Being a citizen

Citizenship covers knowledge, understanding and skills about many different aspects of our lives. It provides opportunities for you to learn about your rights and responsibilities, government, communities and identity. Citizenship will help you understand what is happening around you and why and, who makes the decisions on why it’s happening the way it is.

As a citizen yourself, you have a right to know the answers to all of these questions and by learning the facts you will be able to form and then express your own views and opinions.

Surprisingly few people know very little about parliament and how it works or about what local councils do. The same can also be said for understanding what their rights in society were. These are important for everyone to know about.

There are many different ways that we can look at ourselves as citizens and each involves different aspects of our lives, our behaviour and how we fit into the rest of society.

Being a citizen

As citizens of this country we all have basic rights and responsibilities. These include things that we have a right to, such as an education, health care and freedom of speech. There are also things we must do such as pay tax. We also have responsibilities in the way we treat people and expect others to treat us.

Understanding your own identity and that of others in society is also a large part of being a good citizen. Regardless of ethnic origin, religion, faith, belief or language, it is important that everyone is treated the same.

Everyone is different but we all have the right to be treated the same.

Local citizen

As local citizens it is important to understand about local democracy, community action and conflict.

Local democracy is decided through local elections which allow you to vote for councillors that represent your views. It is important that you vote as this could elect a council of your choice and help you support what they are trying to achieve.

Community action is another important aspect. It is useful to know what local councils and authorities are responsible for and who they oversee the running of services within your area. One day you will have to pay council tax so find out what the money is used for. Charities are also very important at a local level as they work to help a wide range of people, animals, and building, just to name a few.

Conflict affects everybody and can be anything from a simple argument between friends or neighbours to major disagreements between countries. Understanding your feelings about an issue that is important to you or how to deal with conflict will stop you from being emotionally or physically hurt. Try to remember that the longer an argument goes on the more difficult it can be to stop.

National citizen

As a national citizen you need to understand how the law and Government affect our lives. The rules and laws of our country are very important as these are what we all have to live by.

Knowing how the Government and Parliament work to set the policies and laws of the country is also very important because these are the things that change our lives.

If you don’t like something that the Government does or believes in and you are 18, you can use your vote to help change things. This is why it is essential you know what is going on.

International citizen

As a country, the United Kingdom (UK) works with other countries around the word in many different ways. As international citizens it is useful to know exactly how we do this.

The UK is a member of the European Union (EU). This is an economic union set up after World War II which the UK joined in 1973. The idea behind the EU is to unite European countries and get them working together on common policies.

The UK is also a member of the United Nations (UN). The UN was formed in 1945 after World War II. It’s aim was to draw up an agreement for peace to prevent another world war happening again. It initially involved 51 countries but now 191 countries are UN members.

In addition to these the UK is also a member of the Commonwealth community, whose aim is to improve the lives of Commonwealth people through better education, housing, health and cleaner water supplies.

There is also what is known as the Global community. This is where countries from around the world work together on issues such as environmental disasters and fair trade. As a result of this work, everyone should benefit from trade and no one or anything should get harmed in the process.

Who can help?

The BBC website has a whole section on citizenship which explains in more detail what areas you will learn about in school. There are also great sections that give you the low down on each stage of citizenship. Read more by visiting www.bbc.co.uk/schools/citizenx.

The Demgames website gives you the chance to see what it is like to be a councillor or involved in getting your views across in a campaign. It provides a fun way to learn about peoples’ empowerment and how councils are run. Have a go at the games on www.demgames.org

Ask your parents or carers their views on recent news stories, local government and politics, law and family disputes and find out why they feel that way. Ask them what they think makes good citizen.

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