The Lords Liaison Committee publishes a follow-up report, tracking the progress made on the recommendations in the 2018 report by the Citizenship and Civic Engagement Committee.
It has been 4 years since the Committee published its report. Some progress has been made but much more needs to be done. The follow-up inquiry focused on key recommendations related to cross-Government coordination, citizenship education, the national citizens service (NCS) and the citizenship test (Life in UK test).
Hear what Lord Hodgson has to say about the report here:
Citizenship and civic engagement policies are broad and can be difficult to coordinate. The Government have stated that the Inter-Ministerial group on safe and integrated communities has been leading on this work, but they have not met since 2019. This policy area is really important and needs a dedicated Minister to ensure successful outcomes.
The Government needs to appoint a Minister for Citizenship and Civic Engagement. This Minister should sit on the Domestic and Economic (Levelling Up) Cabinet Committee and help coordinate policy across the Government.
Citizens are best able to contribute to civic and political life if they are engaged from a young age. Delivery of citizenship is inconsistent and only legally required in some schools in England from secondary school. The Government should require schools to teach citizenship from ages 5-18 and more funding should be granted to support this.
The Government’s White Paper does not focus enough on citizenship education. Citizenship education should be a priority for the Government’s schools strategy.
Citizenship education is integral to enabling young people to be active members of a democratic society. Good citizenship education leads to greater social cohesion, greater resilience and aspiration among young people. Good citizenship education helps children to navigate the internet safely and enables them to identify fake news and conspiracy theories from legitimate news and information.
Ofsted does not take citizenship education seriously. Ofsted is not assessing citizenship correctly and many inspectors do not have enough training to enable them to understand what good citizenship education looks like. It’s important that Ofsted changes their attitude towards citizenship and understands its role in a healthy democracy and equipping the adults of the future to navigate the online world and the associated risks such as fake news and conspiracy theories.
The Government needs to work closely with Ofsted to ensure that they’re following the rules on inspecting citizenship education, so that all schools are supported to deliver effective citizenship education.
The 2018 report recommended a number of improvements to the NCS. The NCS has adapted their programme and appear to be offering more practical support to schools and improving its relationships with other youth organisations.
The NCS should continue improving its programme and the Government should support the NCS to deliver civic engagement opportunities to children across England and Wales. The NCS could play an important role in improving access to civic engagement opportunities as part of the levelling up agenda.
The Government has made some changes to the Life in the UK test. However, improvements are still needed. The current test is a tick box exercise and does not allow future citizens to show their understanding and knowledge of Britain and the responsibilities and rights that come with British Citizenship.
The Government is considering reviewing the Life in the UK test. They should set up a group with a broad range of experts to advise them on changes to the Life in the UK test in 2022.
The Government needs to show leadership on citizenship and civic engagement and has a great opportunity to do this through their levelling up agenda. The Committee urges the Government to seize this opportunity and ensure that British citizens are able to fully engage with our democracy, now, and in the future.