Citizenship GCSE Secondary

Citizenship lesson plan inspiration: respecting the rights and freedoms of others

By Victoria Marston

As we all learnt the hard way as NQTs, the key to a smooth autumn term with new students is to enforce school rules. Display them, discuss them…deviate from them at our peril!

Show me the class in which rewards and sanctions have been most fairly applied by Hallowe’en and I’ll show you the class who are learning the most by Christmas. After all, as with citizens in wider society, students thrive when the rules around them underpin safety, respect, and enthusiasm for the progress of others.

This term, use school rules as a springboard for a class debate on the duties of citizens to respect the rights and freedoms of others, and to obey the law. Start with warm-up discussions in pairs, exploring (1) which news stories from the last few months are relevant to this topic, (2) why the Equality Act has changed UK culture and (3) how certain citizens might justify breaking the law.

For the debate proper, split students into groups of four, two of whom should argue in support of the duty of citizens to respect the rights and freedoms of others, and to obey the law – and two of whom should argue against. Reinforce the worth of being able to play devil’s advocate and emphasise that many pupils will not be putting forward their own views. Next, give each group of four a theme on which to focus: religion, gambling, bringing up children, cannabis use etc.

Ideally, allow all students access to the internet the lesson before the debate, for research purposes. Have materials pre-prepared for each group too. For example, in the group focusing on religion you might use some of the following:

1. Incredible young Muslim poet makes unique appeal to UK society:

2. Christian printing firm refuses to print invitations for gay civil partnership

3. Latest statistics on religious affiliation in the UK (non-believers in majority):

53% of Britons are non-religious, says latest British Social Attitudes Survey

4. Campaign to remove right of religious representatives to have automatic House of Lords seats

5. Equality Act 2010 guidelines on religion/belief discrimination

6. MP Jacob Rees-Mogg explains why he is against abortion in all circumstances

Once the debate heats up, challenge the most able speakers to discuss whether it’s ever in society’s interests for citizens not to obey the law – and indeed whether it is ever acceptable to quash the rights and freedoms of others. Encourage pupils to refer to human rights where possible, e.g. exploring how the right to freedom of expression might clash with the right to freedom from discrimination. Should suffragettes have accepted the law which prevented women from voting? Should Nigel Farage’s famous anti-immigration ‘Breaking Point’ poster have been allowed, given the belief of some that it incited racial hatred? Should UK politicians celebrate or remove the right for people to cover their face in public on religious grounds?

Upon closing the debate, set a competition as a homework task. Each student should use the exam board’s specification (see below) to choose a theme for the spring term’s Citizenship class debate. In the next lesson, all pupils should then read out a persuasive paragraph as to why their suggested debate should be held. A class vote can determine the outcome.

Enjoy the debate, which is sure to be heated, informative and memorable. More to the point, enjoy all of your Citizenship lessons this term. Never fear on those sleepy dark nights when Netflix appeals more than lesson planning…your ‘Citizenship Today’ textbook and Teacher File mean that your lessons will look after themselves!


Victoria Marston is the co-author of Citizenship Today for Edexcel GCSE 4th edition, for the 2016 specification.

View the Edexcel GCSE Specification for ‘Citizenship Studies’

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