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EACEA National Policies Platform


5. Participation

5.7 Learning to participate” through formal, non-formal and informal learning

Last update: 27 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 14/10/2020

On this page
  1. Policy Framework
  2. Formal learning
  3. Non-formal and informal learning
  4. Quality assurance/quality guidelines for non-formal learning
  5. Educators' support


Policy Framework

Under the Education Act 2002, schools maintained by a local authority (as all publicly funded schools in Wales are) are required to offer a curriculum which is balanced and broadly based and which:

‘promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society’ and ‘prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life’.

These requirements are embedded through both the framework for the inspection of schools and the standards which need to be met in order for a trainee teacher to gain Qualified Teacher status (QTS).

Under the Education Act 2005, inspectors from Estyn (Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales) are required to report on:

  • the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the school
  • the contribution of the school to the wellbeing of pupils.

Estyn inspectors use two common inspection frameworks for their inspections of education and training providers in Wales: the first, introduced in September 2017, is used in schools and work-based learning settings; the second, introduced in 2010, is used in local government education services, further education and non-maintained nursery settings.

The common inspection framework for local government education services, further education and non-maintained nursery settings uses the following quality indicators and their associated aspects (note that only some of the relevant aspects for each quality indicator are included):


  • community involvement and decision-making
  • social and life skills.

Learning experiences:

  • education for sustainable development and global citizenship.

Care, support and guidance:

  • provision for health and wellbeing including spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is inspected.

Learning environment:

  • ethos, equality and diversity is inspected.


Qualified Teachers Status (QTS) Standards state that to gain QTS, trainee teachers must demonstrate that they take appropriate opportunities to teach education for sustainable development and global citizenship in all relevant aspects of their teaching. Trainees are also expected to understand the values and attitudes that they want learners to develop, including social responsibility and respect for other people and for cultural diversity. Trainees should put these values into practice, both in the classroom and in the wider school context. (It was revised in 2014). 

Although education and training have been devolved to the Welsh Government, counter terrorism is the responsibility of the UK Government. ‘Prevent’ is one of four elements of CONTEST, the UK Government's counter terrorism strategy. School, colleges and universities have had a duty since 1 July 2015, under the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, to prevent young people being drawn into terrorism. The UK Government has issued general guidance for England and Wales, as well as specific guidance for further education institutions and higher education institutions.

Formal learning

Learners in the 14 to 19 age group are provided for through a ‘Learning Pathways’ approach, under which local areas must offer a wide range of study option with a set minimum number of courses, both academic and vocational. There must also be a flexible ‘learning core’ which includes the skills, knowledge, attitudes values and experiences that all 14-19-year-olds will need whatever their pathway.

Citizenship is not taught as a discrete subject, but forms part of other areas of provision, primarily Personal and Social Education (PSE), Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC) and the Welsh Baccalaureate.

Personal and Social Education (PSE)

PSE is a statutory requirement for ages 7 to 19. The PSE Framework, which is non-statutory, covers two relevant areas:

  • Active citizenship, which includes valuing diversity, understanding political processes, and participating in school/community life.
  • Sustainable development and global, which includes an understanding of natural resources, poverty, inequality and global interdependence.

Learning outcomes for post-16 under the 'Active citizenship' theme are that learners should be given opportunities to:

  • demonstrate respect for self, others and for diversity
  • be committed to active involvement in the community.

The specific knowledge and understanding to be developed is also set out in the framework.

The learning outcomes for post-16 under the ‘Sustainable development and global citizenship' theme are that learners should be given opportunities to:

  • actively demonstrate personal responsibility as a global citizen
  • appreciate why equity and justice are necessary in a sustainable community.

The knowledge and understanding to be acquired is also set out.

The amount of time to be spent on the subject is not prescribed.


Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC)

ESDGC is a separate, overarching policy used by the Welsh Government to incorporate ‘citizenship’ and ‘sustainable development’ into all levels of education. ESDGC is built around seven themes: the natural environment; consumption and waste; climate change; wealth and poverty; identity and culture; choices and decisions; health.

There are also nine key concepts: interdependence; citizenship and stewardship;  needs and rights; diversity;  sustainable change;  quality of life;  uncertainty and precaution; values and perceptions; conflict resolution

Learning outcomes for post-16 under the ‘identity and culture’ theme are that learners should be given opportunities to:

  • appreciate the importance of challenging injustice in appropriate ways
  • develop a set of personal values which they apply in practice and reassess at intervals.

and to understand:

  • how cultural differences influence our view of nature, science and society
  • how ethical problems faced by society and individuals can be discussed and resolved.

Learning outcomes for post-16 under the ‘choices and decisions’ theme are that learners should be given opportunities to:

  • demonstrate active involvement in the community
  • show a respect for a well-balanced argument and a willingness to engage in debate
  • participate in democratic elections and consultation processes.

The knowledge and understanding to be developed is also set out.

The amount of time to be spent on the subject is not prescribed.

Welsh Baccalaureate

The Welsh Baccalaureate is an overarching qualification, bringing together existing qualifications (which can be either general or vocational) and a common core, or 'skills challenge certificate'. The qualification is not statutory for learners to take (nor for providers to provide). It is aimed at giving ‘broader experiences than traditional learning programmes, to suit the diverse needs of young people.’

