A Guide to the UK Constitution tries to explain, in an engaging and accessible way, the rules and procedures by which the UK is governed, and to indicate the extent and the limits of the Government's powers on everyday life.
Inside Britain has been produced by the Citizenship Foundation, an independent charity, funded by the Department for Constitutional Affairs and supported by the Department for Education and Skills. The guide will be distributed to secondary schools, sixth forms and further education colleges and will be a valuable resource for citizenship classes.
Lord Falconer, secretary of state for constitutional affairs and Lord Chancellor, said:
'The government is highly supportive of the work of the Citizenship Foundation and its aims to 'empower individuals to engage in the wider community through education about the law, democracy and society'. Inside Britain: A Guide to the UK Constitution I think does exactly that.
'The guide is aimed at students 15 years and above, and what impresses me most is the way in which it explains a complex and involved subject in a way that is current, but that never once underestimates its audience. It is relevant but intelligent. '
As the guide states, unlike many other countries, the rules of government in Britain are not set out in a single document. The UK constitution is a mixture of written and unwritten law that has evolved and been adapted over time.
Lord Falconer continued:
'There is, without doubt, a general disconnection between citizens, the political process and the constitutional structures of the UK. We face growing problems of falling turnout at election - and particularly local elections. We need to reverse this trend and improve the public's understanding and engagement with local democracy - both at the polls and through wider democratic activities in our communities.
'If used properly Inside Britain will help debunk a complex area, 'the constitution', and help young people see that actually, the rules and rights that make up the constitution are the rules and rights they live with and comment on daily. It will help them see that there is a connection between the way they are governed and the way they live their lives; and help them see that now is not the time for apathy.'
Education and skills secretary Alan Johnson said:
'It is vital that young people are actively involved in the democratic process, participating positively not only in school life, but also in the community and wider society. Such participation is a key part of the citizenship curriculum, but nobody can be active in a knowledge vacuum.
'This new guide to the UK constitution will be a valuable classroom tool, providing the facts and information young people need to understand democratic processes, what drives them and the changes that shape and influence our past and ourfuture. The disturbing decline in the number of young people voting in parliamentary and local elections provides an added imperative to this initiative.'
The chief executive of Citizenship Foundation, Tony Breslin, said:
'The various aspects of life dealt with by constitutions raise some very interesting citizenship issues yet this is currently one of the areas of citizenship education where teachers are least confident.
Knowledge and understanding of this kind is an entitlement for young people and something that they should have access to at school.
Inside Britain: A Guide to the UK Constitution has been designed to support the teaching of these issues and the development of legal and political literacy. It represents an exciting new addition to the Foundation's resources.'
Inside Britain: A Guide to the UK Constitution is one of several projects the DCA is supporting as part of its commitment to improve understanding of justice, rights and democracy within the UK. Other initiatives that the DCA is funding include:
* The Magistrates Court Mock Trials Competition run by the Citizenship Foundation. This competition aims to improve young peoples' knowledge of the justice system by giving them hands on experience through a competition.
* The Democracy Series, run by the Hansard Society. A series of six pamphlets on different issues relating to Democracy - including one on constitutional reform.
1. The Citizenship Foundation is an independent charity (no.801360) which aims to empower individuals to engage in the wider community through education about the law, democracy and society. Founded in 1989, it focuses on developing young people's citizenship skills, knowledge and understanding. Its work includes resources, training, active learning programmes, community projects and research. For more information contact Catherine Dawson, 020 7566 5034, mobile 07813 035 788. www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk.
2. Inside Britain: A Guide to the British Constitution is written by Tony Thorpe and Richard Jarvis and published by Hodder Murrey. Priced at£5.99.
3. To order a copy of the book, contact Hodder education at
tel: 01235 827720