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OCR aims to inform a new generation about rights and responsibilities, how democracy works, and personal and national identity with a new Citizenship Studies GCSE.
OCR’s draft new GCSE has been designed to inspire the legal eagles, politicians, community heroes and global citizens of the future. Subject to accreditation, it will be introduced into schools in September 2016.
50% of OCR’s GCSE is focused on Citizenship in Action. “Contrary to public opinion,” said OCR Subject Specialist and ex-teacher Grant Robertson, “there is growing interest among young people in social action.” Increasing numbers of young people are more engaged in community volunteering and voting in general elections. Grant continued: “Our GCSE will involve an in-depth study on the mechanism of participation and politics in the UK, culminating in students choosing a project to put their newly acquired theoretical knowledge into practice. Lobbying town councillors to improve local amenities, raising awareness of a national issue or contributing to an international humanitarian cause are just some examples.”
Citizenship Studies also provides a firm grounding in key legal and political principles, enabling students to make sense of issues ranging from the summer’s asylum crisis in Calais and the upcoming referendum on EU membership, to control of dangerous dogs and media censorship in the digital age. Students will also learn how taxes are raised and spent by governments.
Grant continues: “This specification dispels the myth that Citizenship Studies is a soft subject. It can contribute to the new school performance measure, Progress 8, and we anticipate uptake will continue to increase significantly. For engaged young people who are interested in law, politics or economics, this is a great GCSE which will develop skills in research, analysis, planning, problem solving, advocacy, campaigning and evaluation of impacts and outcomes.”
Scott Harrison, Chairman of the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT), commented: “Teaching Citizenship in schools and colleges is more vital than ever. A GCSE promotes active citizenship and helps young people to get to grips with the rigour of politics and law.”
The GCSE will be graded 9 to 1 and assessed by written exam only. Students will be asked to analyse case studies and produce extended written responses as well as face a multiple choice paper – worth 25% – on legal questions. In developing the qualification, OCR was able to draw upon a study conducted by the research arm of parent organisation, Cambridge Assessment, on international approaches to the assessment of ‘active’ citizenship.
Citizenship Studies was first introduced as a GCSE in 2002. Between 2014 and 2015, there was a 10% rise in students taking a full GCSE in Citizenship Studies, taking the total to 21,628 students. As well as counting towards Progress 8, schools can use Citizenship Studies to meet Ofsted inspection requirements for Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development (SMSC), 'British Values' and as part of their work on Prevent.