Schools should do more to involve their students in the new subject of citizenship and teachers need more training, a report recommends.
Schools vary in how they teach citizenship
The report, Citizenship in the national curriculum - one year on, comes from the volunteering charity CSV.
It says there is an urgent need for practical support for schools in developing community links.
In its survey of 60 schools around England, only 18% said pupils had "a lot" to do with developing citizenship.
Of these, 61% said their pupils were involved in planning and developing the citizenship curriculum "a little" and 18% "a lot".
CSV says other work by the National Foundation for Educational Research suggests perceptions vary - with most school leaders thinking the whole school is involved but only 57% of teachers and 27% of students agreeing.
statutory subject in secondary schools since September 2002
three inter-related strands:
- knowledge and understanding about being informed citizens
- enquiry and communication
- participation and responsible action
- legal and human rights and responsibilities
- "the diversity of identities" in the UK
- central and local government
- the electoral system and voting
- the work of voluntary groups
- the media
- the world as a global community
- topical issues
Official guidance says citizenship is supposed to run across the existing curriculum.
Schools varied in their approaches, however - with more than third thinking it was best taught within existing personal, social and health education (PSHE) lessons.
A quarter said it should be within existing subjects and almost as many felt it worked best outside the normal timetable.
CSV says "probably one of the most optimistic results" of its survey is that more than 90% of teachers indicated they enjoyed teaching the subject - more than half of them "a lot".
But in half the schools, only the citizenship co-ordinator had had specific training for the subject. In almost one in 10, nobody had been trained.
Asked what one thing would most benefit the teaching of citizenship, the biggest proportion of responses - a third - wanted someone to help find opportunities outside the school.
CSV recommends that the government should urgently address the training issue.
It says schools should be encouraged to involve pupils more fully.
And it calls for local funding to help support overstretched teachers in building partnerships with their communities.
The charity's findings chime with those of the inspectorate, Ofsted.
It reported recently that seemed confused and complacent about the new subject.