Citizen Schools: Learning to rebuild democracy
A 'Citizen School' is a school that explicitly creates a democratic culture through its role as a civic institution. This report makes the case for broadening the purpose of schools to include this fostering role, and for understanding that this may in fact enhance academic or vocational purposes.
Based on new primary research, this report investigates the relationships between a school, students as 'active citizens', their communities and efforts to renew the democratic instinct.
Over 80 in-depth interviews were carried out with students, members of the senior leadership team, teachers, governors, parents and community leaders across these four schools:
- Nower Hill High School, which possesses an excellent citizenship curriculum
- St Clere's School, a cooperative school that emphasises these values
- RSA Academy Tipton, which has citizenship as one of its strategic purposes
- Prendergast Ladywell Fields College, where young people are trained in community organising.
Although each is successful in different ways, the report finds that these schools share certain features:
- Ensuring citizenship was an integral element of the school's purpose: Citizenship, in some form, has been identified as crucial to the school's vision and therefore success.
- Creating a democratic and participative culture of citizenship: Processes of internal democracy have evolved whereby young people, teachers and community members participate in the life of the school.
- Enabling learning through action: Citizenship has been taken beyond the classroom to achieve tangible changes in the community.
- Connecting citizenship education to the school's improvement strategy and work to raise overall educational standards: High-quality citizenship education supports a culture of raising standards.
As a result, it makes the following recommendations for maximising the potential of Citizen Schools.
- Headteachers and their governing bodies should be supported to become engaged with the idea of Citizen Schools and to organise their own Citizen School development plans based on the principles and key features of best practice
- Regional and area-based curriculums should be updated to include relevant active citizenship opportunities
- Current and future government citizenship initiatives should be devolved to a more local level and Citizen Schools encouraged to deliver them to ensure that this work is institutionalised, sustained and shared.