


  • Students met fortnightly to discuss roles, issues and strategies.
  • They conducted detailed surveys of parents and students on travel-related issues and trouble spots on journeys to school.
  • Their booklet of findings included recommendations for encouraging road safety, reducing car use and pollution, and improving cycle facilities.
  • They received local and national awards for their achievements in active citizenship.
  • Participants evaluated the project, noting particularly their increased confidence and the development of their ICT and public-speaking skills.

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the limits of the pupils voice at the howard school
The limits of the pupils’ voice atThe Howard School


  • The pupils had discussed a wide range of issues. In addition to previous policies they had written, they proposed a staff dress code.
  • Staff responses varied from ‘I am in full agreement with the school council – staff should set an example in dress’ to ‘I find this both outrageous and insulting’.

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actions and outcomes4
Actions and outcomes

Action by managers

  • School leaders decided that this was a worthwhile debate and sought views from staff and pupils.


  • The issue was discussed and voted on. The staff voted 3:1 that pupils had the right to comment.
  • The principle was established that pupils could recommend anything relevant to school life and expect a reasoned response.

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democratising the school council at sarah bonnell school
Democratising the school council at Sarah Bonnell School


  • Managers wished to involve all students in active citizenship through the school council.

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actions and outcomes5
Actions and outcomes

Action by managers

  • A training day was provided for all staff on active citizenship aimed to enable students to participate in free and open dialogue and discussion.
  • In consultation with students, managers established policies and procedures to make representation systematic and democratic.


  • All pupils discuss issues of concern in tutor time.
  • A forum, involving student council representatives from each year group, formalises items for discussion.
  • The school council meets regularly. Its formal rules include rotating the chairing. The headteacher attends.
  • The school council gives feedback in assembly to complete the cycle.

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Useful references
  • Towards Consensus? Citizenship in secondary schools, (HMI 2666), Ofsted, 2006; available from www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications/2666.
  • An evaluation of the post-16 citizenship pilot, 2004/05: a report from Ofsted and the Adult Learning Inspectorate (HMI 2440), Ofsted, 2005; available from www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications/2440.
  • The new National Curriculum for citizenship: www.qca.org.uk/curriculum
  • The school self-evaluation tool for citizenship education, Department for Education and Skills, 2004; available from www.teachingcitizenship.org.uk/top/top_5/downloads/sub/10.
  • T Huddlestone and D Kerr, Making sense of citizenship: a CPD handbook (ISBN 9780340926819), Hodder Education, 2006.
  • The Association for Citizenship Teaching: www.teachingcitizenship.org.uk.
  • CitiZed is a TDA-funded organisation for providers of teacher education in citizenship: www.citized.info.

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