London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Citizenship Education for children of the elite in England

Author(s) Leighton, R.  
Publisher London: CiCe  
Year 2013  
Editor P. Cunningham (ed.) Identities and Citizenship Education: Controversy, crisis and challenges  
Age group -  
This paper has been developed from initial observations regarding the state and status of Citizenship Education in a small sample of independent schools in England, the main purpose of which was to gain some understanding of how pupils in that sector – who are typically from socially, politically and economically privileged backgrounds – are prepared by schools for their roles as citizens, and how they perceive that preparation. The context and significance of independent schools in general in England is outlined, followed by a more detailed description of the schools in which the research took place and of the social origins and aspirations of the pupil sample. Some data are presented, discussed and interpreted, followed by conclusions which relate to the research focus schools and similarities and differences between the findings of this research and those of the much larger CELSI study (Kerr et al 2007; Keating et al 2009, 2010) into school provision of Citizenship Education in England. While nothing specific can be extrapolated from the findings to be applied with certainty to any other schools – whether independent or state-funded – this study is valuable in that it constitutes what is thought to be the first attempt to map and understand the place of citizenship education in England’s independent schools, given the dearth of published research in this area. One tentative conclusion is that there is a complex ‘something’ about the essence of independent schooling which contributes to the development of effective citizenship education. That ‘something’ is unlikely to be the residential aspect of boarding, as there is no indication in this study that boarders are more socially committed and aware than their day-pupil peers, so that eight possible aspects of that ‘something’ are identified and briefly considered.

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