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Building Bridges, Not Barriers
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How many questions could you answer in a pub quiz about British values?

Designed to ensure new migrants have accepted British values and integrated, the UK’s citizenship test is often portrayed as a bad pub quiz with answers few citizens know. With the launch of a new post-Brexit immigration system, this is a critical time to change the test.

Thom Brooks draws on first-hand experience of taking the test, and interviews with key figures including past Home Secretaries, to expose the test as ineffective and a barrier to citizenship. This accessible guide offers recommendations for transforming the citizenship test into a ‘bridge to citizenship’ which fosters greater inclusion and integration.

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This chapter examines the historical origins of the UK’s citizenship test. These origins drew inspiration from Australia, which had decided to base its future test, in part, on shared Australian values. Similarly, the UK launched several reports into shared British values – and shared public institutions – to set the scene for these playing a central role in a future test.

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This chapter focuses on the launch of the UK’s citizenship test in 2005. The test was widely mocked for a variety of mistakes, especially in relation to historical errors, in what came to be seen as a rushed effort. This chapter sets out how the new test tried to incorporate the justifying aims and exposes further errors with this first effort.

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This chapter considers the second edition of the ‘Life in the UK’ citizenship test in 2007. Its purpose was to help correct the errors and other problems arising from the first edition in 2005. However, what the chapter uncovers is that lessons were not learned and problems became more acute. By the time a follow-up edition was published, it was possible to take a full test of questions from this second edition where every correct answer had become outdated and no longer factually true.

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This chapter examines the third edition of the ‘Life in UK’ test, which is currently in place at the time of this book’s publication. The chapter makes clear the many substantive changes made from cover to cover in this edition, some of which were improvements. However, this third edition moved away from asking about trivia to the more purely trivial – making a test for British citizenship that it appears few British citizens could pass – and so makes a mockery of the idea of being a guide to shared values and practical knowledge that citizens old and new both possess.

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This chapters looks at the developments that have happened since the current citizenship test was launched in 2013. The chapter focuses on the lessons that can be learned from abroad, with special attention on the citizenship test in the United States. Instead of creating arbitrary and inefficient barriers to naturalization through a knowledge test of often trivial facts, the test should serve as a bridge to citizenship as the last symbolic step on a journey – and with a refreshed citizenship ceremony.

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This chapter provides a summary of conclusions arising from the previous six chapters. This final chapter provides a list of 20 recommendations for implementation by government. These recommendations would help ensure the test better fulfilled its original aims and purposes.

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This first chapter introduces the ‘Life in the UK’ citizenship test. It provides an overview of its origins, its aims and the evidence that it has fallen short. The chapter provides a further overview of the book’s structure and the need for an urgently revised test.

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