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British Values

This page contains information from the NAHT on how schools promote British values.

What are British values?

Looking back on Britain’s chequered history, I think it’s fair to say that British values are a ‘work in progress’. Defining them is more about how we want to be now or what we could achieve if we put our minds to it. The government has said that school children should be taught “fundamental British values”, which it describes as “democracy; the rule of law; individual liberty; and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs, and for those without faith”.

British values and Ofsted

Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector, says schools must not shy away from teaching British values, especially when some children at home are “encouraged to resist” them and to be “actively hostile” towards them.

Spielman voiced that the education system has a vital role in upholding British values and schools are the vehicle to fill a gap. If children aren’t being taught these values at home, teaching children British values will help them to develop their resilience against extremism and acts of terrorism. In a speech to the Birmingham Education Partnership earlier this year, she argued that British values should be at “the very heart of the curriculum” in subjects such as History, English and Geography.

Spielman linked the failure to promote British values to schools caught up in the Trojan horse affair, which saw high-profile members of local communities in and around Birmingham attempting to bring extreme and radicalised views and practices into school life.

It’s argued that schools and childcare providers can help to build pupils’ resilience to radicalisation and extremism by promoting and teaching British values. Ofsted will, in its inspections, expect schools to have arrangements in place to promote pupils’ welfare and curriculum measures in place to prevent radicalisation and extremism.

The duty and role of schools

Since November 2014, schools have been mandated to promote British values that were set out by the government in its ‘prevent’ strategy (2011); the purpose of which was to improve safeguarding practices and strengthen the barriers to extremism.

The Department for Education (DfE) has recommended that you do this work through SMSC (spiritual, moral, social and cultural) lessons. Ofsted, however, will assess British values across the whole curriculum, school ethos, climate and the school’s leadership.

How can you teach British values?

For independent schools, free schools and academies, it is set out in the following document:

Don’t worry! RSHE have it covered

While teaching British values may seem like a tall order, RSHE underpin much of SMSC; in fact, RSHE were purpose-built for exactly the sort of exploration and learning you will embark on when teaching pupils about British values.

RSHE can provide an effective space for exploring sensitive or controversial issues, and it can equip pupils with the know-how to understand and handle difficult situations. The subject can be used to teach pupils to recognise and manage risk, make safer choices and recognise when pressure from others threatens their personal safety and well-being. With proper information and guidance, pupils can also develop effective ways to resist pressures, including when, where and how to get help.

Examples of actions schools can take to promote British values

  • Include, in suitable parts of the curriculum, age-appropriate material on the advantages and disadvantages of democracy, and how democracy and the law works in Britain compared with other forms of government in other countries
  • Ensure all pupils in the school have a voice that is listened to, and demonstrate how democracy works by actively promoting democratic processes, such as a school’s council election whose members are voted for by the pupils
  • Use opportunities, such as general or local elections to hold mock elections, to promote fundamental British values ad provide pupils with the opportunity to learn how to argue and defend points of view (eg a visit to a local council office or Westminster)
  • Consider the role of extra-curricular activity, including any activity run directly by pupils, to promote fundamental British values.

Pupils are expected to learn

  • To develop their knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence
  • To distinguish right from wrong and respect the civil and criminal law of England
  • To accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative and demonstrate how they can contribute positively to the lives of those living and working in the locality of the school and society more widely
  • To acquire a respect for public institutions and services
  • To acquire an appreciation of and respect for their and other cultures
  • To respect other people irrespective of their status
  • How citizens can influence decision-making through the democratic process
  • That the freedom to hold other faiths and beliefs, or none, should be tolerated, not subjected to prejudicial or discriminatory practices or behaviour
  • The importance of identifying and tackling discrimination.

The ‘prevent duty’

The teaching of British values is very much, and arguably, an outcome of the government’s ‘prevent’ strategy. It is perhaps worth reminding you that under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, all schools have a duty to stop people from being drawn into terrorism, otherwise known as the ‘prevent duty’.

For schools and childcare providers to fulfil the prevent duty, it is essential that all staff members can identify children who may be vulnerable to radicalisation and know what to do when they do.

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