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Action needed to improve citizenship education and civic engagement opportunities Committee says

29 March 2022

The House of Lords Liaison Committee publishes its fifth follow-up report; The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century Follow-up report.


This report examines the progress made by the Government in the implementation of the recommendations made by the Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement in its 2018 report The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century.

In the Liaison Committee’s report, Review of House of Lords Investigative and Scrutiny Committees: towards a new thematic committee structure, published in July 2019, the Committee recommended that the Liaison Committee (on a case by case basis) could hold follow-up evidence sessions on a former special inquiry committee’s recommendations, followed by the publication of a report. This is the fifth occasion on which this new procedure has been used.

Key points

  • Since 2018, very little progress has been made on improving cross-Government coordination on Citizenship and Civic Engagement and the Inter-Ministerial Group that the Government stated has been leading on these issues has not met once since 2019. The Committee recommends that a Minister for Citizenship and Civic Engagement be appointed to lead on this policy area and assist joined-up working. They should be made a member of the Domestic and Economic (Levelling Up) Cabinet Committee.
  • Citizenship education requires significant improvement, and the Committee recommends that it be reviewed as part of the Government’s Strategy for Schools.
  • Ofsted is ignoring government policy by not treating citizenship education as a statutory curriculum subject. Ofsted is not assessing citizenship education as a core part of the National Curriculum, despite this being stated government policy. The Committee recommends that the Government urgently addresses this matter with Ofsted.
  • Some of the concerns raised about the NCS (National Citizens Service) have been addressed, the Committee hopes that the NCS will continue to work effectively with other partners in the Youth sector and assist with the effective delivery of citizenship education in schools.
  • There have been some improvements to the Life in the UK test, however the Committee are not convinced that the test measures or supports active citizenship. The Committee recommends that the Government review the test without delay and appoint an advisory group with a broad range of experts to advise them on how to improve the test.

Former Chairs’ comments

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, who was the Chair of the Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement 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.” 

Further information