© 2015 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. We discuss the ways in which English and Catalan students perceive themselves as members of communities and as citizens and the role of schools in these perceptions. Questionnaire and interview data were collected and analysed from 583 secondary school students in a total of 9 schools that were known for their commitment to citizenship education in England and Catalonia. The research took place when issues of national and other identities were prominently discussed in the media and elsewhere and when significant changes were being introduced in both locations regarding citizenship education as a specific curriculum subject and also in the wider context of education and schooling. Our results suggest that while the English students in our sample understand citizenship in terms of a subjective identification, our Catalan students perceive citizenship as a legal and externally assigned status. We did not intend to obtain nationally representative samples but rather to gain in-depth knowledge of the data and to discuss the implications of these results for the differing purposes of citizenship education. We make recommendations for how school-based citizenship education may contribute to current challenges related to citizenship and identities.