Learners need to complete four assessments as part of the skills challenge certificate:

  • an individual project
  • enterprise and employability challenge
  • global citizenship challenge
  • community challenge.

The global citizenship challenge requires learners to demonstrate an understanding of, and appropriate response to, a global issue. Learners take challenges that are designed locally or nationally. There is also a set of skills to be developed.

The Welsh Baccalaureate is awarded at three levels, Foundation, National and Advanced, corresponding to levels 1, 2 and 3 of the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW) respectively. All three are available for post-16 learners. As an example, the specification (published in 2016) for the Advanced level gives the learning outcomes for the global citizenship challenge as being to:

  • be able to apply critical thinking and problem solving
  • be able to apply creativity and innovation
  • be able to apply literacy
  • understand issues involved in a global citizenship challenge.

At this level, it is advised that learners should spend approximately seventy hours on the challenge and fifty developing the underpinning skills.

The community challenge requires learners to identify, develop and participate in opportunities that will benefit the community, as well as develop a set of skills. The learning outcomes are defined as follows to:

  • being able to apply planning and organisation
  • understanding personal effectiveness
  • being able to participate in a community challenge.

It is advised that learners should spend fifty hours on the challenge and an 'appropriate' time on the underpinning skills.

Qualification specifications for Foundation and National levels are available from the exam board WJEC.

Note: Education post-16 is not compulsory in Wales.

Note: A new curriculum is currently being developed, for use in all maintained schools and settings, from 2022. It mainly affects compulsory education up to the age of 16, but any changes to Personal and Social Education and Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship will affect post-16 students also. Please see ‘Current debates and reforms’ for further information.

Non-formal and informal learning

School councils

Under The School Councils (Wales) Regulations 2005, it is a statutory requirement for all local authority maintained schools in Wales to have a school council, so that pupil voice is represented in the development of school policies and procedures. These councils are composed of representative groups of students who have been proposed and elected by their peers to represent their views and raise issues with the leadership and governors of the school.

A good practice guide provided by the Welsh Government through the Children’s Rights Wales website, advises that, although school councils provide a firm basis for participation in educational settings, learner participation needs to be ‘integrated into all aspects and at all levels of organisational life’. Other suggested ways of fostering participation include:

  • consultation mechanisms such as questionnaires, surveys, circle-time, focus groups, and suggestion boxes
  • other participatory and representative groups such as the eco-committee, healthy schools and peer mentors
  • learner involvement with the governing body, and in staff appointments;
  • learner involvement in planning, reviewing and implementing policies and procedures, including the school development plan
  • having structures in place so that all pupils can be involved in decision-making, including those with additional learning needs.

The Welsh Government issued a toolkit for pupils and staff to help school councils’ develop pupil’s welfare. The revised guide can be found on Estyn. The National Assembly for Wales has also developed a School Council Pack.

Involvement in the community

There are many opportunities for young people to take part in activities serving the local community. These include volunteering and social action (See ‘Youth Volunteering at National Level’).

Specific initiatives/programmes include:

  • Welsh Baccalaureate community challenge
  • Duke of Edinburgh’s Award
  • Bar Mock Trial competition.


Welsh Baccalaureate community challenge

Community work is embedded in the school curriculum through the ‘community challenge’ strand of the Welsh Baccalaureate’s ‘Skills Challenge Certificate’ (see ‘Formal learning’). The Welsh Baccalaureate qualification is not compulsory for learners to take (or for providers to provide). It aims to give ‘broader experiences than traditional learning programmes, to suit the diverse needs of young people.’

According to the specification for this qualification at Advanced level, learners are given the opportunity to make a positive contribution to the local, regional, national or international community:

Learners will focus on real-life concerns and needs whilst engaging in activities which aim to make a real difference. The Community Challenge should provide experiences that help young people understand what it means to be an active citizen. The challenge should enable them to develop as effective and responsible members of the community.

Learners are given the opportunity to select an activity from one of the following community themes:

Social/welfare, for example:

  •  supporting a charity by organising a programme of events/activities
  •  running a shopping scheme for the elderly
  •  volunteering support for a local youth organisation
  •  helping build a water well for a village in a developing country.

Neighbourhood enhancement, for example,

  • utilising land to grow vegetables to donate/sell for charity
  • contributing to the upkeep of a National park
  • supporting projects to develop facilities in a local park
  • volunteering to support of local or international conservation project.

 Coaching, for example,  

  • running a French after school club
  • coaching and mentoring at an Urdd [youth organisation] centre
  • coaching sport
  • supporting senior citizens with IT
  • running workshops for ‘cooking on a budget’.

The specifications for the qualification at other levels are available from the exam board WJEC.

Duke of Edinburgh’s award

The Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) award programme is a youth achievement award for 14- to- 24-year-olds, aimed at fostering social and employability skills. Schools, colleges, universities, youth centres, youth organisations and businesses may become involved in running the programme. There are around 20,000 young people participating in the DofE throughout Wales through the medium of both Welsh and English. Participants complete a programme of activities that involve, among other things, helping the community or the environment.

