3.5 Active citizenship

This specification is developed around the overarching principle of how citizens can try to make a difference in society. Whilst the three content-based themes enable students to develop their citizenship knowledge base, the last section of each theme enables students to explore through case study approaches and by their own actions how citizens are able to try to make a difference.

The first question posed on the Active citizenship section of Paper 1 relates to understanding citizenship actions and includes a source-based question relating to a citizenship action scenario.

This approach is further enhanced through the second question on the Active citizenship section of Paper 1 where students are required to undertake an investigation into a citizenship issue of their own choice which involves research, action and reflection. These two mutually linked elements enable students to understand and assess the actions of others and draw upon others' experiences when undertaking their own investigation.

Citizenship action – the actions of others

This element of Paper 1 assesses the nature of active citizenship and draws upon the fifth key question in each of the three subject content themes (How can citizens make their voice heard and make a difference in society?, How do citizens play a part to bring about change in the legal system? and How can citizens try to bring about political change?). Questions in this section may be from any of these three content themes or come from a combination of them.

The investigation: taking citizenship action

Taking citizenship action may be defined as a planned course of informed action to address a citizenship issue or question of concern and aimed at delivering a benefit or change for a particular community or wider society. Taking citizenship action in a real out-of-classroom context allows students to apply citizenship knowledge, understanding and skills, and to gain different citizenship insights and appreciate different perspectives on how we live together and make decisions in society. It requires students to practise a range of citizenship skills including research and enquiry, interpretation of evidence, including primary and secondary sources, planning, collaboration, problem-solving, advocacy, campaigning and evaluation.

Students will be expected, either alone or working with others, to carry out an investigation into a citizenship issue based upon any part of the subject knowledge content. The investigation will lead to citizenship action as defined above. This will enable students to demonstrate the application of the citizenship skills, processes and methods listed below.

  • Understanding the range of methods and approaches that can be used by governments, organisations, groups and individuals to address citizenship issues in society, including practical citizenship actions.
  • Formulating citizenship enquiries, identifying and sequencing research questions to analyse citizenship ideas, issues and debates.
  • Presenting their own and other viewpoints and representing the views of others, in relation to citizenship issues, causes, situations and concepts.
  • Planning practical citizenship actions aimed at delivering a benefit or change for a particular community or wider society.
  • Critically evaluating the effectiveness of citizenship actions to assess progress towards the intended aims and impact for the individuals, groups and communities affected.

The investigation will be assessed through a set of questions in Paper 1 section A. The questions will seek to draw upon the knowledge and understanding of the skills, methods and processes students have gained from taking citizenship action.

These questions will account for 15% of the total GCSE marks.

Schools and colleges will be required to confirm that their students have met this requirement via a signed centre declaration which AQA will provide.

Schools and colleges must submit a written statement as evidence that the citizenship investigation requirement has been met. The statement must record the date and the numbers of students participating. The statement must be signed by the Head of Centre. Any failure to provide this statement in a timely manner will be treated as malpractice or maladministration (under Ofqual's General Condition A8 (Malpractice and maladministration)).

In order to assist students, schools and colleges with this task, an AQA Investigation template is available at aqa.org.uk/8100 for students to record and monitor their progress through their investigation.

Students, schools and colleges may wish to organise this element of the course in the following manner:

Stage 1: Deciding the question or issue

Students must select a contemporary issue/debate arising from the specification content. It can be local, national or international or a combination of all three strands. Teachers are expected to ensure that the topic/issue/debate selected relates to the content of the specification.

Following initial research and discussion, students construct a question/issue for which they need to undertake further research.

Stage 2: Carrying out the initial research

Students research the issue using both primary and secondary sources.

Stage 3: Planning the action

As a part of their research, students may develop further sets of questions which link and support their main question/issue.

As a result of their research, students should be able to arrive at both results and conclusions which will help them to plan their citizenship action.

Stage 4: Taking the action

Following their research, students are expected to take some form of informed action based upon their research. This may take a variety of forms from letter writing, petitioning, using e-media, volunteering or establishing a group to promote a change.

Stage 5: Assessing the impact of the action

At the conclusion of their work students should reflect upon their approach to the investigation, the methods they used and any outcome achieved.

Stage 6: Evaluating the whole process

At this stage students should evaluate their whole investigative process and attempt to establish what went well and what could have been done differently.

Teachers are not required to mark or assess this work but may wish to use the investigations as a source of learning and teaching in the classroom in the form of debates, written presentations or using e-media.

Students may wish to use the AQA Investigation template both as a record of their investigation and as a means of recalling their work prior to the exam.