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Keywords:

  • citizenship;
  • education;
  • engagement;
  • political literacy

Citizenship education has been a compulsory feature of the curriculum in secondary schools in England since 2002. However, its future may be uncertain amid inter-party disputes over the utility of such teaching. Moreover, there are substantial concerns over the breadth, aims and reach of the Citizenship curriculum. There is a lack of clarity over whether good citizenship can be taught and dispute over whether it can or should go beyond bolstering civil engagement (volunteering) and improving civic (political) activity. This article assesses the motivations for the introduction of Citizenship and the extent to which it has become a politicised panacea to a range of emerging policy challenges. Then, using survey data gathered for the Youth Citizenship Commission, established under the previous government to encourage community and democratic participation by young people, the article tests whether citizenship education is making a difference to the engagement of young people in the civil and political spheres. It assesses which categories of young people have been most influenced by – and which remain impervious to – citizenship education.