Service or service-learning? A review of recent educational policies in England | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 9, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1751-1917
  • E-ISSN: 1751-1925



This article presents a critique of recent state educational policy provision in England that has aimed at young people’s (14–19 years of age) learning through active citizenship. We argue that whilst the statutory introduction of Citizenship education within English secondary schools has helped to advance the links between ‘service’ and ‘learning’ there is clear evidence that the quality and depth of such educational opportunities remains inconsistent across schools. Recent educational initiatives such as the Youth Community Action (YCA) programme and the National Citizen Service (NCS) have once again raised the possibility of young people learning through participating in their communities. We argue that despite their intentions these programmes have failed to integrate the pedagogical processes necessary for meaningful education for active citizenship. In critiquing these policy initiatives we make a case for a greater integration of ‘service-learning’ theory and practice within policies that relate to active citizenship. Service-learning provides a more cohesive framework for a critical, creative and collaborative pedagogy to accompany young people’s experiences of community engagement; a central requirement in developing responsible and active citizens. We argue that making clear connections to service-learning is an important proposal at a time when the nature of Citizenship education within the English National Curriculum has been revised in terms of content and scope.


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