What do ‘British values’ mean?
According DfE, ‘fundamental British values’ comprise:
- the rule of law
- individual liberty
- mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs, and for those without faith.
The Department for Education (DfE) places a duty on EYFS providers, schools, colleges and training providers to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain by developing their understanding of ‘fundamental British values’.
Ofsted now pays a lot of attention to SMSC when deciding whether your school is ‘outstanding’, ‘inadequate’ or somewhere in between, and this alongside fundamental British values and Citizenship are highlighted further in the new Education Inspection Framework 2021.
The big caveat
The language we hear from government is of ‘promoting fundamental British values’ and of young people ‘accepting’, ‘respecting’ and ‘tolerating’ – as though we all agree already on what those values are, accept that they are unique to Britain and believe we should follow them unquestionably. Whilst we believe that the values above are important to a strong society, they are also human values, and it is just important to think about these values and how they evolve as we do.
In short, at Young Citizens, we think education is about helping people understand how things work and how to challenge and change them for the better. Values are formed together, not instructed.
Values won’t be assumed because schools demand they are, particularly if they’re very different from those at home: they have to be arrived at through mutual exploration, critical analysis and understanding.
How should schools teach it?
Guidance from the Department for Education is that British values should be promoted through SMSC.
For maintained schools, this is set out in Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC.
For independent schools, free schools and academies, it is set out in Improving the SMSC development of pupils in independent schools.
What should be covered?
The advice here is basically the same for maintained schools (‘state’ schools) and independent schools (private schools, academies and free schools):
- enable students to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence
- enable students to distinguish right from wrong and to respect the civil and criminal law of Britain
- encourage students to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative, and to understand how they can contribute positively to the lives of those living and working in the locality of the school and to society more widely
- enable students to acquire a broad general knowledge of and respect for public institutions and services in Britain
- further tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions by enabling students to acquire an appreciation for and respect for their own and other cultures
- encourage respect for other people
- encourage respect for democracy and support for participation in the democratic processes, including respect for the basis on which the law is made and applied in Britain
- encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010.
The only difference for independent schools is in the final bullet point above, which includes them in requirements regarding the Equality Act’s protected characteristics.
How will it be assessed?
In its revised Framework for school inspection, Ofsted is clear that schools will struggle to get a decent rating if they fail to deliver good SMSC, which includes how they develop ‘British values’.
Provision for the social development of pupils includes developing their:
- acceptance of and engagement with the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. They will develop and demonstrate skills and attitudes that will allow them to participate fully in and contribute positively to life in modern Britain (para 248)
But school leaders must also demonstrate that they are addressing British values through the curriculum, assemblies, wider opportunities, visits, discussions and literature.
Citizenship has it covered
While teaching ‘British values’ may seem a tall order, never fear: schools have the tools to cover much of it already.
School leaders often overlook the citizenship curriculum, but it’s still there for schools (there’s even a GCSE in it) and it was purpose-built for exactly this sort of exploration and learning.
Citizenship underpins much of SMSC. For example, exploring human rights and our political and legal systems through the taught citizenship curriculum goes a long way to learning ‘the difference between right and wrong’ and ‘the consequences of behaviour’.