Bar Mock Trial competition

The Bar Mock Trial Competition offers students in years 10 to 13 (ages 14-17) the opportunity to take part in criminal mock trials, in real courts. Students take on the roles of barristers and witnesses and present their case against teams from other schools. The competition has run annually since 1991 and involves over 2,500 state school students, 300 barristers and advocates and 90 judges from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who volunteer their time. The competition is run by the Citizenship Foundation and sponsored by the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales, the four Inns of Court and the local Bar Circuits. It is run by Young Citizens (the umbrella organisation for the Citizenship Foundation’s youth-focused work) and further information on the competition is available from the Young Citizens website.

Note: National Citizen Service

In Autumn 2014, a pilot took place in Wales of the National Citizen Service. This is a UK Government-backed initiative that brings together young people aged 15 to 17 from different backgrounds to help them develop greater confidence, self- awareness and responsibility with a view to creating a more cohesive, responsible and engaged society.

A research report on the pilot was published in March 2016, but there are no indications that the scheme will be introduced in its present form to Wales.

Youth work

The Wales Charter for Youth Work, issued in March 2016, sets out the Welsh Government’s minimum expectation for youth work to young people. Among the entitlements are:

  • encouragement to learn more about their own culture and the cultures of other people
  • coordinated provision by youth workers in all secondary schools and colleges, extending the ‘pupil offer’ and thus enriching the formal curriculum and supporting personal and social development
  • opportunities to be civic activists e.g. by volunteering
  • recognition and /or accreditation for their achievements in personal and social development both in schools and colleges and in the community.  

In support of the Charter, the Welsh Government is exploring options to set up a Wales Youth Development and Support Framework, which would involve establishing a representative, strategic body across youth-facing services.

Local authorities are both formal education providers and providers of youth services. Youth services’ delivery may be direct, but also involves a range of other commissioned services and organisations. Partnerships between local authorities’ youth services, schools and colleges and third (voluntary) sector organisations are not formalised.

The Youth Work Strategy for Wales (Welsh Government, 2019) sets out a shared vision of Youth Work in Wales. It has been co-developed with young people and the youth work sectors and identifies a series of actions to support the vision of Youth Work in Wales. It will be supported by an Implementation plan. The vision for the Youth Work is to ensure that: 

  • Young people are thriving
  • Youth work is accessible and inclusive
  • Voluntary and paid professional youth work staff are supported throughout their careers to improve their practise 
  • Youth work is valued and understood
  • A sustainable model for youth work delivery 

The can support the Welsh Government’s priorities of narrowing the gap in educational achievement and reducing the number of young people who are not engaged in education, employment and training. The strategy is aimed at achieving four key outcomes:

  • ensuring that young people across Wales can continue to have access to diverse informal and non-formal learning opportunities, opportunities that stretch their horizons and help them grow in confidence
  •  strengthening the relationship between youth work organisations in Wales and formal education on both a local and national basis
  • developing  a better coordinated and more consistent youth work offer to young people, with youth work organisations in the statutory and voluntary sector working together more effectively
  • improving the ability to demonstrate the impact and outcomes of youth work.


Youth work organisations across Wales provide a range of programmes that complement and support the work of schools and formal education providers. Youth work has a key role to play in helping to promote young people’s personal and social development. It is a skilled profession, supported by the National Occupational Standards for Youth Work. It supports young people to learn about themselves, others and society through non-formal educational activities. Youth workers can be instrumental in supporting a young person to stay on in education.

Research has demonstrated that good youth work practice can improve young people's school attendance, behaviour, motivation, relationships and promote achievement. It has also found that learning experiences outside the classroom can promote engagement and achievement in school settings.

Quality assurance/quality guidelines for non-formal learning

The Welsh Government’s Quality Mark for Youth Work in Wales provides a robust, independent, external assessment of the quality and performance of organisations that deliver youth work.

The Quality Mark can be used for self-assessment, to plan for improvement and to gain the nationally recognised Quality Mark. It consists of two distinct elements:

  • Quality Standards for Youth Work - a set of Indicators and Quality Standards that organisations can use to self-assess the quality and impact of their work with young people and develop plans for improvement.
  • A Quality Mark - a nationally recognised quality mark that organisations can apply for by developing a self-assessment and portfolio of evidence which is externally assessed.

The Quality Mark consists of:

  • three levels - bronze, silver and gold
  • four quality standards within each level
  • quality standards comprising three associated indicators.

The Quality Mark is suitable for any organisation that delivers youth work.

Educators' support

The Five Nations Network is a unique forum sharing practice in education for citizenship and values in England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, managed by the Association for Citizenship Teaching. It offers workshops, conferences and funding for small research projects.

The National Assembly for Wales provides both an education service and a youth engagement service. In particular, it offers:

  •  teacher training
  •  workshops tailored to students in particular schools.

It also offers resources for teaching about the National Assembly for Wales and related topics, grouped by phase of education, on its website.

The Welsh Government maintains Hwb, the digital learning for Wales website, which has teaching resources by subject and phase of education or specific qualification.